Did you observe International Cat Day (August 8) this year? How about International Dog Day on August 26? As we turn the corner on this month, let’s acknowledge the special value of our animal companions, who have been at our side for centuries. Nobody knows your cat or dog like you do, so it’s important to learn how to help them when something goes wrong. The American Red Cross has a course to teach you exactly that.
When you take the Red Cross’s Cat & Dog First Aid online training course, you’ll discover how to properly check your pet’s vital signs, practice preventive care, and recognize and provide first aid for your cat or dog.
Knowing how to provide a safe, healthy life for your pet is the best way to show you care. This 35-minute online course is perfect for pet owners, pet sitters, and pet shop employees, because you never know when an emergency might arise. Whether your pet is a cuddly lap cat or a highly trained working dog, the course will prepare you to help in a time of need.
Just like humans, cats and dogs can experience health crises like seizures, bleeding, breathing emergencies, and cardiac issues. The course covers those emergencies and more, and you’ll have the option to work through the material anytime and anywhere you want. You’ll also have continued access to the information in case you need to review it in the future.
The training was developed by a Red Cross team of scientific and medical experts, so you know you’re getting reliable information. Reviews from past students have been overwhelmingly positive. PawsitiveZen gave the course five stars: “As a walker, I wanted to have some basic first aid understanding. This course provided me with exactly what I was looking for, and I now have more confidence to care for other furry family members. I encourage anyone who lives or works with pets to take this course.”
Tbou also gave the course a five-star rating: “It was much easier than a whole day of in-person learning. It’s self-paced and easy to understand, and it will help me be a better volunteer.”
A $25 course fee and a 35-minute investment of time—from the comfort of your home—is a small price for ensuring the safety of your furry family member. The pet-saving skills you’ll acquire will be invaluable. For info on the go, consider downloading the Red Cross’s award-winning Pet Safety app as well. That way you can access safety tips directly from your phone.
The Red Cross values the well-being of your four-legged best friends, and this training tool can make you a better pet owner. When your cat or dog is in trouble, it’s hard to know what to do. This course and safety app will arm you with the skills and knowledge to handle a pet health emergency.
September is National Preparedness Month and in light of recent widespread flooding from Hurricane Isaias, the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania encourages everyone to get ready for emergencies.
We are going through a challenging time as we navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is likely to be with us for a long time, and that is why we must prepare a little differently for other disasters that may affect our community. It might be difficult to think about, but with several hurricanes and tropical storms making landfall in the U.S. already this summer, and one severely impacting the Philadelphia area, being prepared for disasters is of utmost importance for people of all ages.
Disasters can cause sudden challenges like knocking out power, blocking roads, disrupting the response of emergency services, and causing stores and pharmacies to close for an extended period. Preparing for emergencies is a little different this year, but the three basic action steps remain the same for everyone: Build a Kit, Make a Plan and Be Informed. Assemble two kits of emergency supplies (a stay-at-home kit and an evacuation kit) and a one-month supply of prescription medication. Include personal hygiene items, cleaning and disinfectant supplies and cloth face coverings. Some supplies may be hard to get due to the pandemic, and availability may worsen in a disaster, so start gathering supplies now. Download the free Red Cross Emergency Appfor safety tips (search “American Red Cross” in app stores).
Tips for making your plan
Disasters can force people to leave their homes, even in areas under stay-at-home mandates. By having an emergency plan your family can react quickly if a disaster strikes.
Ask friends or relatives outside your area if you would be able to stay with them.
Check and see if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or have people in their home at higher risk for serious illness. If they do, make other arrangements.
Check with hotels, motels and campgrounds to see if they are open and if pets are allowed.
Due to the pandemic, stay current on advice and restrictions from your state and local public health authorities as it may affect your actions, available resources and shelter facilities.
Download the free Red Cross Emergency App for weather alerts and information on what to do before, during and after disasters.
Build confidence by learning simple steps you can take now, to help prepare and protect your family. Hosted by the American Red Cross, Be Red Cross Ready is a FREE preparedness education curriculum for adults taught by certified presenters via any virtual platform. The program is designed to help people understand, prepare for and respond appropriately to disasters. To sign up for one of six free online preparedness sessions visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/free-disaster-preparedness-presentation-tickets-117563458469?aff=efbneb
September 8 -Lunch time lesson (30 minutes) from 12-12:30pm
September 9 – (1 hour) from 2-3pm
September 16 -Lunch time lesson (30 minutes) from 12-12:30pm
September 17 –(1 hour) from 2-3pm
September 22 –(1 hour) from 11am-12pm
September 24 -Lunch time lesson (30 minutes) 12-12:30pm
From her job development work in Kentucky as a college student, to her efforts in Michigan to lend a hand with the Flint water crisis, to her travel to New Orleans to help communities rebuild after the floods, Mary Harper has never lacked energy for humanitarian causes.
So it came as no surprise to her former colleagues at the City of Philadelphia that her retirement years would involve service. For 21 years, Harper oversaw the city’s mental illness and addiction treatment program; she retired on August 31, 2019, and by September she was already volunteering with the American Red Cross.
“Volunteering for the community has always been in my DNA,” Harper says.
In less than a year with the Red Cross, Harper has contributed to the Philadelphia chapter in numerous ways, including in her roles as a service associate for the Disaster Action Team and as a resiliency program lead for the Service to the Armed Forces. She loves both of those positions.
As a Disaster Action Team member, Harper recalls being dispatched to an apartment fire this past June. When she arrived on the scene, she immediately recognized that some residents impacted by the fire were medically fragile, while others had mental challenges.
“The scene was chaotic,” she says. “People were having difficulties navigating how to go to the hotel or use the taxi voucher.”
One resident was having a complete meltdown, Harper recalls. With her experience in mental health services, she approached the frantic resident, calmed him down and comforted him, and explained the ways that the Red Cross was able to help him.
Then came a turn of the events. “What really warmed my heart,” Harper says, “was to see the higher-functioning people starting to support the lower-functioning people. For me, that is [the essence of my role]. We help them, and then they help themselves.”
Harper is equally proud of what she and her team have achieved with the Resiliency Program for the Service to the Armed Forces. As a senior volunteer lead, Harper helps organize the COVID-19 resiliency workshop program. This is a series of self-care activities and support group conversations designed to help local returning veterans and their family members form communities and find the support they need to cope with the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic. So far Harper has helped organize more than 142 Zoom hours for these workshops.
“One thing I love about the Red Cross is how we respect and show real empathy and support to people. It’s more than just saying ‘I am so sorry’ to people,” she said. “Instead, we offer real and useful services to the communities.”
Harper lives with her daughter and grandchildren in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, where the coronavirus has transformed her household into a home school, a home camp, and a theater for daily talent shows. She plans to volunteer for the American Red Cross as long as she can. Why? “The Red Cross keeps me grounded. It keeps me connected to the community.”
Minor flooding is nothing new in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but as Jameelah Shaw watched Hurricane Isaias move up the East Coast on the news earlier this month, she was still caught off guard. On August 4th she witnesses floodwater “rushing in” from the next street over, and before she knew it, her Philadelphia neighborhood, Eastwick, was submerged.
“I told my daughter, hurry up and move your car. She moved her car, when she walked back, when she moved her car the water was at her feet, when she came back it was here, waistline,” Shaw said.
Even with an eye on the local news and an eye on the sky, Shaw said the flooding happened so quickly she didn’t have time to save her home or belongings.
“It started about 1:00, about 1:15 my whole rec room, laundry room, garage, up my steps, the second step from the top landing all was underwater. My electric meter, my solar panel meter, everything was under water, in a matter of 15 minutes,” she said.
Shaw was one of hundreds of people in Southeastern Pennsylvania to be forced out of their homes by the contaminated water that week, and one of about 350 people to stay in local Red Cross shelters.
In response to the flooding caused by Hurricane Isaias, the Red Cross provided a cumulative 3,012 overnight stays for those displaced, mostly from Philadelphia, Delaware and later Chester counties. More than 100 Red Cross workers supported the relief effort, which included serving more than 3,500 meals and snacks together with partners, distributing more than 2,000 emergency items, and conducting more than 1,400 health services contacts for COVID-19 safety. Altogether, the Red Cross assisted more than 650 people with recovery support, in what ended up being the region’s largest disaster response operation since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Shaw said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she couldn’t stay with family, so she came to the Red Cross. She said having a safe place to stay in the short term took a lot off her mind enabling her to plan for a long-term solution.
“We had nowhere to go. And you guys came in, Red Cross came in, you guys put us in hotels, even with our animals. You fed us three times a day,” Shaw said.
August 19th marks World Photography Day and we want to pay homage to one of the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s wonderful volunteer photographers, who has captured the essence of the Red Cross for the past four years.
James Jones has volunteered his time to work as a volunteer photographer since 2016 and has stood out as an exceptional volunteer. Jones has poured hard work and positivity into his time at the Red Cross, capturing events like Day at the Capitol, Red Ball, Camp Save-a-Life, Sound the Alarm events, and the annual Red Cross House picnic. I’ve had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Mr. Jones about his experience as a volunteer, his photography hobby outside of volunteering, and seeing some of his work from major Red Cross events.
Miriana Antenucci (MA): What initially got you interested in photography?
James Jones (JJ):I wanted a new hobby after retiring from the federal government and I was looking for something to get into. I became somewhat of an enthusiast with photography and quickly started upgrading equipment and getting involved in volunteer programs.
MA: How did you start volunteering with the Red Cross?
JJ: I started with another organization as a volunteer photographer and found the Red Cross online back in January of 2016. This looks like a great opportunity to expand his horizons and get involved as a volunteer photographer. I also do photography for family gatherings, however, Red Cross was primarily another opportunity I was looking for to expand my horizons in the area of volunteer photography. I went online and found an opportunity for photographers and videographers. I signed up, did all the paperwork and was accepted. My first assignment was Sound the Alarm.
MA: What did you like about photographing these events?
JJ: For me personally, I’m always trying to capture the true essence of the environment and people I’m photographing. The Day at the Capitol was a very unique experience. I haven’t been to Harrisburg so it was a unique experience from a personal standpoint and it was nice to interact and meet the other people from the other Red Cross chapters that were there at the State Capitol, and to see the show of support.
MA: For new volunteers interested in photography what would you want them to know?
JJ: To get involved. To take pride in the images they capture that display what the American Red Cross embodies.
MA: Is there anything else you would like the readers to know about?
JJ: I am prior military. I served in the navy. That’s one of the things that helps me be who I am now was because I had that opportunity to travel abroad and see a lot of things and take pictures.
I was stationed on the USS John F Kennedy aircraft carrier that’s now retired in Philadelphia. I had the chance to go to most of the Mediterranean countries, Italy, Greece, France, the North Atlantic, most of the Caribbean. I also served in the reserve program and did some more additional traveling and so I was able to go to Germany and Canada for different assignments. It’s all a part of my past experiences now. Now I’m retired and laid back. I’m trying to contribute to a good cause like American Red Cross
MA: Do you also practice photography outside the Red Cross?
JJ: Yes! I do photography for family gatherings and my own personal enjoyment. When I travel and since I have been retired for a number of years now, I have gone to South Africa, Canada, different places around the country and I always take my camera with me to take pictures to share with others.
MA: What is your favorite subject to capture?
JJ: Favorite subject is a little bit of everything. Like the jack of all trades and like to dabble in portrait photography, Macro photography, landscape photography, a little bit of all types of photography. I’m not really trained as a true photographer, so it gives me the opportunity to dabble in everything. I have taken a lot of different courses for photography both online, through the Photographic Society of America, and through a number of camera clubs. I’ve learned a lot from them. I’ve also done a number different courses in and around the area as well.
MA: Among your work, which one is your favorite and why?
JJ: I’d say Red Ball, because everyone gets dressed up and it’s a red carpet type of thing. I sort of play the role of capturing the ideal image of these people that are all dressed up and are looking great on this special occasion.
I also would like to say the Red Cross Annual Children’s Holiday Party Event to my list of photography volunteer assignments. I enjoyed photographing this event just as much or more than doing the Red Cross House. It’s the smiles on the kid’s faces … that make my day when I photograph this event.
It has been an absolute pleasure to sit down with Mr. Jones and view the pieces he has taken throughout the years. In his attendance of the Red Cross events, Mr. Jones has not only captured the essence of the joy and support that remain present within the community, but also embodied the spirit of a Red Cross volunteer. We hope that in sharing his experience, Mr. Jones not only serves as an inspiration for future photographers, but also future Red Cross volunteers.
On August 19th we recognize World Humanitarian Day, a day for celebrating the bravery and dedication of volunteers around the world. The American Red Cross is the country’s largest humanitarian network and volunteers are the heart of what we do. Every day, American Red Cross humanitarians bring comfort and immediate assistance to those affected by disaster, provide services for donation of life-saving blood and convalescent plasma for COVID 19 treatment, support the military, their families, and veterans, train and certify community members in First Aid and CPR/AED and so much more.
“I am surrounded by humanitarians at the American Red Cross. I see the selflessness in each home fire response, at each blood drive, and in all our efforts to support our nation’s heroes. I’m proud to lead such an inspiring group of people,” said Guy J. Triano, CEO of the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Region.
For Larry Daly, volunteerism is in his blood. In 1993, after serving as a Volunteer Firefighter in Abington, PA, he joined the Red Cross, saying it was a “perfect fit”. Daly has served in missions nationally and locally, providing immediate Red Cross assistance for those who have suffered a fire, flood, or life changing disaster. This past May, a 40-unit apartment in the Tioga Section of Philadelphia caught fire. When called to staff the shelter, Larry did not hesitate. In this time of COVID 19, the shelter was inside a hotel, instead of a gym or community center, for better social distancing. The trained COVID Shelter Team stepped right up to keep the people in the hotel and volunteers safe. When asked about volunteering in this pandemic, Larry modestly said “someone has to help”. This is true heroism and sacrifice to help others.
Many volunteer because they want to give back to their community, including Liz Von Baldas. After retirement, she wanted to feel useful and contribute to society in some way. Liz joined the Red Cross in 2016, and especially loves her work with Disaster Services . “It is one of the best things I do. Not only do I feel good helping people out after a disaster, I continue to challenge myself by learning new things,” Liz said. When participating in the Home Fire Campaign installing smoke alarms, Liz says a special memory was installing a bed-shaker smoke alarm, for a 3-year-old girl who could not hear. When these devices detect smoke or fire, instead of just beeping loudly, they shake the bed they’re attached to alerting the person to danger.
Larry and Liz personify volunteer commitment to the mission of the American Red Cross in Southeastern Pennsylvania, preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies. To them and all of our selfless volunteers, we say “Thank you!”
More than a week after Hurricane Isaias left devastating flooding in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the American Red Cross is assisting people in the next step of their recovery, transitioning from the shelter back home or into a new place to stay.
After about a week in a hotel shelter, Montrell Headen, his wife Tiffany and their two children picked up their cleanup kit and comfort kits as they prepared to check out. These items are some of the more than 1,300 relief supplies the Red Cross has provided so far in this recovery effort, along with more than 2,200 overnight shelter stays for displaced residents.
Headen said the damage to his family’s home in Eastwick was so extensive that they were going to stay with loved ones while they look for a new place to live.
“It’s kind of hard for me and my family. My wife was in the hospital for 15 days so that was hard on us with the pandemic and the flood. But we’ve been trying to maintain. The Red Cross has been helping us out pretty good. Feeding us breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said.
Headen said having a safe place to stay in the days after the flood allowed them to focus on their next steps, and that he appreciated the warmth and kindness of the shelter staff.
“They’ve been great. Nice people. I love the Red Cross.”
Headen is one of more than 350 people the Red Cross provided emergency shelter for in the widespread flooding that occurred regionwide after Hurricane Isaias. Together with community partners, the Red Cross served more than 3,300 meals and snacks, and more than 100 Red Cross workers have been providing around-the-clock care and comfort to displaced families.
Jennifer Nesbitt also lived in the Eastwick neighborhood of Philadelphia and said this is the third time they’ve dealt with major flooding. She and her daughters were staying in another Red Cross shelter, and said the August 4th flood not only brought physical damage, but emotional stress as well.
“My home, looking at the water line, it was close to six feet of murky water,” she said. “It impacted me, I was very impacted. Not only looking at my home, but emotional feelings because we’ve been there before.”
Adding to the toll, the Coronavirus pandemic, which Nesbitt said had a large impact on her family.
“My daughters and I, we have been quarantined since March, in our home, because I’m immune compromised, and I have a special needs daughter that’s immune compromised. So this is the most I’ve been around anyone since March,” she said.
Despite living through circumstances that many people will only read about, Nesbitt says she has been able to find some positives, pointing to the people who volunteered their time and effort to provide support to those displaced.
“The Red Cross came along and they were our saving grace because they offered us lodging, and food, and comfort of a conversation in listening to what we were going through. So I want to commend the Red Cross very much, for being there for us. And everybody’s been doing it with a smile,” she said.
Red Cross support doesn’t end when people leave the shelter. Each family leaves with comfort kits containing personal care items to get them through the next few weeks. They’re also given a cleanup kit with supplies to help them clean and disinfect flooded homes. Each family is also set up with a recovery specialist who helps them plan next steps and connect them with other organizations that specialize in solving problems, like where to get new furniture, or assistance with looking for new housing.
This Red Cross Disaster operation is far from over. And with a permanent presence in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Red Cross will continue its mission of alleviating suffering and caring for communities in this region.
It’s been nearly a week since Tropical Storm Isaias tracked through Southeastern Pennsylvania, causing widespread flooding and even tornadoes. Another round of storms Friday evening only added to the problems, causing new evacuations in part of the area.
Since the storm the American Red Cross has received more than 200 calls for assistance from local residents impacted by flooding. Preliminary damage estimates show more than 500 homes in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties received at least some flood damage. Teams have been out assessing this damage, and the Red Cross will use that information to provide personalized recovery plans this week to those impacted by Isaias.
And as of Monday, August 10, there were still more than 350 people staying in Red Cross shelters at hotels throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. Ensuring people have a safe place to stay if they can’t return home after a disaster is a critical part of our mission. The coronavirus pandemic puts additional stress on families seeking shelter, which is why we’ve prioritized individual hotel rooms to keep families safe.
As the scope of the recovery effort broadens, the Red Cross has called in help from all over the country, and now has at least 95 dedicated Red Cross disaster workers providing care and comfort to those affected by the flooding. They are helping in shelters, serving meals, distributing clean up supplies and providing health services in shelters.
Ron and Debbie Brandon have been staying at one of the Red Cross shelters since they had to leave their home in Delaware County last Tuesday because of flooding. These shelters are staffed all day, with Red Cross workers providing information and helping to coordinate meals, snacks, and distribute comfort items like toothbrushes.
“They’re very helpful,” Ron Brandon said.
As they picked up their dinner Friday night, they said the Red Cross came through to provide the essentials during their time of need.
“I just don’t know what we would do without them,” Debbie Brandon said. “You couldn’t’ meet nicer people.”
It’s thanks to the dedication of Red Cross disaster workers, who are mostly volunteers, and community partners, that help is getting to where it’s needed most. Responding to disasters is a team effort. Together with The Salvation Army, the Red Cross has been able to serve about 1,400 meals to those staying in its shelters.
Many have already begun the arduous task of cleaning up what the flood waters left behind. This includes debris, mud, and contaminated flood water. The Red Cross has provided more than 500 cleanup kits to help with this process. These kits include a broom, mop, gloves and disinfectant, and have been distributed to impacted residents by the Philadelphia Fire Department.
Michele Green received one of these kits over the weekend while scrubbing out her home in the Eastwick neighborhood of Philadelphia. She said that “everything from the back door to the front door” was flooded.
Regarding the cleanup kit Green said, “This will help us out, we’ll have plenty of stuff to clean,” noting that the process would likely take days, if not weeks.
Additional clean up kits continue to be distributed through the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management at Penrose Elementary School, 2515 S. 77th St. in the city. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, August 10.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted each and every aspect of this disaster response. All Red Cross disaster workers are wearing masks at all times, disinfecting often, and social distancing as much as possible. Those who can work virtually are doing so to limit the potential spread of illness.
In Red Cross hotel shelters, masks are being distributed to displaced residents, meals are being served in individually packaged servings, and trained healthcare volunteers are screening everyone who enters for symptoms of COVID-19. The safety and well-being of Red Cross workers and the people they serve are of utmost importance.
More than 300 displaced residents woke up in Red Cross shelters as disaster workers kicked off the fourth day of the response following Hurricane Isaias in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Our teams have been busy providing care and comfort, hundreds of hot meals and snacks, and recovery support to those impacted by the flooding.
Since Tuesday, the Red Cross has received over 200 calls for assistance, and as the response has grown, so has our team of trained Red Cross disaster workers. As of today, August 7th, more than 75 trained Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country were part of the recovery effort in Southeastern Pennsylvania. That team includes workers physically in the region, and those who are supporting the effort virtually from as far away as California, Oregon, and Florida.
Red Cross damage assessment workers have been out in hard hit areas, getting eyes on the impacted homes, and gathering information about homes that were affected by flooding. Our teams will use that information to help families create individualized recovery plans. In addition, Red Cross cleanup kits are being distributed at two city locations to help residents clean up and disinfect their homes after Tuesday’s devastating flash flooding.
Jessica Wright was cleaning mud and flood debris out of her garage Friday morning, saying this was the worst flooding she’s experienced in that area since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Wright said a family member had to come home and wade through flood water to get inside and rescue their dog.
Isaias is just the latest storm in an already very busy start to the 2020 hurricane season. Across the country the Red Cross has responded to the call to help after Cristobal, Douglas, Hannah and Isaias brought wind damage and flooding. That’s why the Red Cross needs volunteers to help staff shelter reception, registration, feeding, dormitory, information collection and other vital tasks to help those we serve. We have both associate and supervisory level opportunities available.
In addition, if you are an RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO or PA with an active, current and unencumbered license, the Red Cross needs your support. Volunteers are needed in shelters to help assess people’s health. Daily observation and health screening for COVID-19-like illness among shelter residents may also be required. RNs supervise all clinical tasks.
As firefighters were still working to extinguish hot spots, Red Cross disaster workers were already in full swing of a disaster response operation late last week when a large apartment fire in North Coventry, Chester County, displaced approximately 150 people.
After getting the call from the fire department the night of Thursday, June 30, Red Cross disaster teams immediately started coordinating to get volunteers Janice Thomas and Elizabeth Stinson out to the area to start meeting with displaced residents, and coordinating with local agencies for the recovery effort as other Red Cross disaster workers arrived to help. The team set up at the nearby Norco Fire Station, where residents started to trickle in.
While some volunteers met with residents to create a list of urgent medications that needed to be replaced, others worked on a plan to provide temporary lodging, and find out how many people needed a place to stay the night. A shelter team quickly set up at an area hotel to get ready to welcome displaced residents, with the Red Cross providing emergency shelter for dozens of people.
The Red Cross has COVID-19 specific precautions in place to ensure safety remains top priority, including individual hotel rooms to allow for better social distancing between families. In addition to providing a safe place to spend the night, Red Cross volunteers also screened those entering the hotel for symptoms of COVID-19, and distributed masks. In total, more than 90 people from this fire have received Red Cross recovery assistance.
The Red Cross has been working with other local community organizations to help plan for the long term recovery of those displaced.