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By Samantha Antenucci

As a loving pet owner, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my cat and five dogs (two of which are pictured below!). Pets are valuable family members—and as with any family member, they need to be looked after, especially when challenging weather poses health risks for them.  

This winter’s polar vortex in the Midwest and East Coast left single-digit temps and subzero wind chills in its wake. Although that episode has passed, it doesn’t mean winter has loosened its grip on the Northeast. We may still see subfreezing weather blast through before the season is over, and inclement conditions can stress our pets. Here are some simple guidelines to ensure that your furry friends survive the season. 

Keep ’em in if it’s cold out 

Yes, Fido has a fur coat, but extreme cold is dangerous for humans and animals alike. So bring your pet indoors when temperatures dip. If it’s an outdoor pet, it still needs warm indoor shelter during freezing and below-freezing temps. The rest of the time, your pet needs an enclosure that protects it from wind, rain, and snow. The size of the enclosure matters—it should be large enough for the animal to sit and lie down, but small enough to ensure conservation of body heat. It should also face away from any wind and be elevated above ground to prevent further heat loss. It is also good practice to cover the doorway with a waterproof material for warmth and to keep the elements out.  

Wipe those salty paws 

Unless you’re in the country, chances are that after a storm, your streets and sidewalks are heavily treated with salt or chemical deicers. These compounds can stick to your dog’s paw pads during a walk,  causing major irritation. In addition, if Fido tries to lick his pads clean, the salt and chemicals can make him sick. So make a habit of ending your winter walks by wiping off your dog’s feet with a damp cloth or towel, and checking regularly for cracked or bleeding paws. 

Avoid household hazards  

Speaking of chemicals, antifreeze is a deadly poison that’s often kept indoors. Its sweet taste attracts animals and ingestion can lead to death. Keep this and other household chemicals safely stored, and clean up any spills immediately.  

Consider the local critters  

Your own pets are not the only animals who may suffer in winter, so keep an eye out for creatures in need. Neighborhood cats have been known to crawl under car hoods or onto the tops of tires to keep warm. Before starting your engine in the morning, bang on the hood to scare away any animals that could be hiding inside. 

Expect the unexpected                               

Being prepared in winter is vital; extreme weather can knock out heat, power, and communications. Make a plan to deal with storms, and keep an emergency kit handy—including five days’ worth of food, water, and medications. That way you can better protect your whole family—and your pet—from unforeseen hardships.  

For more tips on weather safety for your pets, check out the American Red Cross’s Pet First Aid app. With veterinary advice and emergency preparedness info, the Pet First Aid app can help you keep your pets safe and warm this winter. To access all Red Cross apps, click here.

By: Kathy Huston

It’s Black History Month and we wanted to celebrate an honored member, and leader within our Eastern Pennsylvania Region, Gregory L. Smith.  

Smith has a long history of dedication to the American Red Cross, which started in 1992 as a volunteer. Since then, Smith has worked his way to his current role as Regional Disaster Program Officer for the Eastern PA Region, headquartered in Philadelphia.  

“In this role, I am the lead employee responsible for preparedness, readiness, response and recovery activities for the 17 counties that comprise the region’s territory,” Smith said. 

Smith has held a number of titles during his years of service, including Disaster Cycle Service supervisor, manager and director in Northern California, Columbus, OH and Philadelphia, PA, and at the national headquarters, where he also served as the VP of Volunteers, Youth and Nursing Programs from 2000 through 2002.  

Over the past two decades, Smith has seen his fair share of major disasters. His wealth of information and knowledge come, in part, from deployments to support major disaster relief operations across the country, including the North Ridge earthquake, hurricanes Fran, Ike, Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Matthew and Florence, and tornados in Moore, OK and Joplin, MO. He was also on the scene for the relief efforts that followed 9/11 in New York City.   

During the month of February, when we reflect on the contributions of African Americans and the cultural richness and diversity of our country, Smith explains why honoring diversity and inclusiveness ultimately helps the organization succeed in following through on its mission.  

“Diversity is vital for the American Red Cross, because we must reflect the diverse communities we serve, whether translating the care and concerns of our donors into actions, or engaging volunteers in the delivery of our services,” he said.  

In talking to him, it’s clear that Smith is motivated by the impacts he has made, and continues to make, on individuals, families and communities, as they prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters and emergencies.  

“My greatest motivation is that I can engage and support community volunteers in these efforts,” he notes. 

For Smith, black history is a year-round celebration, as is his determination to carry out his unwavering service to the American Red Cross. 

 “I do my best every single day to demonstrate that you can look like me and not only deliver the Red Cross mission, but be a leader in the movement as well,” he said. 

Smith’s dedication and commitment to making a positive impact on the communities he serves is certainly an example we can all look up to.  

By Kathleen Huston

Safety is the Goal at Your Super Bowl Party

Quicker than you can say “double doink” (with a shout-out to my Philadelphia Eagles, who unfortunately didn’t make it this year), the Rams and the Patriots will go head to head in Atlanta, GA for Super Bowl LIII. Here are some timely tips to help ensure that all you fans out there don’t take a hit as well.

For the Host With the Most

The focus of your get-together should be on the five F’s: football, fun, family, friends and food. You might be watching for a while! The longest Super Bowl game was number XLII in 2013, clocking in at four hours and 14 minutes, according to Bustle.com.

In addition to your chips and dips and pizzas and wings, be sure to have healthier options on hand. Hummus, guacamole, veggies and dip, turkey chili with lots of healthy peppers and beans, nuts, and popcorn without butter all fit the bill. Also make sure nonalcoholic drinks (especially water) are in plentiful supply.

Finally, sure, your fun and festive football-themed hand towel in the bathroom is nice for guests to look at, but have disposable towels at the ready so they can avoid getting the last person’s germs. Also, make sure your hand soap dispenser is full. In that same vein, have serving utensils to use with each food item — even a spoon in the nut bowl — so guests don’t have to stick their hands in anything and risk spreading the flu virus.

For the Party People

Be sure to designate a sober driver before game day. If everyone in your group wants to imbibe, make sure you install a ride service app on your phone or have a taxi company number available in your contacts.

If you’re sick, don’t think you should rally and attend anyway. Stay home. You aren’t doing yourself any favors and nobody wants to score your cold or flu either. There’s always next year!

If you are the designated driver, practice defensive driving (as you always should). Snopes has confirmed time and again that car accidents soar after Super Bowls. “Even those fans who don’t drink during or after the game pose a risk to themselves and others once they hit the road because of the distraction factor,” it notes. Whether you’re wallowing in the fact that you’re team didn’t make the cut or celebrating your victory over and over again in your head, save those thoughts until you’re home safe and sound. You don’t want to be one of those distracted drivers yourself.

Download the App

To wrap it up, the Red Cross offers a free first-aid app you can install on your phone now. Among its many features, it provides tips and videos addressing common first-aid scenarios. Content is available in English and Spanish. Read more about it here.

By: Sophie Kluthe

Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. It’s something we at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross witnessed first-hand this week, and we didn’t have to look very far to see it. 

Right across the street from our chapter office in Philadelphia, some tenacious students at the Albert M. Greenfield School were raising money — collecting change — with the hopes of creating change in the world around them.  

Students and teachers at the Albert M. Greenfield School pose for a photo with Regional Red Cross CEO, Guy Triano (far right).

John Neary, an 8th grade literacy teacher at the school told us what the fundraiser was about. “Earlier this school year, our school ran a charitable campaign called ‘World of Change.’  The campaign was organized and led by a group of middle school students in an after-school club called Student Voice.  Our belief is that even small acts of kindness can make a big difference in the world,” Neary said.  

He said each classroom was given six empty mason jars, with each jar representing an area of need: Hunger, Housing, Health, Literacy, Recreation, and Employment. Over the course of two weeks, students collected coins and donated them to the jars. The school nominated the American Red Cross as one of the organizations to possibly benefit from the money in the Health jar.  

“We put together a ballot, and our community voted on which organization would receive the money collected for each category. I am happy to say that the Red Cross was an overwhelming favorite!” Neary said. 

The Red Cross is the proud recipient of precisely $996.28! What we are equally as proud of, was the time and dedication the students at Albert M. Greenfield School put into collecting all the coins for the jars. It proves that no matter a person’s age, or the amount they have to give, every little bit counts!

By: Sophie Kluthe

My Experience 

I recently donated blood for the first time. It was something I’d always wanted to do, but couldn’t because of my travel history. I’ll admit, I was nervous at first because of a childhood fear of needles, but the staff at the donation center made my experience nearly painless. Especially compared to what the person who will receive my blood is going through.  

Feeling great after giving blood at the Blood Donation Center at 700 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia.
Feeling great after giving blood at the Blood Donation Center at 700 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia.

When I used to think about who was receiving these blood donations, I imagined car crash victims and other trauma patients. While these people do depend on life-saving blood, there are many others who rely on it as well. While I was rolling that foam ball around in my hand, I wondered if my blood might go to help a child battling leukemia, or a person who regularly needs blood transfusions to fight a chronic disease. Maybe it would it be used to help someone getting an organ transplant. Every two seconds someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion. If a trauma victim ends up in the emergency room, it’s the blood already on the shelves that will save their life.  

National Blood Donor Month 

This January the American Red Cross celebrates National Blood Donor Month, which has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter. The colder months are typically the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. During the winter months, bad weather often results in cancelled blood drives, and seasonal illnesses like the flu may cause some donors to become temporarily unable to donate. This winter, the need is especially urgent, since there weren’t as many people who donated in the fall compared to years past.

A Sweet Incentive

Throughout the month of January, presenting donors in Southern New Jersey and Southeast Pennsylvania will receive a voucher for a free medium Dunkin’ hot coffee and a classic donut, redeemable at participating Dunkin’ restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia Region, while supplies last. Blood donation appointments can be made by downloading the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or to receive more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. 

Regional Red Cross CEO, Guy Triano, kicks off the January promotion alongside Jessica Weissman, Integrated Marketing Manager for Philadelphia, Dunkin’ Brands

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements. 

Blood donors can now save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site. 

We were so saddened to hear this morning of the death of Chester County Department of Emergency Services Director Colonel Ed Atkins. We send our deepest condolences to his family and the entire Chester County community.

The Red Cross and Colonel Atkins were great partners and worked closely to not only respond to disasters large and small in Chester County, but also to prevent disasters from happening in the first place. Atkins’ leadership during the recent flooding and the February ice storm was instrumental to keeping citizens safe and informed.

Col. Ed Atkins. keynote speaker at the Red Cross Chester County Heroes breakfast in April, 2014, recognizes military members at the back of the room (not shown). credit: Alex Greenblatt

It wasn’t that long ago that Colonel Atkins was delivering the keynote address at our Chester County Heroes Breakfast. His deep concern for the county and his deep appreciation for the Red Cross was powerful and clear.

Col. Ed Atkins delivering the keynote address during the American Red Cross Chester County Heroes Breakfast, April, 2014. credit: Alex Greenblatt

Col. Ed Atkins delivering the keynote address during the American Red Cross Chester County Heroes Breakfast, April, 2014. credit: Alex Greenblatt

 

Our CEO, Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes called Ed Atkins a “great man and a great friend to the American Red Cross,” adding, “Every single day he committed himself to making Chester County a better place to live and ensuring the citizens of Chester County were safe. We will miss him dearly.”

 

That was a sentiment echoed by everyone around the office today and in the field. One person who worked very closely with Ed and his team is our volunteer Chester County disaster action team captain, Denise Graf. She is the one making sure the needs of the county and the requests of the emergency services team are met during disasters.

Denise sums up our feelings really well. “As a volunteer disaster responder for the American Red Cross in Chester County, I’ve worked with Ed Atkins on many occasions,” Graf said. “He has always shown me and all Red Cross volunteers the highest respect and appreciation. This truly is a sad day.”

 

Did you know every year on May 8th we celebrate World Red Cross Day? I am sure many of you, like me before I was a volunteer with the American Red Cross, have never heard of World Red Cross Day. Below are some facts to give you a better understanding of what World Red Cross Day is, how it came about and why it is so important.

What is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day?

It is an annual celebration of the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The seven principals are HUMANITY, IMPARTIALITY, NEUTRALITY, INDEPENDENCE, VOLUNTARY SERVICE, UNITY, and UNIVERSALITY. Each year about 97 million members and volunteers of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are honored on this day making it the largest humanitarian network of relief worldwide serving over 170 countries.

Why is it celebrated on May 8th?

May 8th is the birthday Henri Dunant who founded the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 1863 in the Geneva, Switzerland.

Henri Dunant

Jean Henri Dunant (May 8, 1828 –October  30, 1910), also known as Henry Dunant, was a Swiss businessman and social activist. In 1901 he received the first Nobel Peace Prize, along with Frederic Passay, for his role in founding the International Red Cross Movement and initiating the Geneva Convention. In 1903 Dunant was given an honorary doctorate by the medical faculty of the University of Heidelberg.

He died on October 30th 1910, and his final words were “Where has humanity gone”? The former nursing home in Heiden, Switzerland where Durant died is now the Henry Dunant Museum. In Geneva, there are numerous streets, squares, and schools named after him. The Henry Dunant Medal is awarded every two years by the standing commission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It is its highest decoration.

How did Henri come up with the idea to start the International Red Cross?

During a business trip in 1859, he witnessed the aftermath of a battle in Solferino, Italy. He recorded his memories and experiences in the book A Memory of Solferino .  In 1862, 1,600 copies of the book were published and printed at Dunant’s own expense.  Dunant’s experiences at Solferino inspired the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863. In his book, he described the battle, its costs, and the chaotic circumstances afterwards.  After the war, he visited with wounded soldiers and was shocked by the lack of facilities, personnel, and medical aid available to help them. He abandoned the original intent of his trip and spent his time helping with the treatment and care for the wounded soldiers.

 What is International Red Cross and Red Crescent  Movement ?

It is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide. The International Red Cross Movement was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The movement consists of several distinct organizations that are legally independent from each other, but are united within the movement through common basic principles, objectives, symbols, statutes and governing organizations.Red cross day

 When was the first World Red Cross Day celebrated?

It was first celebrated as the Red Cross Day on May 8th 1948. Later, it was officially named as the “World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day” in 1984.

When was the International Committee of the Red Cross Founded?

Their first meeting was held on February 17, 1863 which is considered the founding date.

What is the theme for 2014?

World Red Cross Day theme of 2014 was “Together for Humanity”

How can you celebrate World Red Cross Day

You can celebrate World Red Cross Day and World Red Crescent Day in a variety of ways:

  • Learn more about the Red Cross
  • Support Red Cross programs and efforts
  • Send a donation to the Red Cross
  • Donate blood today
  • Become a Red Cross volunteer
  • Thank Red Cross volunteers for their service

— Posted by Jennifer Ingram, SEPA Red Cross Communications Volunteer

I didn’t really start using Twitter until being deployed with the Red Cross to the Boston Marathon disaster a year ago. I was never a fan. Now, it’s not only part of my day but a large part of my response to disasters.

rco_blog_img_PETEWINE This weekend I was a #DigiVol (Digitally Deployed Volunteer) for the @Redcross (American Red Cross). We were 1,200 miles away from the disaster zone, but still helping to make a difference. It was a short but wild adventure.

As tornadoes and thunderstorms bore down on the Midwest, our job was to take to social media and promote preparedness and safety. Our intention was to engage people to help calm and guide them.

For my shift, I was handed the keys to @RedcrossNETexas (The Official Twitter of NE Texas and SW Arkansas) and sent out on my mission. Watching weather radar, media outlets, and other posts from tornado chasers, I promoted the Red Cross Tornado App and gave tips on how to prepare and respond to the storm. My partners for the day, @Telesara (Sara Smith) and @Mindy_Hart (Mindy Hart) were also from Philadelphia.

I went for quite a spin around the block with the account. Hashtags — symbols placed in front of a word to help Twitter organize different topics — were flying. Some were obvious… #helpme, #scared, #missing, #disaster, and some were not. For example, #NoRotation came to designate clouds not moving in a twisting funnel.

We engaged scared people by telling them it was alright to be scared and guiding them on what to do next. All the while, we watched the destruction start to hit national news. It’s a very scary, hopeless feeling. You just want to do more. At the end of the shift, Sara and I guided a young middle school student on how to find her uncle amidst a destroyed town using #safeandwell, the Red Cross database to help let loved ones know you are okay.

Later, I was listening to a storm chaser on a radio feed talking to the National Weather Service (NWS) in RDCC Terminal (1280x721)Little Rock, AR. He was with a pastor from the Antioch Baptist Church in Conway, AR. They were opening a shelter there to provide immediate cover for victims who had just lost their homes. Another round of bad weather was on the way. The phones were down and they couldn’t get in touch with the Red Cross. They needed our help. The NWS wasn’t able to get in touch with Red Cross yet either.

I told Sara what I’d heard. She said she saw the Red Cross communicator near Conway online. I gave her all the information, and we relayed it to Arkansas from Philly. A few minutes later, a Handheld Amateur Radio Operator (HAM) with our team in Arkansas was on the air advising people in Conway that they’d gotten the message and were sending them Red Cross teams and supplies. We had made a difference to immediate disaster victims from 1,200 miles away.

Now, a day later, the Digital Volunteers of @RedCrossPhilly are still watching over the people of the Midwest. We stand ready, waiting to respond, to help them recover, using the best communications methods at our disposal.

In person, at the scene of the disaster, or in the virtual world of cyberspace, our mission remains the same: Help alleviate the suffering of victims of disaster.

Posted by Volunteer @PWine_1_1 (Peter Wine)

Volunteering with the American Red Cross these last three years has been a great experience for me. When I first became a volunteer, I was unemployed and looking for something to keep me busy until I was able to find a job. Now that I have a job, I still continue to volunteer on a weekly basis. Just about every Tuesday afternoon you can find me in the Communication Pod (CommPod as its come to be known) on the 5th floor. I have a background in English with some journalism experience, and the communications department has been a perfect fit for me. I have written several posted blogs, press releases, captions for pictures, research on various topics and many other things. I enjoy being able to use my experience in a useful and rewarding way.  As I am making my way to the CommPod, if I am not spotted first, I usually stop and talk to all the wonderful people I have gotten to know.

rco_blog_img_jenniferOver the years, my volunteering has expanded beyond the CommPod. I sometimes call myself the 5th floor volunteer because, at times, my help has been needed all over the floor. For about a month after Hurricane Sandy, I came in several days a week to help with anything that needed to be done. I not only got to see first hand all the different services that the Red Cross provides when a disaster occurs, but I actually contributed to the success of these services. I feel proud of my volunteer efforts during that difficult time. I can also be found helping out on the 4th floor in the Volunteer Department with various things.

When I am here volunteering, it gives me such a warm feeling inside knowing that I am helping a great organization and that my work is well appreciated. Every Tuesday, I look forward to coming, and when I am not here, I can’t wait to come back. When I am gone for a few weeks and return, I am often told how much I was missed, which also makes me feel good. The most important reason why I continue to volunteer is seeing the difference that volunteering makes in the lives of those affected by a disaster whether you are in the field or working behind the scenes.

— Posted by Jennifer Ingram, Communications Volunteer for the Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania

Me with some of my favorite volunteers at Red Ball

Vicki Worrall, Janice Winston and me at       Red Ball

I volunteer for the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. I am not trained in Emergency Services. I am not an instructor in swimming or First Aid. I cannot drive an ERV (The acronym for Emergency Response Vehicle, a Red Cross response truck). I do not ever deploy in the middle of the night to scenes of fire and flood. Nevertheless, I make my contribution. I take in information at the speed of sound.  My fingers are a blur at a keyboard.  I am here to tell the world what we do, why we do it and how it is absolutely essential to a just and humane society.

A short perusal of my file in the Volunteer folder of our hard drive reveals that, since becoming a volunteer, I have written 34 blogs, 26 news articles, 10 storyboards and countless news releases.  Some of my favorite pieces are about the history of the Red Cross – I did one on the how the service of one of our founding members was inspired by her experience on the Titanic – but the pieces I love the most are about the day to day efforts of ordinary members of our community to make the world a more caring place.

This leads me to this morning, when the Red Cross office here at 23rd and Chestnut was a little empty. Several people I work with were out attending the Montgomery County Heroes Breakfast. For the last couple years, I have had the pleasure of writing a short summary of the deeds of heroes in Bucks County for the program to be read by attendees.  The Montgomery heroesare equally impressive. There is no way that one event could capture all the extraordinary things that we do for one another every day, but it’s important to remember that the honorees are representative of the rest of us and our “better angels”. Among them, Patricia Lloyd used her Red Cross training to save a five-year-old from choking to death at her school. Montgomery County police officers risked their lives to apprehend a dangerous fugitive and protect their community. Fire Chief Thomas Hayden rescued two women from a home engulfed in flames.  Did you know that men like David Gartner give both blood and plasma several times a year, saving countless lives?

My workstation

I love telling these stories, which is why I keep coming back to this desk, despite an increasing busy professional schedule as my children age into their college years. The work we do is here is essential and important. The people who are trained to teach First Aid, who respond to emergency calls and who provide comfort to veterans and their families are deeply committed and caring. The world is an uncertain place and everyone here stays vigilant, just in case others need our help. It is an honor to sit at this keyboard.

— Submitted by Sarah Peterson, Proud Red Cross Communications Volunteer