Couple Left Homeless By Devastating Fire Gets a Fresh Start with Red Cross Help

fed way fire client quote

The biggest disaster threats to American families aren’t floods or hurricanes, but home fires. Every day the Red Cross responds to home fires across the country that leave residents homeless. Richard Johnson, 70, and his wife, Dorothy, experienced this firsthand when a fire raged through their Federal Way apartment building in June.

Loud noises outside their second-floor apartment woke the Johnsons around midnight. They opened the door to find the hallway filled with smoke and flames coming from a nearby unit. Without time to find their shoes, they scrambled out of the apartment and crawled to an exit on their hands and knees to avoid the smoke.

As they joined the crowd in the parking lot, rain began to fall. Residents huddled under carports in their pajamas and bare feet as firefighters struggled to put out the fire and rescue those trapped in the building. “Everybody was wet, cold, and confused,” Mr. Johnson recalled.

Warm hearts, warm hands

Within a few hours, a Red Cross van arrived. The driver encouraged the Johnsons to get in the van and warm up, then drove them to an emergency shelter set up by volunteers at a nearby community center. The Johnsons spent several nights there.

“I take my hat off to the Red Cross,” said Mr. Johnson. “Everyone made us feel so comfortable. Without them, I think we probably would have frozen that night.”

Like other victims of the catastrophic fire, the Johnsons had lost everything. The Red Cross helped them replace lost medication, clothing, a bank card and ID, and even connected them with a locksmith who made new car keys so they could get their car running.

The Johnsons’ stay at the shelter didn’t last long. After a few days, the Red Cross connected them with a realtor who had heard about the fire and had an apartment available in Des Moines. With Red Cross funds, they were able to settle in right away with a mattress and bedding.

“Our family away from home”

Richard and Dorothy have been living in their new apartment for four months. “[The Red Cross] stayed in touch with us after we were gone,” said Mr. Johnson. “We stopped by the shelter to say hi. They became part of us, our family away from home. The love they showed us, the consideration they showed us, was just awesome.”

The Red Cross not only responds to fires, but is also working to prevent them. With its 2014 Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, the Red Cross has teamed up with the Seattle Fire Department to install smoke alarms in Seattle-area homes and educate residents about fire safety. With your help, we can reduce the number of homes and lives lost to fires. Visit, or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

Campaign Goal: Reducing Fire-Related Deaths, One Home at a Time

There were 351 residential fires last year in Seattle. That means that nearly every day, a home was damaged or lost. Even more frequently in Western Washington, Red Cross volunteers provided help to families who had lost their homes to devastating fires. The vast majority of these house fires were cooking related — a burner left on, a pan unattended on the stove — and in many cases, there was no working smoke alarm.

The American Red Cross wants to change that, starting this month. As part of the 2014 Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, the Red Cross is partnering with the Seattle Fire Department to install smoke alarms in Seattle homes. Starting in neighborhoods at highest risk, Seattle firefighters will go door-to-door, checking and installing smoke alarms and offering fire safety information to residents. Flyers distributed in the days ahead will announce the time and date of the visits.

Fire can spread surprisingly fast. Smoke alarms give residents a chance to respond to a fire by extinguishing it if it hasn’t spread, or evacuating to a safe place to call 911. A working smoke alarm doubles an individual’s chances of surviving a fire. Early warning of a fire can also reduce loss of property and fire damage to the home.

So why doesn’t every home have working smoke alarms?

“People are busy and don’t think about it,” says Bill Mace, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Seattle Fire Department. “Maybe they’ve never had a fire, so it’s not a priority. They don’t realize how important it is to have a working smoke alarm. They think they’ll smell the smoke or their pet will alert them.” Too often, this is not the case. Six people die in house fires every day in the U.S.

While rescue and recovery efforts after a disaster get plenty of press, prevention efforts like this one often happen behind the scenes. “One of the biggest challenges is publicizing prevention,” Mace explains. “It’s hard to document the fires we prevent. It’s not as exciting as putting out a burning building.”

Prevention is a big part of the Red Cross mission. Each year, more than 9 million Americans participate in Red Cross emergency preparedness training programs, including first responders, educators, and others who want to be prepared to help others in an emergency. With the 2014 Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, the Red Cross is bringing preparedness home to prevent fire deaths and injuries, with the goal of visiting 325,000 homes every year.

Learn more about what you can do to reduce the risk of a fire in your home by visiting the Red Cross website.

By Tiffany Koenig, Red Cross Volunteer

2014 Heroes Breakfast a Success

Thank you to everyone who attended and supported the 18th Annual Heroes Breakfast in Seattle! Because of the community’s generous support we were able to raise over $387,000 to support our critical services and programs.

For more than a century, the Red Cross has been a community leader in emergency preparedness and response. Our Annual Heroes Breakfast honors that longstanding tradition of heroism by recognizing local individuals whose extraordinary acts of courage or kindness make them a hero.


This year, 10 individuals were honored for lifesaving acts, preparedness measures and other efforts in our community. Thank you to all of the heroes, table captains, sponsors and attendees. A special thank you to this year’s Leadership Sponsors: Costco Wholesale and Puget Sound Energy. Also, thank you to our award sponsors: The Boeing Company, Coinstar, Overlake Medical Center, PEMCO Insurance, Safeco Insurance and Symetra. As always, we couldn’t have done it without you! What a wonderful event.


To view photos from the 2014 Heroes Breakfast, visit our Flickr photostream, and to see the Heroes stories visit our YouTube channel.

Interested in becoming a table captain or sponsor for 2015? Please email Kayla Lehrman or call (206) 726-3543.

View the 2014 King County Heroes Bios and 2014 Heroes Sponsors on our website.

Broadening the Red Cross Blogosphere

Cody teaches local law students about the Restoring Family Links program.

Cody teaches local law students about the Restoring Family Links program.

Sarah presents the Red Cross' seven fundamental principles.

Sarah presents the Red Cross’ seven fundamental principles.

Check out these excellent posts written by Western Washington Red Crossers!

Cody Austin, International Services Coordinator and AmeriCorps, wrote about Contributing to Social Justice through our Restoring Family Links program.  Cody writes of his experiences helping Iraqi clients, “As a member of an organization committed to protecting humanitarian values and social justice, I consider it a great privilege to help Iraqi refugees obtain their due and restore their human dignity.” His compassion certainly exemplifies what it means to be a Red Crosser.

Sarah Rothman, International Services and Language Bank Manager, wrote about Clara Barton in honor of International Women’s Day.  She writes, “Throughout her entire life, Clara was a fearless leader in the humanitarian movement as well as the movement towards equality for women.” Sarah’s insight reminds us of the importance of our past and how it has affected our work today.

Both posts appear on the national Red Cross’ Restoring Family Links blog. The blog is dedicated to documenting the successes of the international program to reconnect family members separated by armed conflict and natural disaster.

Cody and Sarah’s posts serve as great reminders of the hard work Red Crossers do locally and all over the world to reconnect families and alleviate human suffering. Thank you for all you do!

Recruiting AmeriCorps Members for 2014-2015 service year


2013 – 2014 AmeriCorps Team

Are you looking for an opportunity to make a real difference in the community? Do you want to gain new skills and experiences? Are you passionate about empowering people to prepare for and recover from disasters and emergencies?

The American Red Cross Western Washington Chapters is seeking 20 enthusiastic individuals to serve as full-time AmeriCorps Team members from September 1, 2014 through July 15, 2015 in the following positions:

Client Services Coordinator (4 positions-Bremerton/Olympia/Seattle/Tacoma)  The Client Services Coordinator position will be trained to assist disaster clients following Client Assistance guidelines and procedures and will also be responsible for supporting daily client casework activities. This position will coordinate with the Disaster Cycle Specialist to support other chapter client caseworkers. This position will also be required to attend related community partner meetings in support of chapter disaster response.

Community Preparedness Educator (3 positions-Bremerton/Seattle/Tacoma) The Community Preparedness Educator serves preparedness functions within the Disaster Cycle at the American Red Cross Western Washington Chapters. This position is primarily responsible for supporting our Safe in the Sound initiative by providing disaster education to traditionally underserved populations, community based organizations and neighborhood groups. This position engages in marketing and community outreach to enhance the impact of our programs and to help build collaborative partnerships.  Additionally, the member serves as the volunteer coordinator/trainer to support the preparedness volunteer team.

Disaster Cycle Training Coordinator and Volunteer Retention & Support (1 position-Olympia,) This position provides the pathway for new Disaster Volunteers to navigate through the Disaster Program initial intake and training process – the member will contact the volunteer, and answer any questions they may have regarding Group & Activity assignments, training, meetings, and simply what’s next. This position will also be required to attend related community partner meetings in support of chapter disaster response. Additionally this position will be responsible for preparing materials for classes, updating the training databases, coordinating with instructors and creating a training calendar based on the need for classes. This position will be assisting volunteers to help determine what training they may need and following up to ensure their success. This position will also be supporting program recruitment and retention. This position will also track and communicate volunteer needs, preferences, and assess suitable and appropriate placement.

Organizational and Neighborhood Preparedness Educator (1 position-Seattle) This position serves preparedness functions within the Disaster Cycle at the American Red Cross Western Washington Chapters. This position is primarily responsible for supporting our Safe in the Sound initiative by providing disaster education to organizations and neighborhood groups. This position engages in marketing and community outreach to enhance the impact of our programs and to help build collaborative partnerships. Additionally, the member serves as the volunteer coordinator to support the preparedness volunteer team.

Service to Armed Forces (SAF) Support (1 position-Tacoma) The Service to Armed Forces Department of the American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter provides compassionate assistance, referral service, and resource information to individuals and families of the Military 24/7. The member will facilitate outreach presentations, deployment briefings, and information fairs scheduled for active duty military members, their dependents, as well as their extended family members. The member will spend the majority of their service on outreach presentations, deployment briefings, and information fairs scheduled for active duty military members, their dependents, as well as their extended family members.

Volunteer Programs and Group Coordinator (2 positions-Seattle/Tacoma) The team member is primarily responsible for the coordination of the First Aid Station Team program.  The member’s duties will involve outreach to community events and coordination of applications and event schedule.  The member will coordinate and grow the existing opportunities for volunteer groups and short term opportunities and projects. This position will also be responsible for the annual Volunteer Recognition Week and the MLK Day of Service Project.

Volunteer Recruitment & Intake Coordinator (2 positions-Seattle/Tacoma) The member will be responsible for guiding volunteers through the intake process, processing inquires and applications, coordinating transfers, conducting interviews, and leading information sessions. The member will serve closely with the intake team to ensure we are delivering quality service to all new and continuing volunteers.  The member will also attend events and activities to help with volunteer recruitment efforts.

Volunteer Systems Specialist (1 position-Seattle) The team member is primarily responsible for overall coordination of the Red Cross’ Volunteer Management System, Volunteer Connection.  Volunteer Connection is a single organization-wide system which allows volunteer managers to track their volunteer’s training, activity, hours, and more.  The member will primarily serve as technical support for this system providing guidance and advice on integrating and utilizing the system.  The member will also be responsible for managing continued cleanup of the volunteer database.  The position will also serve to provide regional training support.

Youth Program Specialist (2 positions-Seattle) The AmeriCorps team member will support the continuing growth of the Red Cross youth program that empowers young people by enlightening them in ways to serve their community. The Youth Program is primarily responsible for marketing and teaching disaster preparedness and health/safety classes to youth in the community and to traditionally underserved populations.


  • Invaluable experience from a nationally and internationally-respected organization for school, a future job or new career
  • Extensive training
  • $5,550 AmeriCorps Education Award (upon successful completion of service term commitment and 1700 hours of service)
  • $1,155/month living stipend (before taxes)
  • Basic Health Insurance (member only and only if no other health insurance)
  • Subsidized childcare (if qualified)
  • Student loan forbearance (on qualifying loans)


  • Commit to serve full-time for 10 1/2 months (September 1, 2014 – July 15, 2015)
  • Successfully serve in the position, serve 40 hours a week and meet the 1700 minimum requirement for a full term of service
  • Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Must be 17 years of age at the start date of service
  • Have a valid Driver’s License & clean driving record
  • Pass required criminal background checks

Members should also be comfortable working with a wide variety of people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and respect the Red Cross principles of neutrality and impartiality.


To apply online, click on

  1. Enter Project Type – AmeriCorps State/National
  2. Enter State – Washington
  3. Enter Program Name – Red Cross and click on the red x search button.
  4. Click on interested position(s)

Please also submit a resume and cover letter highlighting strengths & skills for each position to Nancy Watchie, AmeriCorps Team Coordinator at

PLEASE NOTE:  AmeriCorps team position offers are contingent upon AmeriCorps funding notification, to be announced by June 30, 2014. 

Why I help: Norm and Joyce Bottenberg

by volunteer journalist Deborah Griffith MacSwain

 It was love at first sight.  It was a Valentine’s Day weekend a few years ago, and Norm and Joyce Bottenberg had just gotten engaged.  They first met in 1983 at an American Red Cross Operational Management Training in Virginia. The Red Cross brought them together, and their activism with the organization cemented their lives.


When Joyce thinks about that special weekend meeting with Norm, she fondly recollects that after the Red Cross training was over, they “exchanged mail a few times, then Norm came to Boston for a weekend [visit] in 1985.”  When he got off the plane, Joyce was waiting for him with a Valentine’s Day card and a book about Seattle (Norm’s city).  Norm recalled that when he got off the plane, he had a Valentine’s card and a book about Boston (Joyce’s city).

Imagine their surprise and delight when they found out they had picked the same Valentine’s card to give to each other!  Norm exclaimed, “It was a match made in heaven.”  Soon afterwards, they were married.  The Bottenberg’s strong marriage was matched by their dedication to the Red Cross.

Norm Bottenberg received a Certificate of Merit award, when he and a Red Crosser ran several blocks to give CPR to a collapsed person in distress.  The Certificate of Merit is the highest award given for using Red Cross training to help save a person’s life.  It is signed by the President of the United States.

At the time he received the award, Norm was manning a Red Cross First Aid station at an American Legion parade in Seattle.  Norm stated, “I like to get involved.  If the Red Cross needs someone and I have the skills, I will do it.”   His attitude reflects his actions.  For example, when Norm was 18 years old, he organized kids to take free Red Cross swim classes at a neighbor’s pool.  And later, he has taught and managed numerous Red Cross Health and Safety programs.


Like must attract like, because his wife, Joyce Harvey Bottenberg, also received a Certificate of Merit.  In 1981, she performed life-saving CPR on a neighbor.  But much earlier than that, she had discovered that helping people was in her blood.  Her first acquaintance with the American Red Cross was when she was just three years old.  She said, “I remember walking with my dad to the Melrose Massachusetts Chapter, so he could sign First Aid certificates.”

Later on, Joyce worked with the Red Cross as a night caseworker, where she often took calls that required quick thinking. “I learned how to provide assistance over the phone, give referrals, and, in essence, become a trouble shooter for people in need,” she said.

Over the years, both Bottenbergs have served in volunteer and paid positions with the American Red Cross organization.  Both have received their 55-year pins.  They remarked that they continue to volunteer for the Seattle Red Cross chapter because … “we want to make a difference!”

Help Red Cross Sell Out the ShoWare Center!

The Seattle Thunderbirds hockey organization is hosting a Safe in the Sound (SITS) night to promote Red Cross and Puget Sound Energy safety and preparedness messages on March 9 at 5pm.

Red Cross volunteers, staff and community partners are invited to enjoy a 25% discount on tickets with the discount code “SAFE” at the website below.  After the discount, tickets are $18/per person.

  •  WHEN: Sunday, March 9, 5pm, Seattle Thunderbirds vs Vancouver Giants
  •  WHERE: ShoWare Center, 625 West James Street, Kent, WA 98032 (free parking)

Feel free to wear red to show your Red Cross love. We can’t wait to see you there to support the Red Cross and the Thunderbirds!

FAST in February

February has been a busier month than expected for the First Aid Station Team (FAST) thanks to an exciting Super Bowl win. Last week, they supported the Seahawks Super Bowl parade and the Valentine’s Day Dash 5k in Green Lake.

Our FAST is committed to providing premier first aid services at festivals, races, parades and markets in the greater Seattle area. The generosity of donors and compassion of volunteers allows FAST services to remain free of charge at events. All the volunteers are qualified aid personnel with energy and drive for helping their community.


From left to right: Team member Lucy Liu, team leads Will Tsang, Darby Tyler, and Ariella Angell, and team leads in training Ashley Pellicane, Thomas Bliss, and Kevin Kenney.

“FAST gets out in the community and people see the hands-on application of First Aid and CPR training,” said Ariella Angell, FAST Team Lead. “It encourages them to get trained too.”

Being asked to support the City of Seattle at the Seahawks parade speaks volumes of the caliber of the team. They did an great job providing first aid and helping keep Seahawks fans safe and warm. We couldn’t be prouder of their efforts!

Seahawks Parade

FAST provides first aid at the Seahawks Super Bowl Parade.

FAST also had a great opportunity to practice their skills and continue training new team leads at the Valentine’s Day Dash. They provided free blood pressure checks for attendees and had a great time despite the cold weather!


FAST members and leads laughing over a training video at the Valentine’s Day 5k at Green Lake.

Western Washington Launches 2014 Webinar Series

Our Community, Neighborhood and Organizational Preparedness educators launched their annual webinar series on January 8. Each month, the team covers a new preparedness topic via webcast to better prepare interested businesses, communities and individuals for disaster. Webinar topics range from building your disaster kit to winter weather safety.

The team gives  in-person presentations about disaster preparedness to community groups, businesses and neighborhoods all over Western Washington free of charge. The webinar platform allows the team to tailor their presentations to a specific aspect of preparedness and reach a wide group of people at once. The webinars are recorded, which allows interested individuals to watch as they wish.

Allison DeDonato (left) and Sarah Finley get ready for January's webinar. The topic - Disaster Preparedness for Seniors.

Allison DeDonato (left) and Sarah Finley get ready for January’s webinar. The topic – Disaster Preparedness for Seniors.

“The webinar series gives people a different forum to interact with us,” said Allison DeDonato, Community Preparedness Educator. “It feels personal because they get to ‘chat’ and ask us the what-if questions they can’t ask in a general preparedness presentation.”

The 20 minute webinar platform also allows the team to hit a lot of important information in a short amount of time. They focus on the main points of the topic so the audience comes away with a clear understanding of the topic and tangible action items to help them get better prepared.

“We’re here to help,” said Sarah Finley, Workplace Preparedness Educator. “Join us!”

The 2014 Webinar Series Schedule:

  • February 12 – Emergency Communication Plans
  • March 12 – Hazard Hunt for Work and Home
  • April 9 – Earthquake Preparedness
  • May 14 – Building Your Disaster Kit
  • June 11 – Summer Safety
  • July 9 – Limited Mobility Preparedness
  • August 13 – Map Your Neighborhood
  • September 10 – Water & Medication Storage Safety
  • October 8 – Designing an Earthquake Drill
  • November 12 – Winter Weather
  • December 10 – Travel Safety

All webinars begin at 10:30am, PST. Visit to register!