Volunteer Spotlight: Judy Holz

Skagit Bridge Collapse Mobile Feeding

By Tiffany Koenig

For almost 40 years, Judy Holz and her husband, Howard, operated a dairy farm north of Bellingham. As they neared retirement, Judy began looking for ways to serve her community and became interested in the Red Cross when they inquired about using her church as an emergency shelter location. Now, after 12 years as a Red Cross volunteer, her motivation is the same as it was then: “The Red Cross allows me to help people who need help right at the time that they need it.”

Over the years, Judy has served as an instructor, disaster chair, and deputy director for Disaster Cycle Services of Northwest Washington. In February, she took a position as Mass Care lead, organizing shelter teams and making sure they understand what to do as soon as they get the call. Like most volunteers, though, Judy wears many different hats. “We have our titles and our activities, but most of us will do whatever we’re asked to do,” she says. Judy especially enjoys teaching disaster courses at her chapter in Bellingham. “I love to see other people learn how to help others.”

Through the years, Judy has traveled to 14 national-level disasters, each with its own personality. These deployments offer the chance to meet clients and coworkers from across the country and bring back valuable information to her home chapter. But she also gains satisfaction from helping people closer to home. “There’s nothing like being there right at the time when people need you after an event like a single-family fire,” she says. “When you’re called around midnight and people are just standing around not knowing where to go or what do to, and you’re there to say, ‘I can help you tonight and give you a place to stay’—that’s something that gets repeated over and over.”

Sometimes those who need assistance are emergency responders themselves. After the Skagit River Bridge collapsed, Judy joined other local Red Cross volunteers to provide food for the police, DOT investigators, and responders working to rescue people from the river. She also met with officials at the local emergency operations center to discuss what else the Red Cross could do.

It’s all a far cry from dairy farming. But it certainly keeps her busy and involved with the north Puget Sound community.

Judy is also a watercolor artist. In her downtime, she travels with her husband around Washington and to Wyoming to visit family, often taking her paints and brushes with her. Painting landscapes on location helps her connect with the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Volunteer Spotlight: Anne Isenhart

Anne I In 2013, Anne Isenhart was representing the Red Cross at an event in Bellingham when her husband called to tell her that their daughter was in the hospital after falling out of a second-story window. Anne didn’t want to abandon the newly trained volunteer at her side, but her manager, who happened to be at the event, insisted she go and take care of her family. Anne’s daughter was airlifted to Harborview in Seattle. While she recovered, Anne took a break from her role coordinating speakers, and her colleagues at the Red Cross gave her the time and support she needed. One even came to her house to look after her kids so Anne could rest for a few hours. Her colleagues’ help embodied the heart of the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering. “My family was a priority, and they understood that,” Anne says. “They took care of me. That’s what I love the most about being a Red Cross volunteer—it doesn’t stop when I walk out the door. They’re invested in me as a person.” For Anne, it’s a relief to work with an organization that understands that its employees and volunteers are only human—especially after a career in the airline industry, where there was no room for mistakes. She’s even able to bring one of her two small children with her when she comes to the office. As for that frightening day when her daughter was injured, Anne now uses the story in her preparedness presentations, encouraging people to keep toiletries and a change of clothes in their vehicles. “I was in a jean skirt and flip flops, and I didn’t have any extra clothes in my car. I didn’t know I was going to be staying the night in Seattle….You never know what the day holds.” Anne got started at the Red Cross after meeting Stacy Rice, formerly the Emergency Services director for the Mt. Baker chapter, during an aviation drill for an airline out of the Bellingham airport. Stacy and other Red Cross volunteers made a strong impression on Anne, and when she left the airline, she turned to the Red Cross as a way to stay engaged in her community. Four years later, Anne now serves as the preparedness lead for her chapter. She teaches the Pillowcase Project, a youth-based program that helps kids get out of the house in a hurry during an emergency. Through the Speaker’s Bureau, Anne teaches people how to give presentations on preparedness for organizations. She’s also working to expand preparedness programs into Spanish-speaking communities. One of her favorite events to work is the annual Real Heroes Celebration in Bellingham. This Red Cross fundraising event allows people in the community to nominate someone who’s done something extraordinary in the course of their daily lives, like a Birch Bay woman who performed CPR on a man who collapsed next to her in the supermarket. Anne says of the event, “I always walk away from it with that warm, fuzzy, goosebump feeling that there are people in the world who do really awesome things. This is how we see our classes and trainings and programs being put into action within the community.” Anne’s message for other volunteers is simple: “The Red Cross will take as much or as little as you’re willing to give. It might not seem like a lot to the volunteer, but it’s huge and so appreciated by other volunteers and staff.” Story by Tiffany Koenig

Preparing youth in Kitsap County

Our Youth Preparedness team teaches free classes to schools, Scouts and other youth groups. They teach four different classes, each designed to empower youth in our community to be better prepared for emergencies. Here’s a look into our Youth Preparedness programs in Kitsap County:

On December 18, Krystina Duckworth and Ari Hock presented Passport to Preparedness at Richard Gordon Elementary School in Kingston. They informed more than 400 students how to prepare for disasters that occur in western Washington, such as earthquakes and floods. The kids especially enjoyed determining which items belong in their disaster kits by sticking pictures of potential items on the board.

Krystina teaches students  about types of food are good for their disaster kit.

Krystina teaches students about types of food that are good for their disaster kit.

On January 8, Ari and Krystina presented about community disaster preparedness to seven people at Kitsap Community Resources. Krystina has been presenting here regularly to low-income parents who are interested in learning more about how to take care of their families. One of the women recounted a story of a house fire that she had experienced and had taken her mother’s life. This moving testament was a reminder to the importance of fire safety and preparedness.

Survival Scenarios is a fun, interactive program that encourages middle schools students to work in groups to tackle tricky problems related to first aid and natural disasters. Ari and Krystina went to John Sedgwick Junior High in Port Orchard to pose these scenarios to over 100 students.

Ari leads students in the Pillowcase Project Pledge

Ari leads students in the Pillowcase Project Pledge

Ari went to Bainbridge Island on January 12 to present the Pillowcase Project to about 10 children at the Boys and Girls Club. All of the students elected to participate in the presentation and contributed to a practical discussion about disaster preparedness.

Ari and Krystina went to South Colby Elementary School on January 13 and 14 to teach the Pillowcase Project to about 300 students. The kids were excited to learn, practice, and share the information about how they could build up and use their own emergency supply kit. And of course, they were excited to receive their Disney pillowcases so they could get started.

Ari and Emily teach young museum-goers about fire safety.

Ari and Emily teach young museum-goers about fire safety.

The Children’s Discovery Museum on Bainbridge Island invited the Red Cross to teach Passport to Preparedness on Saturday, January 17. In this zany environment, Ari and Emily LaCroix managed to rally about 10 kids together for half-an-hour to teach about what items to put in an emergency kit, and how to prepare for house fires.

Ari and Emily at the Kitsap Community Resource's Hygiene Drive.

Ari and Emily at the Kitsap Community Resources Hygiene Drive.

Ari and Emily participated in Kitsap Community Resources Hygiene Drive for a productive day of service dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. They engaged customers at the local Walgreen’s for about three hours and managed to secure several boxes full of razors, toothbrushes, and the like to benefit the local homeless population. This event was organized in part by Krystina.

If you are interested in scheduling a free youth preparedness presentation, please visit our website.

Volunteer Spotlight: Rita Schulte

When Rita Schulte moved from Germany to Seattle with her family in 1999, she began looking for ways to get involved in the community and put her knowledge of human resources to good use. Though she had worked as an HR professional in Germany, she wasn’t yet able to work in the U.S., so she started to volunteer in schools. Later she looked for a larger organization and chose the Red Cross because it was familiar and had a clear-cut goal of providing compassionate care for those in need.

“I liked what the Red Cross stood for, and liked the idea of helping people in dire need after a disaster,” Rita said.

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Rita started volunteering two hours a week in the mail room of the Seattle chapter. Eight years later, she is a volunteer leader providing vital assistance in Staff Services—staffing shelters after house fires, deploying volunteers to regional disasters, and ensuring that volunteers get necessary training. When Rita’s supervisor flew to New York for Hurricane Sandy, Rita covered the work at the office to ensure that nothing fell through the cracks.

When asked what she likes best about her experience with the Red Cross, Rita doesn’t hesitate. She is amazed by volunteers’ willingness, time and again, to react quickly and help people in need without any time to prepare.

“It fascinates me how, when something happens, people will drop their lives and say, ‘I’m ready to go. What do you need from me?’” Rita said. “I think that’s very special. Every time it happens, it warms my heart.”

Over the years Rita has grown to appreciate the people working and volunteering at the Red Cross, and she feels at home. “I feel supported, and people really care. I’m fortunate to get along really well with the staff I work with. It’s not just a working relationship, it’s a friendship.”

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

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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 redcross.org/donate, 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.

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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.

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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

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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.

BENEFITS:

  • 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)

REQUIREMENTS: 

  • 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:

To apply online, click on https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/publicRequestSearch.do.

  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 nancy.watchie@redcross.org.

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