Thursday, January 26, 2017

TN Red Crossers Continue to Help Those Affected by Southern Storms

Here are some photos that were taken yesterday of the devastation in Albany and Ashburn, Georgia, two of the many Southern communities hit by last weekend's storms and tornadoes. Reports indicate more than 1,100 homes have been affected across Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida. This number is likely to increase once all inaccessible areas are accessed.

Over 130 people in Georgia and Mississippi are still seeking refuge in 7 Red Cross and community shelters. Several Tennessee Red Crossers have deployed to Georgia and Mississippi this week to help,

The Red Cross depends on donations to provide immediate relief. Help people affected by Southern Tornadoes and Storms by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or texting the word TORNADO to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from this disaster.

Photo Credits: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Monday, January 23, 2017

TN Red Crossers Deploy to GA & MS to Assist with Storm Relief Efforts

Update: New deployments added

In response to the weekend's devastating storms in Georgia and Mississippi, responders from several Red Cross chapters throughout Tennessee have headed or will be heading to help those affected in those states. Along with the 15 who've deployed, 12 more responders are headed out tomorrow. Additionally, six Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles from our state are deploying. 

Thanks to all of those deploying to help folks affected by the storms.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Regional Executive Corner with Joel R. Sullivan - January 2017

Happy New Year!

The year 2016 was one of the busiest years in recent history for the Tennessee Region of the American Red Cross.  From home fires and floods, to tornadoes and wildfires, our volunteers showed up when our neighbors needed us most.  Our volunteers were deployed across the Nation to share their time and talent in large disasters. These deployments were in addition to the home and apartment fires we respond to every day.

We provided help and hope to service members and their families in their time of need and prepared them for deployment, as well as, welcomed them home.  We taught lifesaving classes in CPR and provided critical blood to patients who needed it.

Our fabulous donors also shared their treasure to ensure that the resources were there to accomplish our mission.  Here’s a look at some of the services we provided together in 2016:
(January 2016 – November 2016)

2,596 home fire responses
8,277 smoke alarms installed
5,731 children prepared for disasters and emergencies through the Pillowcase Project
71,192 blood donations
4,339 services provided to military members and their families
5,511 volunteers

These numbers are very impressive.  I am very proud of our Tennessee volunteers sharing their time, talent and treasure in ways much greater than I could have imagined.

Thank YOU, for continuing to serve the great State of Tennessee.  I look forward to another great year serving with you in 2017!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Southeast Tennessee Volunteers of the Month, Jan and Larry Turner - December 2016

Jan and Larry Turner were our December Volunteers of the Month.  The Turners have been American Red Cross volunteers in Southeast TN for six years and have worked with multiple positions including, Disaster Assessment, Sheltering, and most recently, Disaster Action Team. Disaster Assessment has become their favorite GAP because they are able to go into disaster affected areas and really see what the clients have gone through.

When asked why they volunteer Jan said “I have had a very blessed life, from my childhood, to my marriage, to my daughter- I felt like I have a lot of payback to do.” She went on to say that she really appreciates how group oriented the chapter in Southeast TN is and enjoys the team effort.

Jan and Larry have deployed three times, with their most recent deployment to Gatlinburg, TN for sheltering during the wildfires. They received a call at 10:00 p.m. the night the fires occurred and started to head that way immediately. After a long night of unloading trailers and preparing shelters Jan and Larry continued to work through the next day. By evening all hotels in the immediate area had filled up, so they ended sleeping in a shelter that night.  Jan was very thankful for the experience of not having housing for her first evening of the deployment. She said that being able to walk into a shelter and know what other families were going through really put into perspective why they volunteer with the American Red Cross.

The Turner’s have met some incredible volunteers along the way and have had great experiences both in the chapter and while deployed. When asked what their favorite memory with the Red Cross is, they shared about a deployment in Florida when they had stopped at a restaurant to get food and the people around them started applauding. Jan and Larry didn’t initially know the applause was meant for them and the work they were doing for Hurricane Matthew until someone told them. This showed them how much the community cared about the work they were there to do.

Jan and Larry Turner are quick to respond if needed without a second thought. We appreciate their flexibility, warm approach to any situation, and willingness to help in all circumstances.

Nashville Area Volunteer of the Month, Joyce Page - January 2017

Joyce Page has a spirit of giving. She volunteers for multiple volunteer agencies in Nashville and is actively involved in her church. She stops by the Red Cross Nashville Area Chapter every Monday to help with various projects and answering the phones. She’s been a tremendous help in the year she’s volunteered with us, and is the January 2017 volunteer of the month.

Joyce started out volunteering with the Red Cross as a community events volunteer. She attends numerous health fairs and events around town on behalf of the Red Cross. Many people aren’t aware of all the services the Red Cross provides to the community, so Joyce helps inform people about the Red Cross lines of service. She first learned about the assistance the Red Cross offers to home fire victims after having a home fire of her own decades ago. With the Red Cross mission close to her heart, she decided to become a volunteer after her retirement.

Recently, Joyce hand wrote over 500 cards to donors to thank them for their donations that enable her to volunteer. She also answered phones at the WKRN News 2 phone bank telethon to raise funds for disaster relief.

Kind. Sweet. Gentle. Conscientious. Thorough. A pleasure to work with. Always willing to help. This is how Joyce is known around the chapter office.

“I’d love to have a bunch more of her!” said Sherry Ricketts, Volunteer Specialist.

When asked what her favorite part of volunteering is, Joyce said, “Giving back!” We are extremely grateful to have Joyce as a volunteer at the Nashville Area Chapter.

To learn more about our lines of service, visit
If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit

Letter from Mid-West Tennessee Executive Director, David Hicks - January 2017

Happy New Year!

I hope that each of you and your families had a wonderful holiday season and enjoyed some relaxing, quality time with your friends and loved ones. I can’t believe we’ve celebrated the New Year and are already knee deep in January!

It’s important to take a look at the past several months and truly celebrate the accomplishments that you personally had a hand in. I think we would all agree that 2016 was a TREMENDOUS year for our chapter and the Red Cross organization! Let’s consider what your hard work as volunteers helped our chapter accomplish from January- November 2016. It included:

193 Home Fire Events (Cases Opened)
1,874 Smoke Alarm Installations
368 Pillowcase Project Participants/ Recipients

These statistics don’t even begin to tell the story of the impact made on the locations many of you were deployed to over the last 12 months.  From California and Texas to Mississippi and Louisiana and eventually to the east side of the state in Gatlinburg, you represented our chapter WELL! You not only helped change lives through your dedicated and compassionate service, but your own lives were changed as well.

With all of the above in our rear-view mirror, we can now begin to turn our chapter’s full attention to 2017. We can answer the call of a new year to our Red Cross organization (and chapter) to continue to provide disaster relief and assistance to our 14 counties and other areas in need around the country. Many of you will help us write the script of the year to come! When we look back a year from now, you will read 2017’s accomplishments for our chapter and you’ll be able to take pride in the fact that you personally played a significant role.  Who would want to miss out on the opportunity to impact the lives of others (and your own) in 2017?

I feel confident each of you will “answer the bell” in 2017 as you have over and over this past year. Who’s with me?!

Letter from Northeast Tennessee Executive Director, Glenda Bobalik - January 2017

Here we are in 2017!  This is an exciting year as we celebrate 100 Years of Service by the American Red Cross to the communities of Northeast Tennessee.  If you missed our All Volunteer Meeting on January 5th, please stop in when convenient and check out our historical timeline.  Jane Harris did an exceptional job developing a snapshot of our history from 1917 to today.

Across the years, our focus has remained the same:  Assisting people by preparing for, responding to or recovering from emergencies.  For example, volunteers have been in the community teaching first aid for 100 years and when the skills for CPR were added in the 1970s, courses were adapted and we continued to teach the skills that make our community safe for us all.  Today, many of our courses include an option to train online.  Our methods take advantage of the many advances that occur in our society but our focus remains the same.

History shows us disasters in the 1930s that involve volunteers from counties across Northeast Tennessee coming to the aid of their friends in Kingsport when a tornado hit.  In 2016, we saw volunteers from those same counties travelling to the aid of our neighbors in Sevier County when the wildfires struck.  Some early stories tell of volunteers riding horses to deliver assistance while today we drive on interstates in cars to deliver aid.  Methods have changed but the giving hearts and dedication of Red Cross volunteers stay the same.

During World War II, thousands of servicemen travelled by train through Northeast Tennessee stopping in Morristown, Johnson City or Bristol where they were met by smiling Red Cross volunteers operating canteens to provide food and drink.  These dedicated volunteers were at the train stations all day and through the night.  Today, we are still supporting our military population with services to active duty military, their families, and the many veterans in our communities.  Needs have changed but our commitment to those who serve remains the same.

Stop by the office and learn about our history, sign the timeline, and share your memories as well.  We have a Century of Service to celebrate along with the excitement of beginning a Second Century of Service to Northeast Tennessee.  Together, let’s tip our hats to the past and join hands as we face the promise of the future.


Letter from Southeast Tennessee Executive Director, Julia Wright - January 2017

Wow! 2016 came to an eventful close, and our Southeast Tennessee Red Cross volunteers exhibited their very finest in response to numerous disasters including the Woodmore school bus accident, tornadoes in McMinn, Sequatchie and Polk counties and the wildfire operation in Gatlinburg.  To say we were busy would definitely be an understatement.  I can't express enough my gratitude and appreciation for the long hours, hard work and dedication our volunteers give when helping our community during crisis.

As we tended to the people affected by the disasters both locally and in our neighboring communities, our Service to Armed forces volunteers collected over 5000 cards this holiday season from members of our local community. Our Red Cross volunteers provided children the opportunity to make handmade cards at the United Way's Family day at Chattanooga's Hamilton Place Mall.  Our community partners at Whirlpool CXC of Cleveland also created and collected cards from associates and their families. All cards were distributed to our local active duty and reserve military as well as the veterans in our area.

The end of 2016 was not easy for our chapter, yet it was incredibly rewarding to see everyone come together in support of one another and of our community. We are blessed with the hands and hearts of so many that serve on a moment’s notice.

 I look forward to working together with each of you in the new year!

Southeast Tennessee: January 2017 Safety Preparedness Tip - Winter Auto Safety

Monthly Safety Preparedness Tip: Winter Auto Safety

Winters in Southeast Tennessee are often unpredictable, and having items in your car for any scenario is a good way to ensure your safety on the road. Whether you find yourself stranded in your car in a snow storm, or your car won't start in freezing temperatures, being well prepared will make the difference between panic and peace of mind.

Regardless of the severity of a winter storm, you should be prepared in order to remain safe during these events. Here are some safety tips you may want to consider for your automobile and while getting out on the roads this winter.

Before Leaving Home:

Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help see.
Before leaving, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
Make sure your phone is charged.  A great preparedness item is to have a portable charger.
Keep a set of warm blankets or the very effective NASA survival blankets in your car in case you have to stay there for a period of time.
It is always a good idea to keep flashlights and fresh batteries in you automobile.
Other safety equipment such as road flares can easily signal distress
Pack necessities such as snacks and bottled water.
Consider roadside assistance service. Most auto insurance companies offer this service as a part of your premium coverage.

When Driving:

Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
Don’t pass snow plows.
Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
Don’t run the engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t die.
If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.

Letter from Heart of Tennessee Executive Director, Mike Cowles - January 2017

It’s hard to believe the holidays are over and it’s 2017!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends.  I, like everyone else, am back in the full swing of things with a lot of tasks ahead and no end in sight.  Between work and my two boys’ activities we are a family on the go.

During the winter months, it’s important to pause for a moment and take some time to ensure you and your family are prepared for cold weather.  I encourage you to follow the ten steps below on how to stay safe during our cold winter months.

1. Layer up! Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing your body heat.
2. Don’t forget your furry friends. Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
3. Remember the three feet rule. If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs.
4. Requires supervision – Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
5. Don’t catch fire! If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
6. Protect your pipes. Run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent your pipes from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children.
7. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
8. Better safe than sorry. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
9. The kitchen is for cooking. Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
10. Use generators outside. Never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage. Knowledge is power. Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

Most of these items are common sense steps and are easy to do.  Take some time to make a safety plan for you and your family and if you follow these steps you will have a much more pleasant and safe winter.  Also, I encourage you to download our “free” apps on your smart phone by going to the app store.  We have anything from a first aid app to a tornado app, you can go to to find out more information or better yet stop by our chapter office to find out more details.  Thanks for what you do and have a GREAT Day!


Letter from East Tennessee Executive Director Michelle Hankes - January 2017

Happy Birthday!

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the American Red Cross in East Tennessee. It's hard to imagine all of the changes that have taken place in our counties over the last ten decades: technology, transportation, communication, diversity, medicine. Each of these is vastly different from what was the normal of 1917.

Change is difficult, and the American Red Cross is no different than any other organization as it adjusts to provide the same important disaster services as needs have evolved.

But some things have stayed the same. The American Red Cross continues to rely on volunteers to serve their neighbors. Our programs are delivered through the generosity of community donors--not a government line item. Red Cross volunteers are the first to provide care after a disaster.

Over the course of this year, we will be highlighting stories about volunteers past and present, celebrating the fact that East Tennessee is part of the Volunteer State, and we will be looking forward to another 100 years of delivering the Red Cross mission.

Michelle Hankes

Red Cross issues an emergency call for blood and platelet donations during severe winter blood shortage

Blood donations needed now to prevent delays in care for patients like freshman Payton Kannarr

The American Red Cross has a severe winter blood shortage and is issuing an emergency call for blood and platelet donors to make a donation appointment now and help save patient lives. 

Hectic holiday schedules for many regular blood donors contributed to about 37,000 fewer donations in November and December than what was needed. Snowstorms and severe weather have also impacted donations. Nearly 100 blood drives were forced to cancel in December, resulting in more than 3,100 blood donations going uncollected.

“Blood and platelet donations are critically needed in the coming days so that patients can continue to receive the lifesaving treatments they are counting on,” said Mario Sedlock, director of donor recruitment of the Red Cross Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region. “We encourage donors to invite a family member or friend to donate with them to help meet patient needs. Right now, blood and platelet donations are being distributed to hospitals faster than they are coming in.”

How to help
Find a blood donation opportunity and schedule an appointment to donate by using the free Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). The Red Cross is extending hours at many donation sites for more donors to give blood or platelets. Overall, the Red Cross has added nearly 200 hours to blood donation centers and community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks. Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass online health history questionnaire are encouraged to help speed up the donation process.

“In about an hour, you can help save someone’s life. This simple act can have a profound impact on another human being,” said Sedlock.

Who blood donations help
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease may all require blood to save their lives.

The treatments high school freshman Payton Kannarr receives to fight leukemia cause her blood counts to drop. She currently receives platelet transfusions weekly and red blood cells about every two weeks.

“We have seen firsthand the incredible need for blood products as we have been on this four-year roller coaster journey,” said Amy Kannarr, Payton’s mom. “Through the care and compassion of donors, Payton has been able to enjoy life as a teenager.”

Stay Safe and Warm This Winter

Prepare for winter weather with these safety tips from the Red Cross. 

  • Wear layers of clothing to stay warm, along with a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.
  • Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures. Consider your physical condition, the weather factors and the nature of the task.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
  • Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.

  • Winter storms and cold temperatures often bring a rise in the number of home fires. Follow these tips to help prevent a fire in your home:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces - paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs
  • Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters. When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

    The best way to remain safe is to stay off the road during severe weather, if possible. If you have to drive in snow or freezing rain, follow these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm:

  • Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

  • People should download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to advice on what to do in emergencies and disasters like winter storms. You’ll find tips on how to plan ahead in case heavy rain or a snow storm threatens. The app also contains weather alerts, life-saving information and ways to contact family and friends in one free, easy-to-use app for mobile devices.