Thursday, October 12, 2017

2017 CHI Memorial Heroes Luncheon - Southeast Tennessee

On October 11, 2017, we honored local heroes at the 2017 CHI Memorial Heroes Luncheon.  There was a packed crowd at the Chattanoogan to honor the nine extraordinary heroes who have made a meaningful impact in our community. 

This year’s honorees are:

Call to Action Award: Dr. Lisa Smith, Dr. Darwin Koller, and Dr. Greg Talbott
Community Impact Award: Willie Owens Jr.
Youth Award: Nickolas and Marquise Davis
Good Samaritan Award: Brian Brewer
Medical award: Dr. Darshan Naik
Humanitarian of the Year Award: Grant Law

Thank you to these heroes for exhibiting the values of the American Red Cross in our community each and every day!

Regional Executive Corner with Joel R. Sullivan - October 2017

Disaster Readiness And Response

Disaster season is certainly in full swing.  Your American Red Cross has been in full response mode responding to the numerous hurricanes, tornadoes, the Las Vegas shooting and now the devastating California fires.  As I type this, I see the massive devastation on the Weather Channel of all these events.  There are thousands of people who are left homeless and in need of basic necessities.

The Red Cross is responding to all these disasters providing comfort and hope along with shelter, food, clothing, health and mental health services and many other recovery services.  Our volunteers were called into action at a moment’s notice and they responded along with staff to the call for help.  Many are in areas that have no utilities or communication.

As I responded to Hurricane Irma prior to her hitting Florida, I was impressed with all the preparation the community had done in advance of Irma’s arrival.  This preparation paid off as many communities were able to resume normal business quickly.  Others were not as lucky as Irma wiped out critical infrastructure.

This scenario plays out in each disaster time and again.  The preparation phase is so critical.  Just as we are learning now in the fires in California, sometimes there is no notice and one must leave their home immediately.  I cannot imagine having to leave my home “as is” with no safekeeping for family treasures and possessions.

It strengthens my resolve to encourage every person to have an emergency plan.  Preparation while you have time now, will pay huge dividends in the future.  Stop for a moment and think what you would do if I knocked on your door tonight at 11:00 p.m. and said, “You have to leave now.”  You have no time to collect possessions much less your thoughts.  You have to leave now.

The Red Cross Emergency App is a great tool to begin your preparedness now. There is great information in this app that will help you begin your planning.  I encourage everyone to plan for such an event.  At the very least, have your legal documents saved in a secure place offsite.  Take your cell phone and videotape your house and belongings in detail and save that video to the cloud.  Have your critical contacts up to date in your phone.  Let your family know how they will find out you are safe and well should this event happen to you.

Preparation is the key to getting your life back to normal, whatever your normal is, when disaster strikes.  Are you ready?  Please begin getting Red Cross Ready today!  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fire Prevention Month - October 2017

The biggest disaster threat in the United States isn’t floods, hurricanes or tornadoes - it’s fires. The American Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters year - one every eight minutes - and most of them are home fires. Home fires can happen quickly - devastating lives and property. But unlike other disasters, most home fires can be prevented. Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out.

During Fire Prevention Month, the American Red Cross urges you to take two easy steps to help protect your home and to increase your chances of surviving a fire: create and practice a fire escape plan, and install and maintain smoke alarms.
  • Home fire plans should include at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. 
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance from your home where family members can meet after a fire. 
  • Discuss the plan with everyone in the household and practice it at least twice a year. Make sure that you practice that plan until every member of your household can escape in less than two minutes. 
Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.
  • Place smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms. 
  • Test smoke alarms once a month. Change the batteries at least once a year - if your model requires it. 
  • Teach children what the smoke alarm sounds like and practice escaping your home in two minutes or less. 
  • Never disable a smoke alarm. 
Download the following Red Cross apps from your app store:
  • Our Emergency App has safety tips and a home fire quiz. 
  • The Monster Guard App is a fun, interactive game that teaches children about home safety and fire prevention. 
The Red Cross continues to help save lives with our nationwide Home Fire Campaign to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. We’re working with community partners and local fire departments across the country to install smoke alarms and conduct fire safety education for families in need. Visit to find out more about how to protect yourself, your loved ones and your home from fire.

American Red Cross Hurricane Response – By the Numbers – October 2017

In Naguabo, Puerto Rico, Red Cross volunteers distribute water, food and other basic necessities to families affected by Hurricane Maria. (Photo by Sergio Rojas for The American Red Cross)
In the last seven weeks, the American Red Cross has launched wide-ranging relief efforts to help people devastated by three historic, back-to-back hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria. And now, the Red Cross is helping families affected by deadly wildfires in California that are devastating entire neighborhoods just days after a fourth hurricane, Nate made landfall in Mississippi. The Red Cross is on the ground, part of a large team of agencies and organizations responding to provide help to communities turned upside down.

Overall Hurricane Response Efforts
  • ·         In the last seven weeks, the Red Cross, along with community and government partners, has provided more than 1.2 million (1,275,000) overnight stays in emergency shelters. Shelters were opened in 8 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This includes—
o   For Harvey, 429,000 overnight shelter stays in Texas and Louisiana.
o   For Irma, more than 647,000 overnight shelter stays across six states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
o   For Maria, more than 198,000 overnight stays in primarily government shelters across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • ·         The Red Cross has served more than 6.4 million (6,467,000) meals and snacks, and provided more than 3 million (3,070,000 relief items to people in need.
  • ·         Red Cross volunteers have provided more than 180,000 mental health and health services to support and care for those affected.
  • ·         A total of nearly 16,000 trained disaster workers, 91 percent of them volunteers, have been mobilized to support hurricane relief efforts. Many of these workers have supported multiple relief operations or deployed multiple times. In addition, nearly 6,000 spontaneous local volunteers have worked alongside the Red Cross in Texas and Florida.
  • ·          More than 100 Red Cross workers from around the world deployed to the United States to help with hurricane relief efforts.
  • ·         Right now, more than 2,500 Red Cross disaster workers and more than 230 emergency response vehicles are on the ground, helping thousands of people affected by these storms.
The Tennessee Region of the American Red Cross has deployed nearly 200 staff and volunteers to affected areas, serving in numerous capacities. Thank you to all who have served and continue to serve!

Southeast Tennessee Volunteer Spotlight, Dawn Johnson - October 2017

Congratulations to our September Volunteer Spotlight, Dawn Johnson!

Dawn began her journey with the Red Cross in March of 2014. She first volunteered in Disaster Services, but later found a home in Volunteer Services. Dawn is one of the first lines of communication for new and inquiring volunteers, serving as the friendly voice behind the phone, reaching out to applicants and answering questions along the way.

Following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, Dawn assisted with over 150 volunteer applicants. Red Cross Volunteer Service Specialist,  Amanda Bisgaard, recalled Dawn spending long hours ensuring all volunteers were called, screened, and informed of next steps. “It’s her warm, natural approach that makes each new volunteer feel welcomed,” said Amanda.

One person’s heart can affect many, and Dawn is a great example of this adage.
When asked her favorite part of volunteering, she responded, “Helping people find their niche (within the Red Cross). Volunteering gives you a purpose outside of what you're paid to do. The Red Cross is a place where I feel loved and appreciated--helping Amanda (Volunteer Services Specialist) be a conduit to others.”

Dawn’s work helps the Red Cross grow and unite by connecting new volunteers to their areas of service. It’s in the All Volunteer Meetings that Dawn really feels touched by her volunteer experience. “Sometimes you're not sure you're making an impact. It's nice seeing the new volunteers stand up. Sometimes it's 2, other times it's 15. It's nice to see the real impact of your behind the scenes work.”

Dawn, thank you for your hard work and dedication! Your passion for volunteering and kind-heart for others is so evident. We appreciate all you do, and we’re so grateful to have you as part of the Red Cross team!

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

Hello Mid- West TN volunteers!

What a crazy past few weeks it has been for the American Red Cross. The Hurricanes just kept coming but the response locally and nationally have made me so proud to be a member of the American Red Cross family!

We had the ability to provide deployment opportunities for several of our chapter members. They included Valerie Bates, Tyler Duke, Matt Shumate, David Martin, Meaghan Smith, Loran Newton, Mary Poland (who is on her second deployment assignment during this hurricane season) and our own Disaster Manager (Heather Carbajal) is currently being relocated to the Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. I know there are so many more of our chapter volunteers who would have also gladly gone to Texas, Georgia, Florida, Puerto Rico, etc. if work and family schedule would have allowed.

I wanted to share some of the story of Mary Poland’s first-time deployment experience which recently occurred during this hurricane season. As can sometimes be the case, her experience was a frustrating one. She was first deployed and assigned to Dublin, GA. and then eventually was reassigned to Augusta, GA. Once she arrived on scene, it became apparent that the shelter sight (and the region as a whole) was not as organized as they needed to be. The local chapter was struggling to figure out how to utilize the volunteers that had arrived on site to assist with the disaster operations response. Mary felt like she was given a different answer from the DR leadership every time she would ask questions in regard to her role of service. Needless to say, it was not the kind of experience she had hoped to have for her first experience on deployment!

However, I’ll never forget the conversation I had with Mary a couple weeks back as she was preparing to return home. She shared with me first-hand about her ongoing struggles and frustration with her first assignment and how she would be returning home earlier than she hoped because of them. Then she said something that caught me completely off guard and really impacted me. She said she couldn’t wait to get back home to our local chapter and serve as a volunteer again because she was going to serve harder and more passionately than ever before! Mary’s experience of being with another region/chapter during the disaster response made her realize even more her passion for her home chapter in Mid-West TN. She said it became clear to her that our chapter needs to have as many deeply committed and trained volunteers as possible so that we would be able to step up in the case of a local disaster and be as organized as possible if outside assistance was made available to us. She told me that her new objective was to deepen her commitment and level of training in the Mid- West chapter when she returned to TN. and she couldn’t wait to get back and get started on it!

What a positive (and persistent) attitude Mary! We are so proud of you for being a strong example of an American Red Cross volunteer. Now, let’s all learn from Mary’s example and do all we can to prepare as individuals and as a chapter family to be prepared and “ready when the time comes!”    

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

Here we are already getting prepared for the Holiday Season.  Where has this year gone!?

I know that for the last six weeks we have been incredibly busy.  Our volunteers have been champions and stepped up to the plate to meet our commitments to the communities we serve. Many have deployed to disaster locations in other states, while others responded to home fires, provided information and referrals, or taught not only dozens of disaster courses but kept our schedule for the Pillowcase Project and more.  It has been hectic, but more than that, it has been humbling seeing the generosity of our volunteers and community.

I invite you to join me in applying that spirit of generosity to another group.  November 11th is Veteran’s Day.  Let’s start preparing now to make a special effort to thank the many veterans in our community for their sacrifice and service.  If each of us reach out to acknowledge the veterans we encounter with a simple “Thank you for your service”, we can make a tremendous impact.  It is so simple.

Veteran’s Day is a day of celebration!  It is a celebration of all the men and women in uniform who have served our nation and fought to protect our freedoms.  It is also a time to reflect on the long history of the American Red Cross in serving our veteran and military families, a legacy of service that dates back to our very origins.  Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross with the humanitarian mission of caring for wounded warriors, and today, we continue that tradition of service.

In 1917, 100 years ago, the Red Cross in Northeast Tennessee was serving the soldiers going to and returning from the battlefields of World War I.  Our history includes providing thousands of meals to soldiers as they travelled through Morristown, Johnson City, and Bristol on their way to and from home.  Today, we continue that service providing emergency communication services to active duty personnel, facilitating emergency financial assistance for active duty personnel, retirees and their families and through the work of our volunteers at the VA Medical Center and veterans’ community events.

This year we once again salute our Veterans and pay tribute to those tireless Red Cross workers who started our legacy in Northeast Tennessee, a century ago.

Honor our veterans.  Take time this Veteran’s Day to say “thank you.”

And from me to you, thank you for all that you do for the American Red Cross.


Northeast Tennessee Volunteer Spotlight, Brenda Mullins - October 2017

During the evacuations from Hurricane Irma, our chapter opened a shelter at the University Parkway Baptist Church in Johnson City.  Brenda Mullins was the shelter manager for the entire 8 days the shelter was open.  Although she previously had deployed to 15-20 disasters, this was Brenda’s first experience as a shelter manager.

As people drove north escaping the wrath of Irma, they called Red Cross Chapters along the way and were eventually referred to our shelter.  There was an average of 20 people staying in our shelter each day.  The families were from either Florida or Georgia.  Most families returned to their homes when their communities cleared them for reentry.  Brenda says there were a variety of family groups – one was a single mom with 5 children in need of an economical place to stay and greatly appreciated the food, shelter and space for the children to play.  An older couple – both in wheelchairs – were ready to relocate and a local agency for individuals with disabilities was able to help them make Tennessee their home!

When asked about her past volunteer experiences with the Red Cross, Brenda states it all started 38 years ago when her son was beginning kindergarten at West View School in Kingsport.  Her first volunteer assignment was as a Red Cross Clinic worker in his school.  From there, she began teaching First Aid/CPR Classes, which she loved.  For 5 years Brenda worked as a staff member for the chapter as Health and Safety Director, coordinating all the health and safety classes taught in businesses and the community.  

Brenda says her favorite volunteer experience of all has been her deployments on disasters.  She has worked in a variety of functions but her favorite is Transportation.  When assigned as an ERV driver in Nashville for a disaster some years ago, she volunteered to help the Transportation Manager who needed some extra manpower.  She loved it – she says if it has wheels they manage it – trucks, cars, ERVs and anything else needed to enable the volunteers to fulfill their mission to help the disaster victims.    

When asked what advice she would give a volunteer just beginning their career with Red Cross, Brenda says two things: Be Flexible and Remember the Mission of the Red Cross.  Do not let yourself get caught up in petty details, the occasional misunderstanding, or something you did not expect. Particularly in disasters things do not always go exactly as planned.  Always keep your eye on why you are volunteering and who you are helping.  This advice has brought Brenda through 38 years of Red Cross work and she expects many more.

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

What a heart-breaking, emotional time we have experienced in the past six weeks as Americans.  Our work at the American Red Cross is often filled with the aftermath of the most difficult times in someone’s life.  Regardless of whether it is a family displaced by a home fire in a single neighborhood; the devastation of a community that struggles as basic amenities like electrical power and water are disrupted in a major way due to storms; or concert goers impacted by a horrific event- the American Red Cross and our many partners are always there.

Southeast Tennessee volunteers who are trained and ready, answered the call to respond.  Over 91% of the workforce of the American Red Cross is made up of volunteers like Ken and Linda who offer to travel over 800 miles leaving the comfort of their homes behind to help those displaced by Hurricane Harvey.  In the days and weeks that followed many other volunteers followed suit.  Just weeks after the devastation in Texas, volunteers were opening shelters across the southeast in preparation for Hurricane Irma.  In Chattanooga, Red Cross volunteers in partnership with the East Brainerd Church of Christ opened an evacuation shelter for those that were seeking refuge from the impending Hurricane Irma.  More recently, three of our seasoned volunteers left their homes in Rhea County for Puerto Rico, meeting up with an additional 122 Red Cross volunteers at the Atlanta airport to take life-saving blood products, food, communication equipment, and many other much needed supplies to help in the relief efforts there.

It is volunteers like these that are the heart and hands of our organization!


Letter from Heart of Tennessee Executive Director, Kathy Ferrell - October 2017

Heart of Tennessee Volunteers:

Thank you!  Your most precious asset is your time, and you freely share that in service with us.  

As I’m writing this, the staff and volunteers in the office today are calling our volunteers on stand-by for deployment to invite them to a briefing meeting tonight so they can deploy to Louisiana in the morning.   When I started this journey on July 31st, I couldn’t have envisioned so much devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the USVI, and Las Vegas.  Through this, I have experienced the work of the Red Cross firsthand.  And I couldn’t be more proud to be the Executive Director in this chapter.

Many of you have deployed to other areas over the past two months.   Others have made those deployments possible by continuing the work on a daily basis in Middle Tennessee.  Your work matters; it impacts our community and our neighbors across this country that are experiencing monumental disasters.  It also matters at home.  To the family that loses their home in a fire, that disaster is no less monumental than those that have lost their homes in a hurricane.

Please remember that we are grateful for your service and we want you to feel like this is your home.  Our office is open and you are welcome in this place.  We are already making progress on this journey together.  Looking forward to what the future holds!

With gratitude,
Kathy Ferrell
Executive Director, Heart of Tennessee Chapter

Letter from East Tennessee Executive Director, Sharon Hudson - October 2017

Sharon Hudson
Time, Talent, and Treasure!

I continue to be amazed at the quality of volunteers we have in East Tennessee.  Each volunteer brings a fascinating skill set to the table.  We are veterans, engineers, builders, inspectors, managers, officers, nurses, doctors, professors, curators, and yet, we all share one common thread…compassion. We have compassion for what we do and how we make an impact.  Our work behind the scenes for aesthetic improvements and organizing our surroundings has kept us busy.  It has been the calm before the storms.  

Since late August, the American Red Cross has launched a wide-ranging relief effort to help people devastated by three historic, back-to-back hurricanes.  In East Tennessee, we have deployed over fifty volunteers and staff to Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Las Vegas.  We have responded as true volunteers to the relentless devastation.

Jacqueline Bridgeman
Locally, our Red Cross volunteers volunteered for The Wall that Heals, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica & Mobile Education Center.  We assisted with the Assembly of the Wall, guarded the wall during the evening, and served coffee and cake for the Opening Ceremony.  Jacqueline Bridgeman, a volunteer and veteran, presented the American Red Cross wreath at the Opening Ceremony.  It was a moving and emotional experience to be present with so many that served our country.

Thank you to everyone who has come together and participated in our telethon, prepared meals, deployed, improved our surroundings, provided training, maintained our fleet, and shared your time.  We are united as one in this mission that is larger than all of us.  I am truly honored to be working among each of you and appreciate all you do to fulfill our mission.

Sharon Hudson