Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weeks 4 & 5: TP to the Rescue!

If you follow our blog, you might recall local disaster volunteer, Joe Brennan, sharing his packing method before heading to South Dakota to assist flood relief efforts:

“Within 20 minutes, I can pack,” Joe says. “I have it all in a box—everything from toothpaste, to toilet paper, to shirts. When I give an orientation, I tell people, “You never know.”

I'm guessing the part that caught my attention also caught yours—toilet paper! I, for one, would have never thought of it before my conversation with Joe. His philosophy is a good one to follow when building your disaster kit. Also pack soap and hand sanitizer. It might be a while before you have access to a proper wash room, so this is crucial in preventing the spread of germs.

Download 21 Weeks to Prepare Shopping List

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pet Therapy Program grows (four) legs in Fort Knox

Brenda Adams and her Golden Retriever, Valentine, graduate from the Fort Knox Pet Therapy program.

Fort Knox went to the dogs on September 15, as 12 pups graduated from Pet Therapy training. Under the wing of the Clark County Red Cross Chapter in Southern Indiana, the Fort Knox Service Center is starting four programs in which the trained pets will provide comfort and companionship to others including soldiers on base.

Puppy Tales at Barr Memorial Library in Fort Knox encourages kids to read by giving them an opportunity to spend time with participating dogs.

Wounded Warriors takes trained pets into hospitals where they visit injured soldiers.

Welcome Home to the Troops takes trained pets to greet soldiers who are returning from deployment overseas.

K9 Assisted Therapy, undertaken by dogs and trainers with the help of an occupational therapist, will provide pet therapy to soldiers including those who have suffered brain injuries and others who are dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Brenda Adams hopes the K9 Assisted Therapy program will be able to provide the same kind of comfort to others as her dogs did with her late father.

After suffering a stroke, Brenda's father stopped speaking and lost interest in his previous hobbies. The one thing that brought him out of his shell was Brenda's dogs. When she noticed his attentiveness while watching her dogs, Brenda further encouraged her father's involvement eventually organizing a dog training contest for him to focus on accomplishing a goal.

This is the same kind of therapy the group is hoping to provide for the soldiers—creating a bond between the soldier and pet therapy team in a non-hospital or clinic setting. If you are interested in becoming involved with any of the Fort Knox Pet Therapy programs, please contact the service center at 502-624-2163.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11—Sharon Thompson

(The following is a narrative from the chapter's Director of Volunteer and Youth Services, Sharon Thompson who was part of relief efforts following the attacks on September 11th.)

In one sense, it is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the horrific disaster of September 11th because I can close my eyes and be transformed back there in an instant.

September 11, 2001, began as a normal day of work, but within minutes of hearing about the planes striking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I knew I would be deployed on disaster assignment.

In the early morning hours of September 13th, I boarded a private jet with three American Red Cross volunteers and the Captain of the USS Louisville and we took off for New York. A quick stop at Andrews Air Force Base to drop off the Naval Captain and we were airborne for an assignment that would change our lives.

My family had taken a vacation to New York several years before, and I knew that what I was about to see was not what my memory was. My first glimpse of the [World Trade Center] was one I will never forget—fire so intense that the flames were boiling and leaving a smoke plume as far as one could see. I was surprised that after 48 hours, the fire was still burning.

We set up one headquarters in Princeton, NJ, across the river from New York City, and began the task of trying to make contact with the families from Tower II and trying to get enough workers in to assist. In the first 48 hours on the ground, offices were set up, personnel came by any means they could, since no planes were flying, and a “village” was set up by the Port Authorities so the families could come to one location and meet with all the various agencies assembled to help them. Security was extremely tight and special badges were issued.

Initially, in the evenings, I would attend candle vigils showing support for the families and sharing in the hope of the world, that survivors would be rescued. As the hours ticked by, the sense of hope faded and the reality began to grip everyone that there would not be rescues and may not be any remains to recover.

I visited “ground zero” the next morning where we had set up a Respite Center, so workers could eat, shower, rest and contact home through computers. It was set up in the “Wall Street Journal” building, and that is where I felt the greatest impact of the tragedy.
Walking through the ashes, smelling the acrid air from the fires and seeing the destruction that had crippled a city and wounded a nation overwhelmed me with sadness and anger that one man, one group or one country could have done this to innocent people … who had simply gone to work that day.

A few days before I returned home, I visited Princeton University for a couple of hours. Quickly, I noticed that life was continuing on for the students; riding their bikes (there must have been 2,000 bikes), rushing to class, talking, laughing with friends. I even sat on a park bench and watched the induction of the new President or Chancellor of Princeton University with the stage filled with everyone in full regalia. I remember thinking ... life does go on.

My stay was 23 days and filled with numerous opportunities to help those in need ... a task I did not take lightly. I felt that I was the hand to hold, the one to listen or the one to stand in silence as a casket was wheeled to the front of a church … that I was representing not only the American Red Cross but the thousands of Americans whose hearts were broken from this tragedy.

Upon arriving in Louisville, I was greeted by my husband and oldest son, who I hugged a little longer being thankful I was home yet sad because so many people would not have a loved one to hug. As we drove to the hospital where our oldest granddaughter had just had her tonsils removed, I watched the hustle bustle of traffic and LIFE.

I have been asked what does this day mean … ten years later. I remember saying that history was written that day, and the children who lost parents or relatives would one day read about it in their history book. I hope that September 11, 2001, does not become simply a date in a history book but a memory of tragedy, sadness, hope and grief that gripped a nation and a Red Cross worker from Elizabethtown, KY.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9/11 - Woody Miller

When Woody Miller expressed an interest in aiding relief efforts following the 9/11 attacks, his employer said yes. It was, as Woody put it, important to our country. As an American Red Cross volunteer he was able to deploy to New York City in mid-October.

More than a month after the attacks, the pile of debris that once stood as the twin towers continued to smolder. Workers at ground zero worked around the clock hauling away debris and recovering the remains of those lost. The possibility of survivors was long gone, but families still had a shot at closure.

"Whenever they recovered a body, there would be sirens," Woody said. "It was a touching moment because everybody knew what it meant. It was sort of a moment of relief for the families."

In the midst of a bleak situation, the Red Cross set up two Respite Centers on either side of ground zero, offering workers meals, a dormitory to catch up on sleep and counselors to provide emotional support. They served hundreds of meals each day.

Woody kept mementos from his time in NYC including his hard hat, mask and ID which he had to wear at all times for safety and security clearance. (More Photos)

As night manager for Respite Center North, or the "Oasis" as volunteers called it, it was Woody's responsibility to provide an escape for ground zero workers.

"We tried not to talk about Ground Zero at all,” he said. “We tried to make it a celebratory location."

Volunteers at the "Oasis" made it a point to celebrate birthdays. They decorated for Halloween and made good use of a popcorn machine. There was a computer area where workers could stay in touch with their families. One volunteer set up a display of cards from children around the U.S. thanking recovery workers for their service. Some would write back to the children thanking them for their warm wishes during such a dark time.

When he returned home two weeks later, Woody shared his story with family and friends who were curious of his experience. The Board of Aldermen (now Metro Council) recognized Woody and other Red Cross volunteers for their efforts in February of 2002, but like many others who helped, Woody feels that the opportunity to serve was a reward in itself.

"I just remember how the spirit of the workers was incredible," he said. "New York has a bad reputation as a cold and disheartening place, but people were warm and grateful for help. The opportunity to be a part of it was an honor."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Week 2: Agua Vida

Anyone who has watched 127 Hours (I <3 James Franco) might have an idea of the most important item to keep in your disaster kit. It's not rocket science, but it is something that can be easily overlooked.

Most Americans have multiple sources of water in their homes, but during a disaster, it may be difficult to find clean water. Keep your family hydrated by stocking water in your disaster kit. The Red Cross recommends storing a 3-day supply (1 gallon per person, per day). That's 12 gallons of water for a family of four. The 12 gallons are spread throughout your shopping list, but stocking up now is a great way to work out.

Also work on collecting a few canned goods and snacks. A grumbling stomach is never fun, especially during a disaster. Everyone loves a good bargain, so keep an eye out for sales while grocery shopping.

P.S. Don't forget to start your weather radio fund! $1.75/week

Download 21 Weeks to Prepare Shopping List

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Week 1: Comb your home

During week 1, you won't need to spend a dime. You might not know it, but your home already contains many of the materials you need in a disaster kit. Take, for instance, the kit itself. While a kit is most often depicted as a back pack, you can use any easy-to-carry container. Maybe you have a tote or large covered trash can. And if you choose to use a bag, it doesn't need to be new. Maybe you or your kids have an old backpack or duffel bag that can be used. Once you choose your container, tour your house to find the following items:

  • a set of clothing and sturdy shoes for each family member*
  • copies of important papers (birth certificates, ID, insurance policies, passports, etc.)*
  • a 3-day supply of medications in a childproof container
  • contact information (current list of family phone numbers and e-mail addresses, including someone out of the area who can be reached if local lines are out of service)*
  • map (mark an evacuation route from your local area)*
  • cash in small bills (ATMs and credit cards won't work with the power out)*
  • spare keys
  • spare glasses or contacts and solution
  • books or toys
  • *place item(s) in waterproof container or bag

    Remember to check off each item on your list as you go. In the coming weeks, you might find other items around the house that you can put in your kit. It's always a good idea to check your cabinets before heading to the store. Just make sure to also check expiration dates ;)

    Download 21 Weeks to Prepare Shopping List