Aldrich: Behind the scenesWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
When people think of the American Red Cross, they usually think of blood donations, first aid and CPR mannequins, and big disasters like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. We’re there to respond at a moment’s notice to calls for help for tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and wildfires. From July 2013 to May of this year, we’ve helped 562 families right here in Northwest Ohio with necessities like temporary shelter, food and clothing following 385 disasters.
But did you know that most of our time is spent helping families recover from home fires? Home fires are the most common disaster that the Red Cross responds to. Imagine what it must be like to stand on the sidewalk in front of your home, watching all of those memories vanish in smoke and ash. Our hardworking volunteers are there in a heartbeat to provide compassionate care during a very traumatizing time for local families.
This year marks the sixth anniversary of the tragic Hunter’s Ridge Apartments fire that occurred July 5, 2008. More than 120 units in nine apartment buildings were destroyed. Two hundred and twenty-eight people were left homeless that holiday weekend. It was truly a miracle that no one was hurt. Reports said it was the most intense Toledo apartment fire in at least a decade. Firefighters and first responders rushed door to door to ensure everyone was evacuated. It took more than four hours to extinguish the flames. Sadly, only 12 percent of those affected had renters insurance. People lost precious baby photos, wedding albums, family heirlooms and some even lost their vehicles due to the intensity of the fire.
The Red Cross was there providing hundreds of snacks and meals to families who had lost everything. We offered emotional support and counseling to dozens of people who left the comfort of their homes in the wee hours of the morning. We also provided thousands of dollars in direct cash assistance for food, clothing, replacement of prescriptions, bedding and security deposits.
Emergencies and disasters are just that — emergent in nature and come with no warning. We spent most of our November assisting families following an unseasonal tornado touchdown and strong winds that damaged dozens of homes. We responded to a tremendous number of home fires last winter due to the record lows and remarkable snowfall. Mother Nature has no sense of humor, it would seem, and likes to strike at the most unexpected times.
These immediate needs following a disaster add up very quickly — often surpassing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Your support of “Red, White, & You, Too!” provides so much more than food, clothing and shelter. It provides comfort kits filled with necessities like a toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor and soap to help people feel human again. It pays for gas to fill our emergency response vehicle to get us to the scene on those cold winter nights and wrap shivering families in warm blankets. It keeps the juice flowing through our computers and telephones so we can communicate emergency messages to members of the military stationed abroad.
When a death, serious illness, birth or other emergency happens, we’re the only agency in the United States that can relay that vital information to the military member and get them home to spend time with their family. Your support provides the paper and ink for thousands of disaster-preparedness pamphlets and resources that we distribute at community events all throughout Northwest Ohio. It keeps the lights on at our offices so we can conduct lifesaving courses like CPR and teach valuable skills to teens and adults in our new Babysitter’s Training and Advanced Child Care courses. Possibly most importantly, it provides support to the more than 1,000 dedicated volunteers who wake up in the middle of the night to respond to these disasters with a smile on their face and kindness in their hearts.
By purchasing “Red, White & You, Too!” at your neighborhood Ralphie’s or Frisch’s Big Boy, not only are the families who receive our services winning, but you’re winning too! You get to take home a sweet CD filled with incredible music from 20 local artists and know that your purchase is making someone else’s day a little bit brighter. We cannot thank enough Michael S. Miller and the Toledo Free Press team; the folks from Bennett Enterprises; Newsradio 1370 WSPD; Hollywood Casino Toledo; the talented artists on the album; all the other behind-the-scenes players; and all of our other supporters for making this second edition a reality. We hope you take advantage of this fantastic package and support your local Red Cross too.
We’re there, behind the scenes, to make sure families have something very few can offer at such a difficult time: hope. Thank you for making this a reality for so many.
Amanda Aldrich is communications specialist for the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio.