Friday, July 3, 2015

Red Cross Opens Shelter to Help Campers

Update at 12:00-Shelter at Buena Vista HS in Buena Vista, CO has closed.

Buena Vista, Co.,9 a.m., Friday, July 3.2015 – The American Red Cross shelter at Buena Vista High School remains open as Chaffee County officials assess damage from a mudslide that occurred Thursday evening.

Overnight the Red Cross provided support and comfort to campers who were evacuated from the Cottonwood Lake Camground near Buena Vista. Ten people, all adults, stayed at the shelter overnight. Cots and blankets were available to the shelter residents as they waited to hear about impact of the mudslide. A local restaurant, Jan’s Restaurant, in Buena Vista provided breakfast for the campers at the shelter.

The shelter will remain open at the Buena Vista High School, located at 559 S. Railroad St. in Buena Vista, CO until Chaffee County officials determine if it is safe for the campers to return to the Cottonwood Campground.  Red Cross volunteers are at the shelter to provide comfort and support.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Red Cross at the Glory Days Festival in La Jara

Story and Photos by Missy Bueltel/American Red Cross

(L-R) Volunteers Randy Lightfoot, Michelle Stubbs
Darnai McMullen and Dodie Day at the Glory Days
Festival in La Jara.
Our San Luis Valley team hosted a display and games at the annual Glory Days Festival in La Jara, Colo. June 20, 2015. This was the first time we had set up a display at the festival. We felt it would be important to be there this year after the devastating apartment fire that occurred in La Jara April 15, 2015 and displaced 9 families.
Kids play Be Prepared, Don't Be Scared game at the
Glory Days Festival in La Jara

We had a wonderful day talking about the Red Cross, emergency preparedness and sharing information about home fire safety. Most importantly, we had more than two dozen people sign up for the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign to receive a free home fire inspection and a free smoke alarm. 

A visitor signs up for the Home FIre Preparedness
Campaign at the Glory Days Festival in La Jara

In addition, we set up a “Be Prepared Not Scared” game for children.  The kids, using pictures of important items filled a pillow case with things they would take with them in case of an evacuation.  The kids won prizes of candy and helium-filled balloons.

It was a great day, and a great opportunity to share the Red Cross story and spread the word about home fire safety.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Successful Partnership Installs More than 300 Smoke Alarms in Westminster

When you build a house, there are places where you combine several separate beams instead of one long beam, because it's stronger that way. The strength of their synergy is greater than the strength of their individual parts.

The Red Cross applies that principle every day in Colorado: our volunteers work to build partnerships with other agencies and nonprofits, and then we put those partnerships into action to achieve real results.

We partnered with Westminster Fire Dept. to save lives.
Case in point: this year, the Red Cross and the Westminster Fire Department have installed more than 300 lifesaving smoke alarms in nearly 200 homes in Westminster. It's a successful partnership that was stronger thanks to the expertise and trust that each of our organizations have with the local residents who opened their doors to our volunteers, welcomed them in to install smoke alarms, and sat down to talk with them about their home escape plans.

We installed the alarms in homes that didn't have alarms or didn't have working smoke alarms, and we also changed smoke alarm batteries in homes where they'd let the batteries lapse.

The ultimate goal: to save lives and reduce injuries. We know that smoke alarms save lives; in most fires, you have less than 2 minutes to escape safely, so every second counts -- and getting out safely depends on being alerted to the danger and knowing routes out of your home.

Here's a video of our Westminster Fire partners talking about the successful program. (Note: we've installed even more fire alarms since this video was recorded.)

From March-June 2015, the Red Cross and Westminster Fire:
  • Visited and provided fire safety information at 188 homes
  • Installed 306 smoke alarms
  • Replaced batteries in 66 existing smoke alarms
  • Engaged 188 volunteers in the outreach efforts. 
The Westminster partnership is part of a nationwide campaign by the Red Cross that aims to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by 25% over the next 5 years. If you would like to get involved, visit 

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Refugee: World Refugee Day

By Connor Donaldson
Saturday, June 20, was World Refugee Day. Local Red Cross staff participated in activities and simulations in both Greeley and Colorado Springs.

Each day, millions of people around the globe scrape out an existence as refugees, internally displaced persons, and asylum seekers. To help raise awareness for World Refugee Day, the Global Refugee Center in Greeley hosted an open house centered on their “A Walk in their Shoes” simulation.

This simulation, developed based on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) guidelines, attempts to give participants a glimpse of life as a refugee. Through a variety of scenarios, following the path from displacement to border crossings to life in refugee camps, the simulation uses sensory deprivation, assigned disabilities, and synthetic foreign languages to simulate the everyday hardships that refugees face. For many participants, this eye-opening experience is the first exposure to the daily plight of displaced persons and refugees, and many found it hard to handle and disturbing.
During the simulation, participants receive "paperwork" that
recreates the experience many refugees face when encountering
an unfamiliar language.

For the simulation, I was assigned the role of a five-year-old girl, initially separated from her family by a bombing and muted by a poison gas attack. As a student of international humanitarian law (IHL), it was really difficult to walk through this simulation, understanding that while we can walk away and return to our lives of comfort and ease, this is the reality of millions of people.

Each step in the process illustrates the abuses of humanitarian law, from the bombing of civilians by a government entity to the demanding of bribes by border security, violating international rights of migration. I watched as my “family” was separated, harassed, and I was eventually left behind, since my “father” had nothing to bribe the guards with to get me across. This is a constant reality for people living in fear, fleeing for their lives from natural disasters, sectarian and political violence, and religious persecution.

Through this simulation, I met a refugee from the Kayah State of Burma who fled political persecution with her family when she was 5 years old. She walked through the simulation with us, and afterword sat down with me to discuss the simulation and her experiences as a refugee. She mentioned that during the sensory-deprivation section of the course, with flashing lights and banging noises, gave her flashbacks to her father carrying her through the jungle, fleeing the policemen searching for her father. That statement really affected me; a punch in the gut serving as final reminder that this is reality for people around the globe, and that nothing we simulate can possibly reach the levels of sheer terror experienced by these people, but this simulation did have the power to give the briefest taste of such horrors.

For more information of the Global Refugee Center, visit

Read more about the rights of civilians and refugees.