Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pueblo High School Students Make a Difference For Flood Victims

Story by Charlie Mussi, photos by Jeanie Poindexter

Dylan Purkey, left, and Cailey Sweckard, center, present
their donation to Bill Fortune of the Red Cross
It is easy to look at all of the problems in the world and shrug.

It is not easy to step up and make a difference. In the wake of the devastating flooding and wild land fires that have affected so many Coloradans one student decided to make a difference.

Dylan Purkey, a sophomore at South High School in Pueblo, Colorado is an active student with a strong sense of community.  He could not sit back and ignore the plight of those affected by the recent disasters in Colorado. "When I saw what was happening in northern Colorado where people were forced out of their homes not knowing if, or when, they would return," Purkey said.  "I knew I had to help."

Dylan Purkey, sophomore at South High School
Dylan put together a grant request based on the idea that the grant would serve as seed money that would lead to a donation to the Red Cross to help people in Colorado. The grant allowed Dylan to purchase t-shirts, printed with the message "Pueblo South Colts Care".  With the help of Cailey Sweckard, Isiah Pannunzio, and Stephany Pickard the shirts were sold during lunch hours and school activities. All of the proceeds from the t-shirt sales were then donated to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

On Saturday, November 23, at the Colorado Class 4A playoff game the donation was
presented to Red Cross representative Bill Fortune in front of a large crowd at the Pueblo Dutch Clark Stadium.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Your Holiday Shopping Can Help with Disaster Recovery

Manitou Avenue in Manitou Springs, one of the
communities impacted by the floods.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
It's always important for communities to invest in local business, and since its inception in 2010, Small Business Saturday has been one way to do that. Small Business Saturday encourages people to check off their holiday lists at the unique, local brick-and-mortar shops that lend personality to their streets and keep the money close to home.

This year, Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for Coloradans to stand behind their
recovering businesses. The wildfires and floods that affected more than a dozen communities in
our state cost many businesses significantly in both damage and lost revenue. Our communities
are hard at work on recovering physically, emotionally and economically – and you can help!

One of the easiest ways to contribute to their recovery is to buy goods and services in local establishments in disaster-affected communities. On Saturday, Nov. 30, go shop at local businesses in Manitou Springs, Estes Park, Loveland, Evans, Lyons, Colorado Springs, Larimer County – or any of the small towns you’ve seen in devastating coverage on the news.

According to the Small Business Administration, about 70 percent of all businesses are considered small businesses, and they also make up for 68 percent of all jobs created.

You do three important things when you patronize a small business in a disaster-affected area:

1. You help a shop keep its doors open so that it can continue adding value to its street, its neighborhood and its town.

2. You help ensure jobs and wages for the shop’s employees.

3. You inject life into a recovery cycle that keeps on growing: if local employees have jobs and wages, they, in turn, have income that they can spend to support other shops and businesses, paving the way for a thriving commercial community. Additionally, the tax revenue provided by sales tax and business property taxes support the local government’s ability to continue providing vital services and community rebuilding.

Approximately 40 percent of small businesses affected by natural disasters never reopen. Don’t let the places you love become part of this figure. This Small Business Saturday, we urge you to support those businesses still working to recover in disaster-affected areas. Help keep those shops among the 60 percent who survive – and thrive!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Kids, adults alike sign over 100 holiday cards for service members at Family Volunteer Day

At a table strewn with crayons, markers, cards and envelopes, children with painted faces intently composed messages for members of the armed forces deployed over the holidays. Though this year’s Family Volunteer Day featured balloon sculptures, face painting and all the hallmarks of a fun family event, kids at the Holiday Mail for Heroes table took their jobs very seriously.

“The parents have been really good about telling kids where they’re sending the cards, and who’s getting them,” said Maggie Gonzales, a volunteer on hand to help with the event. Of course, colorful art supplies (generously loaned by The Children’s Museum, who hosted the event) were a big draw, too. “Colored markers help a lot,” said Peter Nguyen, another Red Cross volunteer coaching kids through the card-signing process.
Family Volunteer Day, an annual event coordinated by Metro Volunteers, encourages families to volunteer as a group for various local organizations and causes. The event took place at the Children’s Museum on Saturday, Nov. 23.

The Holiday Mail for Heroes program, a time-honored Red Cross tradition, proved to be a good fit for this year’s event, with eight boxes of cards signed by both children and adults who attended.

The Holiday Mail for Heroes program sends cards to service members overseas and at VA hospital facilities every year. Anyone who missed Family Volunteer Day is welcome to send cards for service members to: Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box 5456 Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456. For mailing guidelines and more information, visit

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Red Cross Selects the Pueblo 2014 Hometown Heroes Humanitarian Award

Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix to receive award February 13, 2014
Story by William Fortune

Medal of Honor recipient
Drew Dix
The Red Cross Pikes Peak Area Chapter has selected Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix for the Humanitarian Hero award for the annual Hometown Heroes event for 2014.

Drew Dix is usually a private person but he is very well known in Pueblo, Colorado.  He considers Pueblo his home town and is one of four Medal of Honor recipients that have earned Pueblo the tile of “Home of Heroes”. Born in New York, but raised in Pueblo, he is best known for his Medal of Honor, his support for Veterans, his love for Pueblo and for co-founding the Center for American Values. Dix received the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Johnson in 1969 for his actions during the Vietnam War. His citation reads, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty”.  He was the first enlisted man in Special Forces to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Drew Dix signs a giant thank-you banner in Pueblo
Dix distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while serving as a unit advisor in Vietnam. His personal heroic actions resulted in 14 confirmed Viet Cong killed in action and possibly 25 more, the capture of 20 prisoners, 15 weapons and the rescue of 14 United States and free world civilians.

Dix has always been a strong support of the American Red Cross and its Service to Armed Forces program. “The Red Cross has supported our Armed Forces for a very long time,” Dix said. “That symbol has always been the symbol of caring for the American service member; it is a friendly face far from home.”

The Hometown Heroes event grew out of a desire to develop an event that is closely related to the mission of the American Red Cross – responding in times of emergency. The annual Hometown Heroes Dinner honors that longstanding tradition of heroism by recognizing local individuals who have made a difference through their individual acts of courage.

“We are excited that Drew Dix has been chosen for our Humanitarian Award in 2014,” said Tom Gonzalez, CEO for the Red Cross Pikes Peak Chapter. “Drew exemplifies the spirit of humanitarianism in Pueblo and he has always been a strong proponent of the American Red Cross.”

The 2014 Hometown Heroes Dinner will be held on February 13 at the Pueblo Sangre de Cristo Arts Center. Anyone interested in attending and/or sponsoring this event please contact Tom Gonzalez at 719-785-2701, or by email at

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Red Cross Helps Filipino New Yorker after Sandy and Haiyan

by Anita Salzberg, American Red Cross Greater NY Region

Greater New York Red Cross volunteer Craig Cooper meets with
Emelyn Saavedra at an event Saavedra organized for the
Filipino community in Long Beach, N.Y. on November 17, 2013.
In the past 12 months, two storms of unimaginable magnitude and destruction struck at the opposite ends of the globe. Both times, the American Red Cross has been a source of hope and comfort for New Yorker Emelyn Saavedra, a native of Tacloban, Philippines.

After Sandy struck the East Coast last year, the 37-year-old home care worker, her 13-year-old daughter and her boyfriend, who lived near the water in Long Beach, N.Y., took refuge a few miles away in the Rockaways with her boyfriend’s family.

Although she had grown used to typhoons in the Philippines, Saavedra, who has lived in the U.S. for 14 years, was badly shaken up by Sandy. She recalled being able to see the water levels rising and lapping at the steps of the building from the second floor apartment in the Rockaways.

“We just had to pray," she said. "That’s all we could do.”

Saavedra, her daughter, and boyfriend made it through the storm, but have remained in the Rockaways, since her Long Beach home was destroyed.

Meanwhile, after the storm, the Red Cross was on the ground helping storm survivors in the Rockaways, as well as throughout the hard-hit coastal communities of the five boroughs of NYC and Long Island.

“The Red Cross was right there—everywhere—looking for people who had gotten hit with Sandy, who had no shelter,” Saavedra said. “They were asking us all: ‘Is there anything that could help right away? Are people hurt?’ We were happy hearing from Red Cross, telling us, ‘Don’t lose hope, we are here.’”

Saavedra needed only food and beverages from the organization. She did not ask for further assistance because, as she said, “I was thinking other people could use help more.”

Then, on November 8 of this year, just a little over a year after Sandy made landfall, Haiyan roared through Saavedra's hometown of Tacloban where nearly all of her family still lives.

At about 5 a.m. Philippine time, as Haiyan was hitting Tacloban, Saavedra was on the phone with family members. She told them to make sure they were prepared for the storm and to gather up enough food and water. She also urged them to boil their water to assure its safety.

As they spoke, she could hear the wind howling in the background. In their final minutes speaking together, her family told her, “This is it, we have to move. We have to go.”

“That was my last conversation from them,” she said.

Two days after the storm, Saavedra was franticly trying to reach her siblings. Then, she saw a Red Cross posting on Facebook: People unable to locate family in the Philippines could call the Red Cross for help.

Though it was the middle of the night in New York, Saavedra dialed the number and was connected with a Red Cross worker, Tim Bothe, in Colorado.

“I need help right away,” she told him. “I haven’t talked to my family; I know the Red Cross is worldwide, and I’m sure you have people over there already. Can you please check on my family?”

The Red Cross took all the information Saavedra could provide.

“The last person I talked to, the last places they were … I tried to help the Red Cross locate my family through the information I was giving,” Saavedra said.

The next day at work, Saavedra was sick with worry, unable to concentrate.

“And then I receive a call from the Red Cross,” she said. “‘How are you doing?' they asked. 'I want to make sure everything is okay with you. We’re still with you.’”

Saavedra still felt worried, but was reassured that she was not alone.

The Red Cross continued to check in on Saavedra, who had not expected this level of support.

“You guys rock,” she said.

Finally, Saavedra’s youngest sister called from Tacloban, with the news that her siblings, though displaced from their homes, were all okay.

Although Saavedra is still distressed about the dire situation her relatives face in Tacloban and grieving the loss of some extended family members, she knows the Red Cross is there for her.

She has now connected with her local Red Cross chapter. A number of chapter members paid her a visit last Sunday in Long Beach as she was organizing a community event for the local Filipino community.

Saavedra has even expressed interest in volunteering with the Greater New York Red Cross. “I would sign up as a volunteer and give my whole heart to it,” she said, “because you have helped me.”

She added, “I just want to thank the Red Cross. I needed a family and I found it in the Red Cross."

Monday, November 11, 2013

What Veterans Day Means To Me

By the time that I was eight, my dad had retired in anticipation of my baby sister’s birth. While my youngest years were spent bouncing around, the chaos of being a military child ended at a younger age, but not without the values and morals of the military lifestyle being instilled.
Although I was young, I can remember the loneliness I felt while my dad was gone, but nothing compared to the memories of his homecomings.
This is why Veterans Day means so much to me.
On Nov. 8, the Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross hosted a banner signing on the 16th Street Mall in Denver, where the public was invited to sign two banners and holiday cards to send to our troops overseas. The experience was humbling to say the least.
Throughout the day, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the people who had stopped to see what was going on, and heard some of their stories. From a group of little girls who had a neighbor deployed to Vietnam Vets who saw the banner with tears in their eyes, the stories were humbling.
One man’s story stood out the most to me. His name was Todd. Although he wasn’t able to serve himself, he came from a lineage of veterans, and his brother as well as his son continued on the legacy of military service in his family. When he approached the banner, I could see the tears welling up in his eyes. Todd was accompanied by his dog Sarah Moon, who seemed to have felt his emotion, and cuddled against him to comfort him. As he signed the banner with intricate precision due to his art background, I could tell that Veterans Day meant as much to him as it did to me.

After he finished signing the banner, I was able to sit and chat with him for a few minutes. We talked about sports and the weather, and he told me a bit about the history of service within his family before he said, “This made my day, and if this touched me as deeply as it did, imagine what his is going to do for the guys like my brother.”
The stories I’ve heard from people like Todd, in addition to those from veterans like my father, will always have a special place in my heart. For these men and women, their service and sacrifice came as a second nature to them, and that selflessness is what makes today so special.
Thank you Veterans for everything you’ve done.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Get Prepared for Winter!

Story by Kristin Greco

It’s that time of year again. We've already seen a few dustings, so now is the time to make sure you and your family are prepared for when it really starts to snow. One of the primary concerns is a blizzard that knocks out heat, power and communication services to your home or office, sometimes for days at a time. Here are some ideas of ways to prepare for a winter storm.

Household emergency supplies should include enough food, water and supplies to last four days without power. Following is a basic checklist of items:

  • Food that doesn't require heating or refrigeration such as canned meats, soups and stews, cereal and energy bars
  • 1 gallon of water per person per day
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Battery-powered radio and clock
  • Cellular phone
  • First-aid kit
  • Prescription medicines
  • Blankets and cold-weather clothing
  • Heating fuel in case you become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources are cut off

Before traveling this winter, make sure your car is winter ready. Road conditions can change in an instant and the following items could be useful:

  • Bag of sand, road salt or non-clumping cat litter to spread under slipping tires
  • Ice scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • Small shovel to dig snow away from tires
  • Tire chains
  • Flares or reflective triangle to warn other motorists if you break down
  • Blanket
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Gallon jug of drinking water
  • First aid kit

And don’t forget your pets. Here are some tips from the Humane Society:

  • If pets cannot come indoors, make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat. Raise the floor a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
  • Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate a pet’s paws. Wipe their paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates their mouth.
  • Antifreeze is a deadly poison. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach.

And the last important step in winter preparedness is to make a family communication plan.  If your family is not together, it will be important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.

For more winter preparedness ideas, take a look at the Winter Storm preparedness section of