Thursday, February 27, 2014

Red Cross Volunteer Helen Robinson Receives Volunteer of the Year Award

DHSEM Director Kevin Klein presents
award to Helen Robinson at the 2014
CEMA Conference, Loveland, Colo.
The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management selected Red Cross volunteer Helen Robinson as the 2014 Volunteer of the Year for the North Central All Hazards Region. The award was presented at the 2014 Colorado Emergency Managers Association (CEMA) annual conference in Loveland, Colo.

Helen was nominated by the Red Cross Mile High Chapter and competed against nominees from dozens of government and non-government agencies.

Helen Robinson (C) with
Cari Wheat (L) and Christine
Manson de Rabe' (R) at the 2014
CEMA Conference, Loveland, Colo.

Helen has been a volunteer for the American Red Cross for a long time, juggling full time employment, volunteer opportunities in the community and devoting countless hours to helping clients. She has served in a variety of disaster response rolls including the Lead for Mile High Chapter disaster action teams, captain of a disaster action team, a caseworker, disaster trainer/instructor, and a member of the Graphical Information Systems (GIS) team. During the 2013 Colorado floods she spent many hours at a workstation taking emergency calls and dispatching disaster action teams.

“We are so proud of Helen,” said Christine Manson de Rabe’, a senior disaster program manager for the Red Cross Colorado & Wyoming Region. “She works hard for the Red Cross and deserves to be recognized for her commitment and sacrifice.”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Red Cross Has Closed the Shelter at First Presbyterian Church

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – 10 p.m., Feb. 21, 2014 – The American Red Cross has closed the shelter that was located at the First Presbyterian Church Weber Street Center, 105 N. Weber St. in Colorado Springs. There were no shelter residents as of 10 p.m. The shelter will be in standby mode in case there is a need for quick activation.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit, on Twitter at ppredcross, or join our blog at

Red Cross Opens Shelter for Courtyard Estates Apartments

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – 3:45 p.m., Feb. 21, 2014 – The American Red Cross will open a shelter at the First Presbyterian Church Weber Street Center, 105 N. Weber St. in Colorado Springs. The shelter will be open only for those residents who were displaced by the fire at the Courtyard Estates Apartments.

The shelter will be open at 4 p.m., Feb. 21, 2014, and remain open through the weekend if needed. At the shelter there will be cots, blankets, food, beverages and comfort kits.

Pets will not be allowed inside the First Presbyterian Church. The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region has space available for those people needing to shelter their pets. Information about pet sheltering will be available at the Red Cross shelter.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit, on Twitter at ppredcross, or join our blog at
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

WWII Navajo Code Talkers Share their Stories with Red Cross

On Saturday, Feb. 15, three veterans who served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II as Navajo Code Talkers paused to tell their tales to a team of six Red Cross Service to Armed Forces volunteers.
Code Talkers Robert Walley (L),
Bill Toledo and Alfred Newman waiting
 to tell their story in Pueblo, Co.
Photo by Bill Fortune/Red Cross

The Navajo Code Talkers were part of a large contingent of Native Americans recruited by the U.S. Marine Corps to encrypt messages using their native language. The Navajo code talkers participated in every assault conducted by the U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theatre from 1942 to 1945. They served in all six Marine divisions transmitting messages by telephone and radio in their native language code, a code that the Japanese never broke.

The Code Talkers - Alfred Newman, Bill Toledo and Robert Walley - were in Pueblo to attend an event in their honor sponsored by the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center. As part of the event, the Code Talkers were offered the opportunity to tell their story for the Veterans History Project.
Navajo Code Talkers stand with
 Colorado Senator George Rivera in
Pueblo, Co.
Photo by Bill Fortune/Red Cross

“We saved lives by using our native language as a code,” said Bill Toledo. “We were in battle with the U.S. Marines passing messages from the front line. It was dangerous and exciting and we were proud to serve with the Marines.”

The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. The Project collects firsthand accounts of U.S. Veterans, as well as citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, Red Cross volunteers, etc.). The interviews are recorded and maintained in the Library of Congress.

The American Red Cross has been a part of the Project for many years and participates by offering veterans an opportunity to tell their story. “This was a rare opportunity and a great honor,” Said James Griffith, Service to Armed Forces manager. “Listening to their stories was very moving and I know it will be a welcome addition to the archives.”

What does office space have to do with Flood Recovery?

by Patricia Billinger
Housing, food, clothing, back hoes rebuilding roads, volunteers mucking out homes: these are the interesting, visual, visceral types of help we think of first when we think of disaster recovery.

Office space and office supplies don’t elicit the same level of excitement and energy.

Nevertheless, in order to help Colorado residents severely affected by last September’s devastating floods, disaster case managers need a private place to meet with them.  A space where impacted residents, with the help of their case manager, can explore in confidence their needs, concerns and recovery plans and get connected to available resources.

Until now, residents in the mountain communities in Boulder County area have not had a dedicated space available to meet with their disaster case managers to get assistance; many of these mountain communities simply do not have a wealth of spare space to conduct such business.

But thanks to a community partnership, that’s about to change.

Together, we’re literally building capacity to deliver long-term flood recovery aid to residents in Lyons and the surrounding mountain communities.

The 4-Mile Store is a local, community-driven resource exchange that opened after the Four Mile Canyon fire to provide resources to impacted families.  The 4-Mile Store is again helping residents in Boulder County.  They opened a temporary space off of Hwy. 66 after the floods to provide the residents of Lyons and the surrounding impacted mountain communities the opportunity to fill some of their resource needs locally without having to travel to Boulder.

“It’s a wonderful community resource.  Under the guidance of local community leaders, the plan is to use this great resource space and resources from the Red Cross and Christian Disaster Relief to address some of the community’s need for office space,” explained Red Cross Recovery Specialist Mary Steffens. “The plan is to build out a small office in that space so case managers will have the ability to meet with impacted residents privately and in the convenience of their own home town.”

This week, the Red Cross purchased all the building materials necessary to construct a small, temporary office space. All the materials were purchased from a local hardware store in Longmont in order to contribute towards the economic recovery of flood-affected businesses.

Volunteers from Christian Disaster Relief will donate their construction skills and time to building the office. The Christian Disaster Relief Volunteers are already in Lyons helping rebuild individual homes, and will use their skills to contribute to this community project.

When finished, this temporary office space will enable long-term recovery case managers to meet with their individual clients in a private space.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Community Arsenal of Supplies Helps Army of Volunteers Clean Up Estes Park

Clean-up and recovery from the September floods is far from over in Estes Park. This weekend, local residents in charge of long-term recovery are expecting 80-90 people to stop by Stanley Park for gear before heading out to continue post-flood clean up in the Big Elk Meadows area of Estes Park.

“It started with a combination of folks who would, regardless of their situation, jump in and help,” said Chris Moody, a member of the Rocky Mountain Evangelical Free Church who is serving in a leadership role in the Rocky Mountain Assist Recovery Team and the Estes Valley Long Term Recovery Group.

A unique local partnership is lending a hand to the helpers – providing a collective resource center where volunteers can borrow the various tools they need to complete their volunteer work in Estes Park. Rocky Mountain Evangelical Free Church lends its arsenal of supplies to individual residents, volunteer
teams, and businesses participating in flood clean-up in the Estes Park area.

Items range from generators to power washers, to basics such as cleaning supplies. The resources have moved around quite a bit since they were collected shortly after the September floods - including being stored in the church and its pastor’s home.

Now, thanks to a unique community partnership, the resources have found a designated spot in the
Estes Park Fair Ground at Stanley Park.

Recently, community partners came together to construct a shed to house all of these supplies and make them readily available. The shed itself is operated by the City of Estes Park on land donated by the Estes Park Fairgrounds. The American Red Cross supplied the shelving to organize the supplies within the shed, and also contributed Tyvek suits, safety goggles, and gloves.

Moody recalls the Estes Park community in the days following the flood as “devastated and hopeless.” He was one of many residents to collect items for the community to use, free of charge, and without the hassle of renting. Their goal was to help people who were “just trying to get back into their homes.”

The collective effort has made it easier for volunteers to help Estes Park recover, thus contributing to renewed hope and real recovery in this small community.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Red Cross Workers Navigate Realm Between Humanitarian Rights, Legal Realities

A core service of the American Red Cross and its partner National Societies is reconnecting families separated by conflict, disasters, migration or other humanitarian crises through our Restoring Family Links (RFL) Program. Part of this program, Red Cross Messages, are often relayed across barriers like damaged communication networks, vast oceans, or infrastructures devastated by natural disasters. But in a few cases, the political and legal gray areas associated with conflict provide an even greater challenge for RFL volunteers seeking to transmit messages between family members. In today’s world of varied scales of conflict, the Red Cross occupies a unique space due to its adherence to neutrality and dedication to supporting humanitarian rights.

Local RFL workers Jaici Murcia and James Griffith have direct experience with this interesting role. Together, they have had to carefully navigate prison rules and post-9/11 regulations on inmates at the Federal Administrative Maximum Facility (ADMAX) prison in Florence, Colo, while working to deliver RFL messages.

“One of the longstanding guidelines of International Humanitarian Law is that war prisoners have a right to receive communication from their families, and the Red Cross has historically fulfilled the role of the neutral party that delivers messages between POWs and their families,” explained Jaici Murcia, a former Pikes Peak volunteer and current regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Colorado. “Today, in a world with an ongoing war on terror and stateless combatants, we face a less black-and-white definition of who prisoners of war are – and that can complicate our work.” Murcia ran into interesting challenges related to several RFL messages intended for inmates at the maximum security prison south of Colorado Springs.

After speaking to one inmate’s lawyer, as well as with prison management and prison clergy, Murcia worked on a long-term solution in partnership with Mark Owens, the Africa and Middle East caseworker at National Headquarters. Owens presented prison management with documentation of an agreement between the Bureau of Prisons and the Red Cross, sanctioning RFL communication as a component of the Geneva Convention. “Every single time we deliver a message, we try to give the recipient an opportunity to reply,” Murcia said. “The goal is that we restore some sustainable form of communication for these individuals.”

Some cases take an extraordinary amount of diplomacy and may take years to resolve. James Griffith, an RFL worker and retired military chaplain, took up a case started during Jaici’s tenure at the Pikes Peak chapter. The message, which was sent to the Red Cross in July of 2011, was intended for a recipient who is under “Special Administrative Measures,” or SAMs, a status specific to inmates implicated in terrorism. Under SAMs, terror suspects awaiting trial - as well as convicted terrorists - are prohibited from communicating outside the prison, interacting with other inmates, or engaging in unmonitored communication with legal counsel. Due to these features of SAMs, such as extended periods of solitary confinement, the restrictions have faced opposition by organizations such as Amnesty International and the European Court of Human Rights. Eventually, the message Griffith and Jaici had worked so hard to deliver was relayed through the inmate’s legal counsel.

Prison administrators and national security agencies are focused on safety, and expressed concern that seemingly benign RFL messages might actually be coded terrorism-related communications.

“Individuals transmitting RFL messages have no expectation that their message is private – in fact, all messages are read, and International Humanitarian Law requires that these messages be purely family news in nature. We work with the prisons to deliver messages, and in some cases national security concerns may inhibit or slow down message delivery,” Griffith said.

Griffith said he’s succeeded in delivering about half of the RFL messages he’s relayed to ADMAX inmates, usually to those who are not under SAMs. The legal grey area surrounding SAMs is unique to today’s modern era. “You really don’t run into anything like this historically. Even during World War II, folks were able to receive Red Cross messages when they were confined during the Nuremberg Trials,” he said. “It’s a pretty unusual set of circumstances.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Volunteers in Grand Junction work to save lives across the world

By Jasmine Liddington

For 130 years the American Red Cross has been operating as part of an international network of Red Cross societies that work to reduce human suffering in the face of disasters and emergencies. This work takes place both at the local level and through international, collaborative efforts.

For example, the American Red Cross and its partners have already vaccinated more than 1.1 billion children against measles and rubella, allowing those children to live a healthier and more productive life. Despite the success of the Measles and Rubella Initiative, access to vaccinations worldwide continues to be a problem, so Red Cross chapters in the United States – including right here in Colorado – are redoubling efforts to support these programs to eradicate these preventable diseases.

Thanks to a recent infusion of volunteer staffing, we’re about to see a significant increase in contributions from the Western Colorado Chapter in Grand Junction.

“The International Service program has always been in existence in Western Colorado, but we didn’t have anyone driving it. That’s about to change,” said Western Colorado Chapter Executive Director Eric Myers.

Grand Junction native Robert Buckley is a Master’s student who approached the Red Cross in hopes of fulfilling his internship through their International Service department. Rob’s passion for international service started when he became a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal. After the Peace Corps left Nepal, he chose to stay and founded a non-profit called “Himalayan Healers,” which he operated for more than 10 years. Before leaving Nepal he handed “Himalayan Healers” over to local control and moved back to America with his wife to complete his Master’s degree in Human Services.
Robert Buckley and his family in Nepal

Eric offered Rob the reins of the chapter’s International Services program and together they are developing a community-based program to support the Red Cross Measles and Rubella Initiative.

Their vision is a peer-to-peer training program that will utilize high school students to raise both money and awareness for the Initiative. They plan to recruit roughly 30 high school students who will work in teams of three to deliver lesson plans to their classmates, as well as to middle schools and elementary schools.

Rob also hopes the Western Colorado project can serve as a model that can be easily adopted in communities across Colorado and beyond.

“This program will not only raise money for the Measles and Rubella Initiative, but also educate communities on the importance of immunizations -- and give young people a chance to be a part of volunteerism, international service, and leadership,” Rob said.

Eric also hopes the project will plant the seed for a long-term, active International Services program in Western Colorado. “The goal is to find dedicated volunteers and youths who want to maintain interest in International Services and continue to develop initiatives that the Western Slope communities feel passionate about and want to get involved in overseas,” he said.

What the "Worst Ever" Ski Traffic Can Teach Us For Next Time

By Patricia Billinger
If you were one of the thousands who got trapped in what has been described as the “worst ever” ski traffic on Sunday,  let me start by saying I’m sorry. It sounds like it was an awful experience. During peak traffic time, some drivers spent 7-8 hours traveling a stretch of highway that might normally take 2 hours to traverse.

If you escaped that ordeal, you either:
(a)    Long ago gave up on I-70 on the weekends to avoid such traffic.
(b)    Already had plans or obligations, wished you could’ve gone up for the epic powder, and then were supremely grateful that you didn’t.
(c)    Aren’t really into winter sports in the mountains and have no reason to be on I-70.
(d)    Enjoyed epic powder over the weekend, then did your research and took an alternate route home/left before or after the peak travel times.

No matter which category you fall under, Sunday’s traffic disaster offers an excellent opportunity to talk preparedness both in terms of winter travel and general, everyday life.
There are three essential steps to preparedness:
1.    Make a Plan.
2.    Have a Kit.
3.    Be informed.

Those steps apply to being prepared for natural disasters – but they also could have come in handy for folks traveling the I-70 corridor this weekend.

Make a Plan
Here at the Red Cross, we preach that you should always have an emergency evacuation plan, and that plan should include at least two routes out to safety. It should also include meet-up locations and a plan for where you’ll stay.

Although you might think that plan is more important to be ready to evacuate your home or workplace from a wildfire or flood, you should also plan for travel and vacations. Know the risks related to the places you’re visiting (hint hint: road closures and awful traffic count) and then plan your escape route, what resources you’ll need, and a back-up plan in case you can’t get out.

In the case of I-70, a good emergency plan for Sunday would have been researching alternate routes. As a snowshoe fanatic who visited Breckenridge over the weekend, I was one of the fortunate few who enjoyed clear-open roads and a minimal delay by ditching I-70 and instead taking Hwy 9 south to Fairplay and then hopping on Hwy 285 into Denver.

If Hoosier Pass had been closed, I would’ve needed a back-up plan. That could have been booking a hotel, finding a friend to stay with, or finding a way to stay entertained until after the bulk of the traffic volume on I-70 passed (9 or 10 p.m. in this case).

Have a Kit
In the instance where you aren’t able to foresee a disaster, make sure you have the supplies to survive/increase your comfort level. When traveling in Colorado’s mountains, it’s always a good idea to pack a car safety kit with a blanket, food, water, gloves, shovel and kitty litter (for traction), among other items. (See full List Here.)

Oh…and if you’re planning on traveling I-70, you might want to purchase and pack something to ease your discomfort after being stuck on the road for hours with no trees in sight, no exit nearby and thus no private place to relieve your full bladder.

Be Informed
Before you travel, find out road conditions and other hazards. CDOT warned travelers starting Friday night that weekend traffic would likely be a bear, and as reported by this CBS article, its site warned that vehicles without chains/AWD/4WD might struggle with Sunday’s conditions.

In today’s wired world, it only takes 5 minutes to check out travel sites like and Google maps to potentially save yourself 6 hours of hell on wheels.

I’d say that’s worth it!

Friday, February 7, 2014

February Lunch N Learn: Is it Right to Intervene on Behalf of Human Rights?

At what point are violations of human rights so heinous as to spur action from outside a state’s borders? How do acts committed in the name of humanitarian concerns influence the offending state’s sovereignty and the legitimacy of its leaders? Is it the responsibility of powerful states to interfere in the humanitarian affairs of other nations? The concept of humanitarian intervention -- diplomatic or military involvement to end human rights violations across international borders -- raises many questions with no easy answers. For this month’s Red Cross International Services Lunch and Learn event, University of Denver professor Dr. Jack Donnelly will discuss some of these questions, and will explore the ways that the concept of humanitarian intervention applies to current and recent conflicts.
Dr. Jack Donnelly

Dr. Donnelly has written throughout his career on the complex, multifaceted subject of humanitarian intervention, contending with the historical, political, legal and moral dimensions of the issue. In 2002, he wrote on the issue of genocide and humanitarian intervention, asserting that “International human rights are undeniably a matter of legitimate international concern,” but, “this does not make the human rights practices of states a matter of international jurisdiction.”

Dr. Donnelly’s background is primarily in the field of human rights, the driving concept behind humanitarian intervention. He has written in support of universal and internationally-recognized codes of human rights, and is working on a volume that uses case studies to compare notions of human dignity throughout history and around the world. He is currently the Andrew Mellon Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

The Lunch and Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, Feb. 19, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 5 p.m. Feb. 14 to Tim Bothe at WebEx options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

My Red Cross Story: Helping Military Kids

When I was a young teenager, I lived at NAS Chase Field in Beeville, Texas. There is no longer a US Naval Air Station there. At that time, I volunteered with the Red Cross helping give swimming lessons to young children of the service men. My family set a fine example of helping others. I was proud to help the Red Cross, but I think even more proud to help the military families. The Red Cross reaches people in so many different ways.

- Mimi Carpenter, 50

Volunteer instructors teach thousands of Colorado residents lifesaving skills like water safety, CPR and first aid every year. Read more about our trainings or sign up at

My Red Cross Story: A Message in Iraq

When I was in the Army, I had received a Red Cross message about a family situation while I was in Iraq. I greatly appreciated this message because otherwise I would have had no clue of what was going on at home. I was not able to return home due to the message, but just having the information was helpful.

I have always thought that the Red Cross was a wonderful organization and I am over joyed that they are celebrating their 100th anniversary.

-Erin Chacon, 28, Grand Junction

The American Red Cross provides emergency communications between local families and their deployed military family members. Find out more about our Service to the Armed Forces programs.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Providing Access to the Most Basic Need in Flood-Affected Jamestown

Access to sufficient, clean water is proving to be a vital concern in mountain communities affected by the devastating floods in September. The floods destroyed or damaged essential water infrastructure (among other things) in a number of communities, including the Boulder County mountain community of Jamestown.

The Red Cross has already provided water tanks to a number of communities surrounding Estes Park and is working to help provide a long-term water solution in Jamestown.  Jamestown especially faces an uphill battle because the town’s water supply system will likely not be restored until the fall of 2014.

The majority of this small mountain community remains displaced.  Even families whose homes are habitable are unable to return back home because of the lack of access to water. 

 “Access to water is turnkey for these families and their community’s recovery; if they have a reliable water source, they can move out of temporary rental housing and back into their homes.  For a tight-knit town like Jamestown, having their community members return home will not only help individuals with their own recovery and rebuilding efforts but also support  the community’s ability to recover,” said Mary Steffens, Recovery Specialist for the American Red Cross of Colorado.

In partnership with The Salvation Army and local community volunteers, the Red Cross is working to provide a long-term solution that will enable these residents to return home.

With the help of our partners in the city of Longmont, the Red Cross was able to secure and arrange the delivery and storage of 12 pallets of individual water bottles to address the water needs of volunteer cleanup crews.  The Red Cross is also working with Eldorado Natural Springs Water to provide gallon water jugs for the residents.  

On Jan. 28, Red Cross workers delivered 25 cases of Eldorado Natural Springs water jugs to a Boulder site that served as a pick-up location where Jamestown volunteers could collect and transport the water to Jamestown.

Next up: purchasing cisterns that can hold hundreds of gallons of water and serve as a secure, ongoing water source for affected households.

 “We’re working on a continuum of service; we started with immediate basic needs for bottled water to drink, increased capacity to jugs, and are working towards the long-term solution of household cisterns. Our efforts and those of our partners like The Salvation Army thus far have helped keep folks hydrated, but our end goal is to help get them back in their homes. The cisterns will help make that possible,” Steffens said.

The Red Cross and the Salvation Army aim to purchase and deliver cisterns to the 20 Jamestown families that reported that would return home if cisterns were installed on their properties by the end of February.  The cisterns will be purchased from a local business to help spur economic recovery in Boulder County.