Monday, March 31, 2014

My Red Cross Story: Reconnecting Families Across Time and Distance

Robbe Sokolove
By Robbe Sokolove, Red Cross Volunteer
People all around the globe reach out to the Red Cross to initiate an International Tracing case. They’ve been separated from their loved ones by war, conflict or disaster and they hope to send a message to get back in touch.

When a case is initiated, the national Red Cross office will print out a list of potential addresses based on the person’s last known whereabouts. As an International Services Casework volunteer, it’s my job to start tracing them from that information in order to deliver a message.

After I retired from a career as a librarian, I wanted to pursue something that was stimulating but where I could interact with people and use my skills for something good. My 30 years of research skills are a huge asset - but I also perform what’s essentially detective work, pounding the pavement to knock on doors, ask questions, build relationships and follow clues to find the long-lost family member.
Submit YOUR Red Cross story at
For example, there was a brother and sister from Somalia who got separated from each other when they were very young, each living in different refugee camps. She eventually relocated to Colorado about 10 years ago, and lost all track of her brother. He was still in a refugee camp in Kenya and initiated a case with the Red Cross there hoping to get back in contact with his sister. The Kenyan Red Cross shared the tracing inquiry with the American Red Cross national headquarters, where they ran a list of her last known potential addresses. Because those leads were here in the Denver metro area, I was assigned the case.

No one would answer the cell phone number provided, so I visited the suggested address in Thornton. The first time I went, I knocked and no one answered – but a child peeked out of the shutters. I showed her my Red Cross badge to let her know it was safe. She recognized the Red Cross emblem and took me to a family member. The sister I was seeking was not home, but I was given her direct cell phone number.  After several failed attempts to arrange contact, I finally met the woman in person and hand-delivered a hand-written message in Swahili from her brother.

I got to watch her reaction as she read his letter. She was astounded to hear from her brother after all these years, and to read that he had married and had children. Soon, I will deliver another message complete with photographs from the refugee camp.

That is just one of the dozens of interesting cases I have worked over the past year.   Reuniting families is one of the most gratifying things I have ever done.  It is a privilege as well as a great adventure.

Find out more about Red Cross Restoring Family Links programs.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Internationally-Renowned War Surgeon to Speak at "Special Edition" Lunch & Learn Event

Surgery is a delicate, nerve-wracking practice in the best of circumstances. But for surgeons working in the midst of armed conflict, with improvised operating rooms and whatever tools may be at hand, surgery is an exercise in making do, doing without, and saving lives in situations where endless unknown challenges can arise. Working under these conditions became a lifelong vocation for Greek-Canadian surgeon Dr. Chris Giannou, who will speak next week at a special installment of the International Services Brown Bag Lunch and Learn event.

Dr. Giannou has operated in many high-profile conflict zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Chechnya, Lebanon, Somalia and Liberia. A former chief surgeon for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Dr. Giannou will discuss his experiences in providing medical treatment in areas affected by some of the most violent conflicts of our time.

Dr. Giannou observed working conditions for doctors in the difficult circumstances while teaching in Mali, where he himself became ill and was a patient of Malian doctors who had been trained in France. Seeing local doctors struggle to provide care in facilities so different from those in which they’d been trained inspired Dr. Giannou to devote his career to the practice and study of medicine in the developing world.

Dr. Chris Giannou and patient in Somalia
Dr. Giannou’s career as a war surgeon began in Palestine. While he was working as director of the Palestine Red Crescent Society at a Palestinian refugee camp, members of a Lebanese militia attacked. Dr. Giannou’s experiences working at the camp, and being taken prisoner by the Lebanese, are detailed in his book: Besieged: A Doctor’s Story of Life and Death in Beirut. Dr. Giannou’s life work has also been featured in “On the Border of the Abyss,” a documentary film. He has been appointed to the Order of Canada, which is Canada’s second-highest national honor for merit, and received the Star of Palestine, Palestine’s highest award, for his work to provide care to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Dr. Giannou still works closely with the ICRC, authoring publications and working as a surgical consultant for the Canadian Red Cross Rapid Deployment Field Hospital Emergency Response Unit.

"We're so proud to have Dr. Giannou speak at our event," said Tim Bothe, International Services manager for the Colorado and Wyoming chapter.

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Thursday, April 3, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Wednesday, April 2 to Tim Bothe at WebEx options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Prepare Your Teen for Emergencies, Career Through Babysitter Training

By Mike Dirks, Red Cross Volunteer

Anticipating summer activities for pre-teens and teens includes preparing them for additional responsibility, independence and outside activity. Babysitter Training is an excellent opportunity to help young adults learn lifesaving skills while also preparing them for the workforce.

Teens ready for emergencies and working with kids!

The American Red Cross offers Babysitter Training for teens aged 11-16 in various locations in Colorado. The training not only teaches kids skills for babysitting - it helps set teens on a path that can lead to helping others, developing service skills, generating income, career planning and networking. And, most importantly, the training prepares teens to anticipate and respond to potential emergencies.

In the American Red Cross Babysitter Training, participants learn:

* Leadership skills
* Business strategy
* Safety Management
* Childhood development from infancy to ten years
* Caring for feeding, fun activity planning and bedtime
* Recognizing an emergency and taking action
* Introduction to First Aid/CPR for infants and children and AED use

Babysitting is a great first job that can open doors to a career. As a babysitter, your teen will already be part of a profession that serves preschools, education centers, youth clubs, libraries, churches, health clubs, hospitals and working families. In the childcare profession you can continue to get higher certifications in high school, junior college or major in childhood development or psychology in college.
An Americorps Red Cross Volunteer using babysitting training skills.

I can personally attest to the benefit of Babysitter Training. My early teen job opportunities evolved very quickly beginning with Red Cross training and early babysitting opportunities.  Babysitting experiences grew to positions in youth camps, church camps, outdoor recreation, wilderness camps and lifeguarding.

I recall when at 15 I’d completed an action-packed and sleepless camp as a co-counselor with college-aged counselors. We were caring for children aged 7-12. It stunned me to think after that experience, “I just spent a whole week taking care of others and completely forgot all about my normal routines and personal worries.”

Coordinating activities, being inclusive, and helping keep other kids stay safe while having fun gave me my first experiences of satisfaction from personal accomplishment. I continued babysitting for working families even after the frenzied summer camps ended. Importantly, I kept renewing my Red Cross credentials for safety and emergency action planning.

Red Cross classes are offered in classrooms and online. Find out more and sign up through the Red Cross Babysitting Training website – in honor of our 100-year anniversary of service in Colorado, we are offering a 15% discount on all trainings through November, 2014! Use coupon code COREDCROSS1001114 at checkout.

Classrooms skills practice and the final certificates. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Preparedness and Security with Red Cross 72 Hour Kits in a Neighborhood Fire

Jessica Terlecki’s personal commitment to safety began in 2013, months before a fire in her Denver neighborhood. As an employee with Newmont Mining Corporation, which has a strong culture of safety, she was asked to make a personal safety plan. To fulfill her commitment, she organized a First Aid Training for her department and packed her own 72 hour emergency kit to keep at her apartment.

“It’s how we do business. Safety always comes first, even at our office locations,” Jessica explained. Newmont has supported the Red Cross since 2011 and as part of this partnership, her company regularly shares readiness information with employees. Jessica credits this relationship for her safety and emergency preparedness planning.

In the last weeks of 2013, on a cold December night, sirens outside Jessica’s apartment woke her. Jessica and neighbors in her 24-story apartment complex assembled on the fifth floor parking deck and saw an intense fire leveling a nearby apartment building under construction. Thankfully, the burning building was unoccupied. Although the sirens were the first warning, Jessica was fortunate to recognize other signs triggering her emergency response plan.

The blaze was southeast of Jessica’s apartment building and the winds were directing smoke away. It appeared that the fire might cross a four-lane road towards other 4-story apartments. The Denver Fire Department evacuated other buildings effectively and efficiently. It was so fast there was no time to think. “The residents didn’t have time to grab their valuables,” she said. Jessica, whose building had not yet been evacuated, told the crowd that she was going back to her apartment for her 72-hour kit if the winds changed and forced her building to evacuate.

The 72-hour kit gave Jessica a sense of security during that cold, uncertain night. She knew she would have copies of important documents, clothes, food and water for three days if the emergency required evacuation. “I wouldn’t have thought to bring the kit in a normal fire drill,” she added. Many of the evacuated residents were caught off guard and so were many of the bystanders in her building’s parking lot.

Months after the close-call, Jessica has reflected on the key messages from her experience. She will keep her 72-hour kit ready with updated copies of documents and add important items. “I replaced photocopies of credit cards that were old and I added a phone charger,” because she drained her phone battery searching for information about the fire when she was safe in the parking deck. She also emphasized the importance of her awareness about safety preparedness and planning from her company’s partnership with the American Red Cross. 

Red Cross Ball was ‘Event of the Century’

By Patricia Billinger

A 100-year anniversary is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so the supporters and workers of the American Red Cross of Colorado wanted to commemorate this important milestone with a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Our amazing and lovely chairs: Century Chair Linda Childears,
Ball Chair Tisha Schuller and Board Chair Ruth Rohs.
I’m a bit biased, but I’ll say they succeeded! On Saturday, March 22, the Red Cross hosted its Century of Champions Red Cross Ball at the Sheraton Downtown in Denver. More than 1,100 of Colorado’s most influential citizens attended – along with some special international guests that included representatives of the Consulates of Canada and Mexico.

The lucky winner of the 2-carat diamond.
The event started with a Red Carpet entrance where participants paused for Oscars-style photos (view photos: - use the password crossred). On their way in, guests passed a lovely model wearing the 2-carat diamond that would be given away at the end of the evening to one lucky donor who purchased a chance by making a $100 donation. The donation prize give-away also featured a chance to win a trip to Monaco for the Red Cross ball in that charming locale.

Spinphony blended classical music with modern beats
to set a unique atmosphere during the cocktail hour and dessert.
After a cocktail hour infused with style and sophistication by the blended modern and classical beats of Spinphony, guests enjoyed dinner while hearing the inspiring stories of five amazing Colorado heroes who touched lives and made a difference last year. (Read their stories here and here.) The ceremony included a live performance by the Children's Chorale and featured guest speakers Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor John Hickenlooper's Chief of Staff, Roxanne White.

Hardly a dry eye in the house after hearing how
the Military Heroes (4th Combat Aviation Brigade)
saved lives during both the Black Forest Fire and the Colorado Floods.

The awards ceremony concluded with a successful paddle raiser led by Reggie Rivers. The extremely generous audience pledged more than $100,000 in cash donations to support the mission of the Red Cross in Colorado – which was increased by an additional $50,000 matching donation from DCP Midstream.

Guests donated more than $100,000 the night of the Ball
to support the Red Cross mission.

This memorable evening wrapped up with birthday cake for the Red Cross, fun photo booth moments (view photos here: password: Red Cross Ball) and a packed dance floor as the Jerry Barnett Experience played live music.
Ball Chairs Brian & Tisha Schuller and Century Chairs
Don and Linda Childears with the Century birthday cake.

Live music by the Jerry Barnett Experience ensured a packed dance floor.

The event raised more than $710,000 for the American Red Cross of Colorado – funds that will help ensure the Red Cross can be there to serve Coloradans for another 100 years to come!

See more photos of the Century of Champions Red Cross Ball!
•    Red Carpet & Event pics: - use password crossred
•    Flickr Stream:
•    Photo Booth Fun: password: Red Cross Ball
•    Facebook live feed:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday's Red Cross Ball Recognizing Local Heroes (Part II of II)

In honor of the upcoming Century of Champions Red Cross Ball on Saturday, we are giving you a sneak peek into the stories of those heroes who will be recognized at the event. We continue with the International Humanitarian Services Award and Disaster Cycle Services Award.

International Humanitarian Services Award – Simon Kurzban
Simon, 18, was serving as a volunteer at a juvenile center in the Philippines when Typhoon Haiyan struck the night of Nov. 8, 2013.

He and his host family fled rising water and rode out the storm on the roof of a building. In the morning, Simon encountered a scene of total destruction. Over the next five days, he had little to eat and spent time foraging food for himself and his host family, comforting friends, and helping neighbors salvage what little they could of their devastated homes.

When Simon was finally evacuated with help from the U.S. military, his thoughts weren’t for himself. He thought of the families who would be staying behind, who had lost everything, and he made an impassioned plea via the American media who interviewed him:  Help the people of Tacloban. Send donations.

His touching story and plea for help inspired an unknown number of Americans back home to contribute towards Philippine disaster relief. And his experience changed his life: Simon now wants to pursue work in the nonprofit field and hopes to return to help with long-term typhoon recovery in Tacloban.

Disaster Cycle Services Award – Chief J.J. Hoffmann, Sgt. Kevin Parker, Connie Sullivan & Neil Sullivan
When devastating floods struck in September 2013, all routes in and out of Lyons were cut off, isolating the town from all outside help. Fortunately for the town’s 2,000 residents, local leaders had implemented preparedness precautions that saved untold lives and enabled the community to come together to take care of one another over the next days and weeks.

Although it was truly an inspiring, community-wide effort, four individuals stand out as models of disaster preparedness, response and teamwork.

Lyons Fire Protection District Chief J.J. Hoffman had worked for years on preparing his community for the worst – whether wildfire or flood. Hoffman was inspired and guided by the foresight of Boulder County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Barber, who had predicted the massive flood threat facing Lyons. Hoffman proactively identified “islands” that could be isolated by flooding and, before water inundated the town, stationed emergency resources to serve each area and help with evacuations. He also trained his crews in swift-water rescue so they were ready to rescue residents in Lyons and in surrounding communities.

Sgt. Kevin Parker is the Sheriff’s representative for Lyons. He had already developed excellent working relationships that enabled his agency, the fire district, and local residents to collaborate on delivering vital services when disaster struck. The night of the flooding, he reported to Lyons and ended up playing an integral role in managing the emergency response during and after the floods – including helping to open and run a shelter at the local elementary school.

Connie and Neil Sullivan own the St. Vrain Market in downtown Lyons, a small grocery store. During the flood they selflessly donated their entire inventory to help sustain the town.

“Connie’s exact words were, ‘here’s the key, take what you need and we’ll figure it out later.’  We took emergency supplies from their store, and that’s what fed not only our evacuees but also our emergency responders here for the next couple of days,” Sgt. Parker said.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Saturday's Red Cross Ball Recognizing Local Heroes (Part I of II)

In honor of the upcoming Century of Champions Red Cross Ball on Saturday, we are giving you a sneak peek into the stories of those heroes who will be recognized at the event. We start below with the Red Cross Lifesaver, Military Lifesaver, and Preparedness Awards.

Red Cross Lifesaver Award – Doug Schellinger
Doug works at the City and County of Denver Treasury Division. He was at work when a co-worker experienced a medical emergency at her desk and stopped breathing. Fortunately, Doug had completed first aid and CPR training and immediately assessed her condition and began performing CPR.  While they waited for emergency medical technicians to arrive, Doug continued CPR for approximately 20 minutes. Thanks to his efforts, his co-worker regained consciousness and began breathing on her own just as EMTs arrived.  It turns out she was pregnant – so Doug actually saved two lives that day!

Military Lifesaver Award – 4th Combat Aviation Brigade

The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, based out of Fort Carson, provided vital response and recovery help during both the Black Forest Fire and the September floods in 2013. Not only did they respond in their official capacity, but members of the brigade also volunteered their time assisting with Red Cross efforts.

During the Black Forest fire, the Brigade provided helicopters that flew 914 missions and dropped 700,000 gallons of water to aid fire suppression. In addition, soldiers from the brigade volunteered to support Red Cross efforts, including staffing an aid station for affected residents and helping organize and move supplies at a distribution center. In total, the group contributed about 1,000 hours of service.

In September, the brigade stepped up to the call for help again by contributing to the largest airlift evacuation since hurricane Katrina. On Friday, Sept. 13, they rescued 45 people in a daring night rescue, relying on night vision goggles to see! The next day the brigade helped rescue more than 500 people.  Ultimately, the team evacuated 1,023 people from communities isolated by the devastating flooding.

Preparedness Award – Littleton Public Schools (Guy Grace)
Littleton Public Schools is a role model of proactive planning and preparedness to safeguard their students, employees and parents. The school district has worked diligently for years on preparedness, planning, training and practicing for every type of emergency  - from a medical incident to a natural disaster to violence.  Littleton Public Schools certifies its employees in CPR and how to use an AED. They’ve built first aid and medical response into their emergency plans and train once a month on a first aid response – so that if something were to happen to a student, employee or visitor, they are ready to respond and save a life.

The school district is also a Red Cross Ready Rating member. As a Ready Rating member, Littleton Public Schools assesses their level of preparedness, identifies areas for growth and works with Red Cross experts to implement  improvements, continuity of operations plans and exercises to test their plans.

Monday, March 17, 2014

It is Flood Preparedness Week in Colorado…We have an APP for that!

By Bill Fortune

Floods and Flash Floods are serious threats in Colorado. You should know the threats in your community and make plans that could save your life and the lives of those around you.

To help with your planning the American Red Cross has developed a mobile app that will enable you to prepare for, respond to and recover from a flood or flash flood. This app is available for iPhone and Android platforms and is useable on smartphones and tablets. The app will provide step by step instructions on what to do right before, during and after a flood even if no data connectivity is available.

Important Features:
• Receive an audible alert when a watch or warning for Floods or Flash Floods is issued for their monitored location.
• Let family and friends know you are safe with the customizable “I’m Safe” alert for Facebook, Twitter, email and text.
• Find open Red Cross shelters in your area.
• Stay safe when the lights are out with the Toolkit, including a strobe light, flashlight and audible alert functions.
• Learn how to assemble an emergency kit for your family.
• Empower your family to stay safe and remain calm in an emergency by learning how to make and practice an emergency plan.
• Earn badges that you can share with your friends and show off your flood knowledge with interactive quizzes.
• Know how and what to do about food and drinking water when your area has been impacted by floods and power outages.

The app is just not for those who live in a location that is prone to floods, but for friends and family members to monitor the locations of their loved ones. The Red Cross Flood app is free and available for download at, as well as, Google Play and iTunes.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Meet the Chairs of the Red Cross Ball: Tisha and Brian Schuller

By Cat George

The Century of Champions Red Cross Ball is only a week away, and we're excited to say that it has sold out!

We are very proud to have husband-and-wife team Tisha and Brian Schuller as our Century of Champions Red Cross Ball chairs.  

Tisha and Brian are no stranger to disaster and personally have experienced the comfort and hope that the Red Cross provides during such events.  The Schullers live in rural Boulder County with their two boys and have been evacuated not once but twice during recent disasters!  Their first experience with the Red Cross came during the Four Mile fire of 2010, when they were one of many families who received comfort and support from the Red Cross after being evacuated from the fast-moving wildfire.

“We didn’t know where to go, so we went to the Red Cross shelter. We were so impressed by the compassion and organization of the Red Cross volunteers – the amazing way they took care of our neighbors and our community - that we have been Red Cross supporters ever since,” Tisha said.  Their experience inspired Tisha to join the Red Cross Board of Directors, on which she has served for the past 3 years.

During the floods in September 2013 their community was once again impacted – in fact, their home became stranded by the flood waters and their children and Brian’s father had to be air-lifted out by helicopter.  Brian, a first responder himself who volunteers as a firefighter for the Four Mile Fire Department, remained in his community to support those who were stranded. 

“The most important thing was to get the boys reunited with Tisha, then I could really focus on the community needs.  For days the rain continued to fall and we had to get residents out via helicopter, ATV, river crossing, or on foot,” Brian said.

Tisha and Brian met as their paths crossed through their careers in environmental and engineering consulting. Tisha graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelors of Science in Earth Systems with an emphasis in Geology and serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.  Brian earned his bachelor’s degree in Geological Science from the University of Colorado Boulder. After 12 years of consulting in that field, he turned to serve as a full-time stay-at-home dad and volunteer firefighter. 

When the opportunity arose to support the Red Cross during the Colorado Century Celebration in 2014, Tisha and Brian stepped up to lead the helm of the Century of Champions Red Cross ball, which will be held in Denver on March 22. “We couldn’t be happier to give back to the Red Cross in such a fun and meaningful way,” Tisha and Brian agree.

Find out more about Century Celebration events at

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Storms Can Spawn Tornadoes...Even in March

By Bill Fortune

Springtime in the Rockies is best described as a time for changing weather patterns. Most people don’t think of a March as a “tornado month” in Colorado. However, the people of Holly, Colo. will be quick to remind you of how fast the weather can change. On March 22, 2007 a tornado developed in extreme southeast Colorado just west of the Kansas border. It intensified and moved rapidly north, hitting the town of Holly at 8:11 p.m.

The tornado hit on the south side of town and cut a half-mile swath of total destruction as it surged through Holly. The storm destroyed 35 homes, damaged 32 more, caused one fatality and injured 11. The damage occurred in an instant, leaving a path of destruction more than 2 miles long and several blocks wide.

This was a devastating event for the people of Holly, and scars from the storm are still evident in the town.  There are important lessons that we can all learn from an event like this. The first lesson is to recognize that spring is when we move from the cold season into the warm season and the time of year responsible for the most violent weather even in Colorado. We usually thing of May and June as tornado months in Colorado but they have occurred from March through October.

The second lesson is that we need to recognize the threat and prepare accordingly.
• Having a kit with emergency supplies can help lessen the impact of an emergency.
• Having a plan for evacuation and communication will allow us to respond correctly and quickly.
• Staying informed about rapidly changing weather conditions will keep us one step ahead of a disaster.
• Updating our skills in CPR and First Aid will be a great help in times of crisis.

Now is the time to assess your readiness. Don’t wait until storms clouds are already forming to think about what you should do. If you haven’t already, download the Red Cross Tornado app for your smartphone or tablet. It is available for Android and iPhone. Make sure you set it up to alert you to weather emergency messages like a tornado watch or warning. The app is available from and from Google Play and iTunes.

You can learn a lot more about being prepared and how to respond to emergencies such as tornadoes, floods and wildfires by going to You can also attend a Be Red Cross Ready class to learn. Go to to find a class in your area.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Meet the Chairs of our Century Celebration: Don and Linda Childears

By Bill Fortune
The Red Cross is proud to have community leaders Don and Linda Childears serve as the Chairs of our Century Celebration.

There is an old adage that says, “If you want something done, give the task to a busy person.”
That wisdom made Don and Linda the perfect fit to lead our Century Celebration in 2014!

The Childears have strong ties throughout Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. Don serves as the President and CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association. Linda is the President and CEO of the Daniels Fund.

The Childears are firm believers in commitment to improving the lives of people in the community. Their leadership is known throughout the region, and they are often sought after by organizations. In addition to their busy professional work, this power couple serves in leadership roles on more organizations and foundations than we have room to list - but to give you a small taste:
  • Don serves as Investor Committee Chairman of the Colorado Competitive Council, and has served on the national board of BankPac, as the Chairman of the Housing Council  and as the Chairman of the Civil Justice League, and on the  Dean’s board for the College of Business at Colorado State University. He has served as the national chairman of state bankers associations, and on the board of the American Bankers Association.
  • Linda serves on the boards of Cheyenne Capital Fund, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce,  Mountain States Employers Council and Mile High Banks of Colorado.  Linda was named National Philanthropy Day’s Outstanding Professional in Philanthropy in 2010, and has also been honored as the Colorado Bankers Association Banker of Distinction and the Girl Scouts of Colorado Woman of Distinction. She has served as the national chair of Camp Fire Girls & Boys and the National Assembly.
The Red Cross approached Don and Linda because of their reputation as leaders, their connection throughout the region and their existing relationship with the Red Cross (Linda currently serves on the board of directors for the Red Cross Mile High Chapter).

“We knew that we needed someone that understood Colorado -- someone who could open doors and support this statewide celebration,” said Gino Greco, CEO of the American Red Cross of Colorado.
For their part, Don and Linda said the reputation and mission of the Red Cross is what drew them in - along with a persuasive call from Gino.

“We have always admired what the Red Cross does and I think we have forever,” Linda said. “Both of us have jobs that work throughout the state, and taking on the statewide Century Celebration for the Red Cross made a lot of sense.”

They also recognized the enormous difference that the Red Cross makes, particularly  in the  wake of recent historic disasters that have occurred across the state. The Childears were on vacation in Africa when the 2013 Floods began. They were concerned about loved ones and others in the affected communities, but they knew that their friends in the Red Cross were going to take care of things.

“It’s about that symbol. It makes you want to help out an organization that does so much good,” Don said. He added with a grin: “Plus we get to wear red!”

Find out more about the Century Celebration by visiting

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Its That Time Of Year...Again!

By Bill Fortune

It’s the time of year when we need to set our clocks forward one hour as daylight saving time starts Sunday, March 9. While some people complain about losing an hour of sleep, I prefer to think of it as a time to get my “Red Cross Ready” act together. The first thing to do is to reset all of my clocks.

Resetting the clocks really sets the tone for the day because it drives home the message that I just lost an hour of my day and I really need to get moving. Fortunately most computers, tablets and cell phones are set to change automatically. However, most other clocks in my house require a manual reset. Changing the clock in your car can be a whole new adventure. Every car I have ever owned was different. I had one car that required you to open a paper clip and carefully insert it into a small hole to change the minute. My favorite clocks are the ones that only advance by the minute -- of course I invariably miss the current minute and have to go through a 24-hour sweep to get to the correct time. Obviously this activity is not for the faint of heart and should not be done while driving.

Once the clocks are changed, it’s time to tackle the dreaded smoke alarms. I change the batteries in my smoke alarms once per year but always on Daylight Savings so as not to forget. One year I didn’t stick to this schedule, and then a few nights later at 2 a.m. I heard a strange voice saying, “low battery…low battery.” At first I didn’t recognize the voice and thought there was an intruder in my house. The voice kept getting louder and soon there was a chorus of voices as each of 6 alarms in my house began chanting. Full-scale panic ensued as I stumbled into the garage for a ladder (a painful experience without shoes on, I might add) while my wife went in search of 9-volt batteries. It’s funny how drained batteries always end up in the same drawer with the new ones. Of course there were no new batteries, which meant a 2 a.m. dash to Walmart.

As the day moves on I bring out the 72-hour emergency kit. Our kit is what I like to call “practical and portable.” I followed the suggestions on the Red Cross preparedness website ( and tailored it to the needs of my household. The change in season dictates a change in the type of clothing from cold weather gear to items appropriate for warm and wet weather. I go through the food and water items to make sure that nothing has a broken seal or an expired date. I check the flashlights and batteries, charge the emergency cellphone, make sure the radio works and replace the medications. I flip through the documents that are stored in the kit to make sure nothing has changed. The most likely change would be in the list of medications, expiration dates on credit cards or a change in an emergency contact number but I go through it all just to make sure.

The last thing on my list is to replace the backup battery in my Weather Alert Radio. This is particularly important as we move into the severe weather season. Waking up to the sound of debris hitting my house is not one of my favorite things. So, with the list completed, I climb into my easy chair, content in knowing that I am Red Cross Ready.

Now if I could just get out of the spring cleaning requirement…

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March Lunch & Learn: Immigration and Human Rights

Due to their existence in the gray area between economic demand and criminality, immigrants who are in the country illegally can suffer abuse and exploitation with few options for legal recourse. At this month’s Lunch & Learn lecture, activist Jordan Garcia will discuss the human rights of immigrants, in a political climate where lawmakers face tough political barriers to enacting immigration policy reform. Garcia said he plans to discuss the current state of immigrant affairs at the Lunch & Learn, as well as the real-life situations of families who are affected by deportation and other consequences of their unauthorized status. “I think anyone would benefit from a deeper understanding of immigrant justice,” Garcia said. “Especially people concerned with issues like family separation.”
Jordan Garcia, activist and March's Lunch and Learn speaker

Garcia’s current position as the Immigrant Ally Organizing Director for Coloradoans for Immigrant Rights (a project of the American Friends Service Committee) is his most recent engagement in a life devoted to advocacy and community activism. As a student at Colorado College, Garcia was active in groups concerned with Latino rights. He later served on the founding board of the Latina Safe House Initiative, a group that worked to provide services to Latina domestic abuse survivors. Since 2006, he has been an organizer with the AFSC, where he has developed a community of “allies:” volunteers who devote their time to the cause of immigrant justice, and work to empower immigrants to speak on their own behalf.

Garcia said that the Lunch & Learn event is a way for the community to gain insight into, and become involved with, the day-to-day realities of the immigrant population. “I think the Red Cross and [my work] both aim to better the situations of people whose lives have been touched by hardship,” Garcia said. The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, March 12, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Friday, March 7 to Tim Bothe at WebEx options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Home is where the heart is, but a bed wouldn't hurt

When refugees flee their countries due to persecution, conflict or other life-endangering issues, they often arrive in their new home country with little but the clothes on their backs. They receive a small amount of resettlement assistance, but it doesn't stretch very far.

So the Red Cross, Lutheran Family Services and American Furniture Warehouse are partnering together to make life a little easier and more welcoming for these refugees who have settled in a strange new land after what is often already a traumatic experience. Last week, the American Red Cross distributed housewarming baskets to relocated refugees who have settled in the Denver-metro area. The 15 baskets contained what Tim Bothe of American Red Cross Colorado & Wyoming calls “standards of care.” The Red Cross housewarming baskets include kitchen utensils and pots and pans, as well as information on how refugees can reconnect with family members through the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program.

Tina Porter gets the mattresses and
Housewarming baskets ready to go. 

By assembling these baskets, the Red Cross is supplementing the assistance provided by Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, a refugee resettlement agency that helps families set up a new household in Colorado. The baskets were distributed by Lutheran Family Services, which is summoned at a moment’s notice, given little information about incoming refugees until they arrive in Denver.

American Furniture Warehouses is the third partner in the refugee settlement project. The company has donated 20 mattresses to refugee families through this partnership.

Nearly 2,000 refugees are relocated to Colorado during the average year. Efforts such as housewarming baskets filled with “standards of care” and a donation of mattresses are the gestures that help these people overcome the trauma they've experienced and turn over a new leaf in the Centennial State.

Tina Porter, Red Cross, and Horace of Lutheran Family Services.