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.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Displaced Within Their Own Homeland

by Patricia Billinger
One morning during the height of international sanctions against Iraq in the ‘90s, Enas Alsharea overheard her father lamenting to her mother: “I am suffering that I can’t get oranges for my children. I am suffering because I want to be able to give my children everything.”

Alsharea, who was a young girl at the time, said her family was relatively well-off for ordinary Iraqi citizens during that time period – and very comfortable when compared to the conditions endured by Iraqis who are currently living in camps after fleeing violence and persecution by ISIS forces.

For many of us Americans born after World War II, such scarcity is unimaginable: scarcity applies to things like Apple Watches rather than access to fresh fruit and basic needs.

“Life in the camps is really difficult. It’s more difficult than anyone can imagine,” Alsharea told an audience gathered at the Red Cross Mile High Chapter for the monthly International Services Lunch and Learn. As a former Business Development Advisor for Relief International who helped Iraqi camp residents launch small businesses, Dr. Enas Alsharea presented on the topic of Internally Displaced Persons and the challenges they face.

Millions of Iraqis fled within their country.
Internally Displaced Persons are defined as people who are rendered homeless by humanitarian crises – such as disasters, violence or persecution – who have fled but have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary. Essentially, they are refugees within their own borders. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are more than 26 million internally displaced persons around the world – including more than 3 million Iraqis who have fled within Iraq to escape the violence in their home towns.

Because they are still living within their national borders, these individuals legally fall under the protection and care of their governments – but, recognizing that they are facing a humanitarian crisis nonetheless, aid agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Relief International do provide humanitarian aid when possible.

The ICRC has provided water, food, medical
supplies and more.
Since the beginning of 2015, the ICRC has provided one-month food rations and other essential relief items to more than half a million people in Iraq. Vital medical supplies have also been distributed to 45 health facilities across the country. More than 400,000 people have benefited from ICRC's efforts to improve water provision. At the same time, ICRC staff continued to visit places where people have been detained. The aim is to ensure that those held are treated in a humane way. In May, the ICRC made a call for donations to increase and sustain aid.

Dr. Alsharea worked with Relief International, which, among other forms of aid, launched a project in April 2014 to help vulnerable Iraqi populations launch small businesses.  Funded by a USAID grant, the program provided 30 hours of business development training, monthly mentorship by an advisor and small grants to participants who completed the training and proposed a business plan.

When ISIS attacks forced millions of Iraqis to flee to camps, Relief International  brought the small business development program to some of the camps. Residents of one camp that Dr. Alsharea visited launched small businesses such as a barbershop, grocer, falafel restaurant and tailoring business.

A barber shop in the camp.
These entrepreneurs face many challenges, including the harsh reality that many of their fellow camp residents fled with little to no belongings or cash and thus have little to no spare income to spend. The entrepreneurs themselves often fled with few possessions, leaving them without the tools of their trade or the capital to buy the resources they need to run a small business. Meanwhile, limited or costly transportation means that it is difficult for most to sell their products or services outside the camp.

Is there hope in the face of such daunting challenges? Dr. Alsharea shared photos depicting some slices of normal life: men getting their hair cut, young lovers getting married in suits and white dresses. But, she said, violence is still a threat; militants attacked one of the camps close to Mosul, forcing residents to flee and aid agencies to temporarily suspend operations.

Dr. Alsharea herself was threatened due to her brother’s work as an interpreter for coalition forces in 2011. Her links with an American organization also posed a potential risk. Unfortunately, local workers supporting international aid efforts do get targeted as “enemies” despite their humanitarian work – Dr. Alsharea  had a friend whose mother was assassinated in Baghdad 2006 because she was volunteering with a foreign-based humanitarian organization. In fear for her safety, Dr. Alsharea sought refuge and resettled in Denver in December 2014.

It is too soon to know when those forced to flee to camps can begin to look homeward.

“It’s early to talk about how they will return home, because the situation is still unstable,” Dr. Alsharea said.

As recently as June 9, thousands more Iraqis fled violence in Ramadi. If you would like to read more about the crisis and how the Red Cross is helping, visit

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Behind The Red Helps Boulder County Mitigate Against Wildfire

By Jana Mathieson
May and June 2015 have been so rainy that most people are worried more about flooding than wildfires. However, all this moisture also feeds the growth of potential fuels for fires later this summer.

On Saturday, June 13, 2015, members of Behind The Red and other Mile High Chapter Red Cross volunteers joined Boulder County Parks and Open Space to work on preventative measures to mitigate against wildfire risk.

Earlier this year, Boulder County Parks and Open Space had completed the first phase of pre-disaster fire mitigation by thinning 80 acres of forest around Mud Lake. This was done as part of a FEMA grant. On Saturday, volunteers helped clear debris left over from the thinning, erased roads that had been created, and planted native seeds to help restore the natural habitat. The goal of the project is to decrease fuel for fires, the intensity of fires and the chances of flooding after a fire – thus also decreasing the likelihood of a catastrophe.

This is the third year that members of Behind The Red have worked with Boulder County Parks and Open Space on a fire mitigation project. “Without volunteers like Behind the Red to do the low impact rehab work, these projects would not get done,” said Shane Milne, forestry volunteer coordinator for Boulder County Parks and Open Space.

“We are proud of our partnership with Boulder County Parks and Open Space. These projects are aligned with our Red Cross mission and we always have a great time,” said Mieke Schierer, volunteer committee chair.

To learn more about Behind the Red or to join, please visit
The Red Cross volunteer crew.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Your Basement Flooded. Now What?

By Patricia Billinger
On Friday night, my husband and I came home from work to discover nearly an inch of water covering our entire basement floor. My cat’s empty dish floated towards the basement door.

We weren’t alone. Due to heavy rain throughout May and into June, many homes in Colorado have experienced flooding. From Friday, June 12,  through this morning (Monday, June 15), the Red Cross Mile High chapter alone responded to seven calls related to flooding in Denver, Lakewood, Westminster and Longmont.  Our volunteers helped nearly a dozen people who were displaced because they were flooded out or their homes had been rendered uninhabitable by mold or rot.

 A few of the callers had nuisance flooding in their basements – which we do not label as a disaster and thus do not deploy for, but which is serious nonetheless; untreated, flooded spaces can lead to mold and rot that can result in making your home unsafe to live in.

So, what should you do?
The Red Cross offers this detailed guide on repairing a flooded home.

1. First of all, make sure it’s safe to be in your home: make sure the home is structurally sound and that water is not in contact with electrical outlets, appliances or the electrical box. Turn off the electricity to be safe.

2. Find out what clean-up and repair work your insurance will cover. Unfortunately, standard home owner's insurance doesn't typically cover flood damage.

The Red Cross offers this
detailed guide on repairing a flooded home.
3. Call for Help. 
Our next step was to call a restoration company. There are many reputable organizations that are experts at removing water and treating the home to eliminate risk of mold and disease.  This Denver Post article from the 2013 floods offers sound advice for ensuring you don’t get taken advantage of or scammed. In short:

  • Research businesses and check out their reviews. The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start.
  • Be wary of door-to-door solicitations.
  • Don’t pay for more than 1/3 the estimate up front.

We were well behind the, er, “flood” of other people already queued up for help from  local restoration companies and were told that it could be a week before they could get to us – not a great choice when time matters; it's best to dry wet or damp areas within 24-48 hours after a flood. So, we had to do it ourselves. You can, too:

4. Remove wet items and mud.
Once you’ve determined it’s safe to enter your home, get fresh air moving through your home. Remove any furniture and belongings that got wet, and shovel out mud.

  • Remove carpet and rugs. 
  • It is very important to get rid of mud left by floodwaters as soon as possible because it contains most of the health hazards you will face.  This is a lot easier if it is done before the mud dries out.  Shovel out as much mud as possible.
  • You may need to drain the walls. Flood-soaked drywall, or wallboard, usually has to be thrown away. If the water level was less than four feet deep, remove the lower four feet of wallboard. You can fill the gap with 4’ x 8’ sheets installed sideways.

5. Remove standing water. 

  • DO NOT use gas-powered pumps or generators indoors.
  • Home improvement stores sell electrical water pumps starting at around $89. You can attach a hose and pump the water out.
  • If the water is too shallow or you can’t afford a pump, wet/dry shop vacs start at as little as about $21 for a device that you attach to the top of a plastic 5-gallon bucket. The benefit: it’s serves double duty as the bucket to carry water out. The drawback: that’s a lot of trips to lug 5 gallons at a time!
  • Pump/dump the water outside where it can safely drain away from your home, as well as your neighbors’ homes. Don't pump water into your bathtub or sink, because doing so can overwhelm the sanitary line and back it up.
6. Dry everything out. 
Once you have most of the standing water out, ensure the area gets lots of ventilation, and place fans to dry up the moisture. You may need to rent or purchase a de-humidifier.  You can also use “dessicants” such as clay-based kitty litter.

If possible, set furniture and other wet items in the sun to dry out.

7. Clean anything that came in contact with floodwaters. Floodwater can contaminate the surfaces it touched; you also want to eliminate any mold that has started growing in the moist environment. In most cases, household cleaning products will do the job if you use them correctly. See page 29 of the Guide for specific cleaning instructions and materials.

8. Throw any food out that has been touched by floodwaters. Even food in tin cans should be discarded if the cans got wet during the flood because there is no way to be absolutely certain the food inside is safe. Do not keep food in bottles or jars with bottle caps or screw on lids—they do not keep out floodwaters.

9. Flood-proof your home for the next time. Get flood insurance and implement changes to reduce future flooding and/or reduce the losses you will suffer. For example, we installed shelving to keep stored items off the ground, and store items in our basement in waterproof, plastic containers. You can clear drains and gutters and ensure they're flowing away from your home. There are also larger home improvements recommended in chapter 8 of this guide.

If you are physically unable to perform these tasks or can’t afford the equipment to do it yourself, you may be able to get assistance from local agencies or nonprofits that assist with clean-up, such as the Southern Baptists. Call 2-11 to find out what resources are available in your community.

Good luck! Flooding is one of the most damaging types of disaster, even though it often gets less attention than more visible disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Moving Wall Offers Chance to Remember Those Who Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice in Vietnam

by Jennifer Marsh

The Vietnam War was a time of great divisions in the United States, and it is only now that some of these divisions are beginning to heal.  When veterans returned home, they often did not find a warm welcome, or gratitude, even though most households had sent someone to the conflict.  One way this attitude is changing today is through Welcome Home Ceremonies connected with a display of The Vietnam Combat Veterans -- The Moving Wall exhibitions.

Red Cross volunteer Allison Smith helps visitors locate names
on  “The Moving Wall,” which is on display from June 11-15.
Photo by Arnett Luce.
The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, made of metal panels that copy the names on the Wall's panels.  Each panel has a reflective surface, providing a similar effect to that of the permanent Wall, of the observer seeing his or her own face superimposed with the names of the fallen.  Rubbings can be taken and there are volunteers to help people find specific names.

Fort Carson is one of two military installations this year hosting The Moving Wall.  It will be at the base from June 11-June 15.  Red Cross volunteers assisted at the Fort Carson Welcome Home to ensure that the more than 125 Vietnam vets attending the event had a wonderful homecoming, 50 years on. Why is the Red Cross involved?  Because the Red Cross was there, in Vietnam, supporting the U.S. military  -- and because service to the armed forces has been a core part of the American Red Cross since 1881, when Clara Barton founded the organization.
Red Cross volunteer and Vietnam Veteran Tom Pardee (L)
shakes hands with Vietnam Veteran Don Goode at the Moving Wall
on June 11, 2015.  Photo by Arnett Luce.
Red Cross volunteers were in Vietnam in a variety of roles, starting in 1962, when the first field director arrived.  Field directors and assistant field directors were posted to bases and units throughout Vietnam and assisted with emergencies and communications home, as well as advice on personal issues.  Service to Military and Veterans Hospitals (SMVH) staff provided similar assistance in Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, Korea and Hawaii, where many injured servicemen and women were sent either to heal or before returning home.  Red Cross Donut Dollies, as they were called, delivered food, recreation, compassion and care.  A corps of college-educated women, they worked in teams to reach as many soldiers as possible, including those in the field, to bring them a touch of home.  Officially known as Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO) workers, in 1969, there were 110 SRAO workers in 17 units who reached an estimated 300,000 servicemen each month.

Jackie Norris serving as a Red Cross SRAO in Vietnam.
Courtesy Jackie Norris.
Colorado residents Jackie Norris and Debby MacSwain were Donut Dollies during Vietnam and we are so lucky that they continue their Red Cross service even today.  After Vietnam, Jackie continued working in a variety of paid staff positions for 25 years, and after retiring was recruited to volunteer with the Mile High Chapter.  Being a Donut Dolly has colored her worldview.  "Being in Vietnam  was an incredibly  impactful experience for me, and  has affected pretty much everything else I've done in life.   Being there for the soldiers was our main purpose - trying to give them an opportunity to spend time with American girls as an alternative to the tough days they faced," Jackie said. She added: "I lost a very dear first cousin to the Vietnam War - he was an F-4 pilot, and his name is on the Wall."

On July 1 of this year, Debby MacSwain will celebrate 48 years of involvement with the Red Cross.  She also was marked by her time in Vietnam. “I was in Vietnam in 1969. Every day was a lifetime of experiences. We (Red Cross women) tried to smile every day all day long and bring a 'touch of home' to the service men we met. It is impossible to put in a few words what my tour in Vietnam meant to me," Debby said. "It was the most important and life changing position I ever had. I grew up in Vietnam. Towards the end of my tour one of the women in my unit died in a jeep accident. There were nine of us in that unit at Bien Hoa. We were impacted tremendously by her death. When I meet a serviceman or woman that talks about losing one of their own I know what that means.”

L to R: Melissa Dashner, Winston Perez, Steve Newton, Gaby Skovira,
James Griffith, Allison Smith, Kristin Thorburh, Tom Pardee, Gary Upson,
Deborah MacSwain (American Red Cross Donut Dolly), Bill McPherson,
Robin Speiser, Carl Bruer, Ken Overturf, and Ed Arden pose with a historic
 Vietnam helicopter on display with the Moving Wall. Photo by Arnett Luce.

Debby helped set up for the Welcome Home, but had to leave before the ceremony to teach Red Cross swim lessons at the Fort Carson pool, bringing her activities with Red Cross full circle, back to her involvement as a Lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor in 1967-68, before she went to Vietnam.

In total, five Red Crossers died during their time in-country during the war.  In addition to Debby's colleague, a second died of an illness and the third was stabbed by an AWOL soldier.  Two Assistant Station Managers died as well, one in a roadside bombing while traveling with a Marine chaplain and the other in a rocket attack on an officer meeting.  Reflecting their status as civilians, their names are memorialized at Red Cross Headquarters, rather than on the Wall.

The Moving Wall was set up at Kit Carson Memorial Park, outside Fort Carson's Gate 1, off Hwy 115, and is available 24 hours a day until 8 a.m., Monday, June 15.

We thank Jackie and Debby for their lifetimes of Red Cross service.  It is this type of "heart to serve" that brought comfort to those serving in Vietnam and heartens those in difficult circumstances here in Colorado.  We also thank all our Vietnam veterans, for making a difficult choice in a complicated time, and for serving our country.  Welcome home.

If you would like to learn more about the Red Cross's service during Vietnam, please visit our website at

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Warrior Kids and Families Learn Preparedness

By Jennifer Marsh
Look out -- there are some prepared kids in town!  On Saturday, June 6, 35 children and their families gathered at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson to learn from Red Cross volunteers and personnel about how to be prepared for an emergency through The Pillowcase Project.  This presentation teaches children coping skills, local concerns (like wildfires) and both personal and family preparedness. The Pillowcase Project was born when the CEO of the American Red Cross Southwest Louisiana Chapter discovered that  Loyola University students evacuated for Hurricane Katrina using their pillowcases to carry away what they could.
Children decorate pillows as part of an activity to teach them disaster
preparedness. Photo by Dana Goldsmith.

Typically, the Pillowcase Project is offered just for children -- often while their parents attend a separate preparedness training for adults.  However, at this event the two groups were kept together, and it was inspiring to see the parents working with their kids to empower them in the event of an emergency.

After talking about what kinds of problems might occur and how to handle them, the children had some time to color their pillowcases.  Finally, they went outside for a relay race to demonstrate just how quickly they could escape in the event of a fire.  The kids, staying low as you should in a burning building, crawled to the volunteers, used the back of their hands to check the temperature of a "door" (which was actually the volunteer's hand in this game), and then crawled back to their team.  Experts estimate that by the time a smoke alarm goes off, a person has two minutes to safely exit a burning building.

After the training, the Battalion had a BBQ. During the BBQ, volunteers were heartened to hear families discussing smoke alarms and how to be brave.  "It created conversation, which we love to hear, because we know they will go home and do something about it," said Dana Goldsmith, Prepare Colorado Program Development Specialist.

Many thanks to the staff of the Warrior Transition Battalion for all their assistance with the program. The Battalion is made up of injured soldiers who are transitioning out of the Army.  The mission of the Battalion is to assist wounded soldiers and their families in successfully transitioning to civilian life, helping them with everything from geographic relocation to navigating the VA to employment assistance.  Also, special thanks to Dena Kamm, who jumped in on her first day as a Red Cross volunteer to get involved.

You can learn more about our Pillowcase Project at

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hearing the Call…Stepping Up to Help

Stories and Photos by Bill Fortune/American Red Cross

Jessica Frye(second from left) and her volunteers at the
Red Cross shelter in Lusk, WY
The American Red Cross Colorado and Wyoming Region has been responding to the devastating flood that hit Niobrara County Wyoming. We thought you would like to see how people in that county are stepping up to help each other.

The call came in late Sunday afternoon. The voice was tired but the level of concern was easily identifiable. “Everyone is leaving,” the voice said. “They’re leaving us on our own.”
Jessica Frye was the voice on the phone. A tireless advocate for the community of Lusk, WY and rightfully concerned. The movement of Wyoming National Guard trucks can be scary, whether they are coming or going. When you’re dealing with the aftermath of a flood the sight of any resource leaving can be paralyzing even if that resource is just shifting locations.

The feeding team serves up food at the Red Cross shelter in
Lusk, WY
The American Red Cross, however, is not one of those departing resources. Instead, the Red Cross moves volunteers, equipment and resources into the community to help with short term relief and longer term recovery.

The sense of relief in her voice was evident after that conversation and when she realized that the Red Cross encouraged the community to be part of the process - that was all Jessica needed. Within hours she had met with Red Cross leaders on scene and together they set up a feeding plan. She put the call out for volunteers and got support from a broad segment of the community. Monday they started serving and by the end of the day they had served food to 54 local residence, first responders, volunteer cleanup crews and 15 or so Red Cross responders. Red Cross provided the food and Jessica’s team cooked it, served it and even cleaned up after.

Red Cross volunteers enjoy breakfast provided by
Jessica and her team at the Red Cross shelter in
Lusk, WY
Jessica is just another example of how people can turn their compassion into action. She has worked tirelessly for Lusk, her community.  “We need to stay strong and work together,” she said while serving the morning meal. “We can get through this if we work together.”

Meet our Northern Colorado Heroes

On Tuesday, June 2, nearly 300 people gathered to support the Red Cross and to honor local heroes and volunteers at the "Celebrating Community Heroes" event in Loveland.
See photos from the event on our flickr page.

Meet our heroes:

Betty Kaan: Everyday Hero
Betty Kaan was honored as a 7News 7Everyday Hero recently for her commitment to the mission of the American Red Cross and her commitment to her community, as shown during the flooding of 2013. Betty is always prepared and always making sure the Red Cross is ready to respond to disasters. Betty has been a volunteer for 7 years and has established herself as a backbone of the chapter not just for what she herself does, but also as an inspiration to others.  Her positivity and compassion make her a most valuable asset to not only the Red Cross, but to the community she serves.

Commitment to Community Award: Weld Recovers, House in a Box Project
As our community began the long journey or recovering from the 2013 floods, individuals and organizations gathered to coordinate recovery. Weld Recovers united government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations with the innovative “House in a Box” project to provide for Colorado families in need. A House in a Box offers a family new furniture, box springs and mattresses, dining sets, and essential household items like pots, pans, sheets and towels. After the floods, Weld Recovers recognized many families were finding new housing but needed these items to make that new house a home. The program helped more than 100 families in just one year. It is another step in the path to recovery for those affected.

Professional Lifesaver - Sgt. Zachary St. Aubyn
Sgt. Zach St. Aubyn of the Greeley Police Department was called to the scene of a raging house fire expecting to help direct traffic and assist the firefighters. However, the fire department had not yet arrived when he got to the scene. He realized that he was the only one who could help evacuate the residents of the house. He ran into the house, as smoke billowed out, to locate the three people trapped inside.  His choice to protect the citizens he has sworn to serve saved the lives of the three disoriented occupants who were trapped inside in the burning house. The American Red Cross is honoring Zach St. Aubyn as a Professional Lifesaver for his extraordinary heroism in the face of an emergency.

Adult Lifesavers - Cole Cunningham & Tim Frank  
On May 8, 2014, relatives Tim, Dan and Paul Frank were working in a field southwest of Johnstown when they were electrocuted by a section of irrigation pipe that had come into contact with a power line. Tim became conscious shortly after the accident and saw that his brother and his cousin were in much worse condition. He began CPR on Dan, and called 911 for help. A longtime friend, Cole Cunningham, was driving by and noticed Tim stumbling, talking on his cell phone. Cole rushed to action, remembering his CPR training, and began CPR on Paul. Tim continued to tend to his brother, Dan, until the Johnstown-Milliken fire department arrived. Tim, Dan, Paul and Frank are all alive today, thanks to Tim and Cole’s quick thinking and American Red Cross CPR training.

Spirit of the Red Cross - The Lauren Project
Lauren Moilien Johnson was a master’s candidate in international human rights at the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies. On January 5, 2009, just days before she was to depart to lead a delegation of graduate students to Israel for internships with various human rights organizations, Lauren lost her life from carbon monoxide poisoning. She was 23 years old.

Inspired by Lauren’s commitment to helping others from a young age, friends and family worked through their grief to start "The Lauren Project." This nonprofit fights for legislation requiring every home to be protected with a carbon monoxide detector, in Colorado and beyond. The Lauren Project also seeks to educate the public about carbon monoxide, an invisible threat and has helped distribute thousands of carbon monoxide alarms.

To further honor Lauren, The Lauren Project also provides grants to young people like Lauren who want to make a difference in the world. These volunteers have worked in orphanages, medical clinics, slums and more to help children and adults and make the world a better place, so today we honor The Lauren Project as heroes who exemplify the Spirit of the Red Cross.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Hand-drawn Map Could be Key to Finding Long-Lost Family

Story & Video by Patricia Billinger
When armed men stormed one 9-year-old's home town in Sudan, she fled for her life -- losing contact with her family.

Years later, after living in refugee camps and eventually making it safely to resettle in the United States, this girl -- now a young woman -- turned to the Red Cross for help seeking out the whereabouts of her long-lost family. Our local Restoring Family Links team took on her case.

Tracking down loved ones across thousands of miles and a decade of conflict is an immense challenge. Every clue can help narrow the search, and determining the specific, last-known whereabouts of family is an important key to starting the search.

In this case, the girl drew a rudimentary map of her memory of her home and where she last saw her family. In this video, we share the detective work our volunteers performed to turn that hand-drawn map into a solid clue to start the search.

To find out more about Red Cross Restoring Family Links, visit .

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Thank You For Supporting Us on Giving Day

June 2 was a great day and we want to thank you, our supporters, for turning your compassion into action. The first ever Red Cross Giving Day was a success because you were willing to step up and stand with us as we alleviate human suffering in the face of disaster. Your contribution will go a long way in helping us help others. Over 160 people from Colorado and Wyoming joined in the Giving Day effort resulting in over $19,000 in donations.

Nationally the Red Cross was humbled by the outpouring of generosity. Once again, Americans have joined together to support the Red Cross. Take a look at the infographic below to see the national results from our Giving Day campaign and feel proud that you were a part of the success.

We want to especially thank community leaders and philanthropists who pledged matching funds to help us make your donation stretch farther.  Suncor Energy participated in Giving Day through a customer donation program at all of their Colorado retail gas stations from May 6-June 2. Other partners, including Ball Corporation and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado, promoted Giving Day to their employees to help the Red Cross reach our goal. Thank you to these local businesses, individuals, and foundations for partnering with us this Giving Day!   

Friday, June 5, 2015

Colorado&Wyoming Region Responds to Severe Weather and Flooding

Tornadoes, large hail and flash flooding produced significant damage across eastern Wyoming and northeast Colorado. The Red Cross was quick to respond and recovery efforts continue.

Wyoming -
Update - Lusk, WY, 8 a.m., Friday, June 12, 2015 – The Red Cross shelter located at the Niobrara County Fairgrounds in Lusk, WY will be closed as of 8 a.m. Saturday, June 12, 2015. The facility will be placed in standby status in case activation is needed.

The Recovery Assistance Center will remain open at the Niobrara County Fairgrounds every day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Anyone needing assistance who can’t make those times can call 307-334-3534 to make an appointment.

Updated 10 a.m. Sunday, June 7, 2015
The  distribution of cleanup supplies continued Saturday and will continue in the affected areas around Lusk. The emergency shelter remains open at the Niobrara County Fair Grounds on Highway 20 in Lusk. One local resident stayed at the shelter Saturday night along with 35 staff and support personnel from the Red Cross, Wyoming National Guard and Wyoming Department of Homeland Security.

Saturday the Red Cross distributed 70 cleanup kits in the town of Buffalo and 60 cleanup kits in the Lusk area.

The Red Cross deployed a Mobile Emergency Command Post (MECP) to support the recovery efforts on going in Lusk. The MECP is a trailer that expands to a 40x20 ft tent complete with a generator, backup batteries, heating, air conditioning and a full array of emergency communications equipment. The MECP can serve as a command center for Red Cross and other response agencies. A short video is available at

Colorado - The shelter at the Berthoud Community Center, 248 Welch Ave in Berthoud closed at noon on Saturday and was put in a stand-by status.. The Berthoud Community Center returned to more normal operations and will continue to serve as an information center where people can find out abut Red Cross services. Distribution of cleanup supplies and individual client services will continue today. People needing Red Cross support are asked to call 303-235-6636 to get help.

Additional rain and severe weather is possible in northeast Colorado and east Wyoming. Additional Red Cross volunteers are on notice to be ready to respond if there is a request for Red Cross support.

Severe weather preparedness information is available at To stay alert to weather warnings and to learn the best tactics for preparedness and recovery download the Emergency mobile app from your preferred vendor or from

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Scene of Serenity 16 Months After Devastating Floods

by Kelly Wheeler

The little blue house in Lyons, Colo., stands proudly with a fresh coat of paint and fragrant lilacs in the garden – a serene scene that belies the struggles this home and its owners have endured.

In September, 2013, floods devastated a large part of Shawna and Steve Rohrbach’s small town, and while their home was not destroyed, water that seeped in through the roof and walls caused damage. Mold overtook the home, and Shawna became sick.

The couple had to move out so the house could be partially torn down and repaired while they tried to rebuild their own lives. During those 16 months, the couple was forced to move 12 times, causing physical, emotional and financial hardship.

Shawna, 55, who has lived in Lyons for 22 years, says some of her stress during that period was eased by the American Red Cross, which provided financial assistance for housing, furniture and gas.

“The Red Cross was a dream. There was no red tape, no need for endless paperwork, calls or emails. The people treated us with such compassion and kindness, and they were so efficient," Shawna recalls.

Shawna was so impressed by the Red Cross that she plans to volunteer as soon as she can. For now she needs to keep working to help pay off loans, but she says she will never forget how the Red Cross helped her during such a stressful time in her life when it seemed that nobody else truly cared.

While Colorado communities are finally recovering from the 2013 floods, more than 8,000 households in Texas are currently experiencing the devastation caused by severe weather -- and the Red Cross is there for those residents, too. Since early May, more than 1,800 Red Cross workers have opened 37 shelters, served 40,000 meals and snacks and handed out 34,000 relief items and cleaning supplies. 

In Texas, they are just beginning the long journey to recovery, but with help from the Red Cross -- and Red Cross supporters -- we hope that their future holds promise of a return to serenity, as well. If you would like to support our efforts, visit to make a donation.