Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Twitter Offers Relief for Family in Ireland Worried About Littleton Senior

By Patricia Billinger 
In today’s information age, news travels fast about disasters happening all over the world. Less than 24 hours after a fire forced more than 130 seniors to evacuate from an apartment building in Littleton, family in Ireland had already heard the word and were worried for their relative, Pat O’Connor. Pat was among the seniors who evacuated, first to a temporary evacuation point and then to a Red Cross shelter set up in a church across the street from the apartment building.

 Pat is one of a family of 8 siblings (6 boys and 2 girls), most who still live in Ireland. According to his family, he has numerous nieces and nephews, as well as grand nieces and grand nephews in Ireland.

“I first learnt of the fire via a phone call from my dad (Pat's brother). Pat's partner’s daughter had sent a message to my cousin over here to tell him about the fire and the message was disseminated through the family from there,” said Leanne O’Connor, one of Pat’s nieces in Ireland.

Leanne and family members spot the news
feed on Twitter.
Many of the evacuated seniors were without a steady form of communication, having left behind cell phones when they evacuated, never owning cell phones, or – in the case of a few seniors with family overseas – not able to afford the high cost of placing international calls from a cell phone. Worried about the fate of her uncle, Leanne hopped on the internet to find out more.

“I Googled the fire and came across a news article that mentioned the Red Cross Denver with their tweets regarding the fire,” Leanne explained. Hungry for information and updates, she followed @redcrossdenver on Twitter.

The American Red Cross is often considered a national leader in using social media during emergencies – known in the industry as #SMEM – and makes it a regular practice to share informational updates, lifesaving tips and advice, and guidance on how to give and get help during disasters large and small. The 130-unit apartment evacuation in Littleton was no exception; local Red Cross staff and volunteers were active sharing information on Twitter, Facebook and

In addition to the updates posted to Twitter, Red Cross staff responded to Leanne’s inquiry on the social media platform and were able to confirm that that he was safely staying with a daughter.
A local Red Cross Twitter admin reaches out to Leanne
to add that extra touch of customer service.

Confirmed: He was safe and sound.

“The information that I was able to obtain from your Twitter account administrator was invaluable as it put our minds at ease over here in Ireland,” Leanne said. “I can not thank you enough!”

Leanne said Pat has been in contact with a few family members since the fire, although his contact has been limited due to the expense of making international calls from a cell phone.

“I'd just like to reiterate my thanks for all the information you were able to provide to extremely worried relatives in Ireland,” Leanne said. “The power of Twitter is just amazing!!”

Are you social media savvy and interested in using social media to save lives, help people during disasters and alleviate suffering? The Red Cross utilizes volunteers to help staff its social media efforts.Sign up to volunteer at 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Threat of Severe Weather Looming over Eastern Colorado

SPC Day 2 Outlook valid for Friday, April 15, 2016
Hazardous weather is possible across much of eastern Colorado Friday afternoon and this weekend and we encourage everyone to take a look at their emergency plans and procedures to make sure they are ready for possible weather emergencies. According to NOAA Storm Prediction Center, “Severe storms with large hail, damaging winds, and a few tornadoes will be possible across parts of the central and southern high plains beginning in the late afternoon.” The area mentioned includes much of eastern Colorado (see graphic courtesy of

Meanwhile, according to the NOAA National Weather Service office in Boulder, CO, a Winter Storm Watch is in effect for the Front Range Foothills of Colorado for late Friday night through late Saturday night with the potential for heavy snow from the Palmer Divide to Wyoming.

So, what should you be doing today to prepare for the threat of severe weather tomorrow?

Screen shot of  Red Cross
Emergency app
“The single most important thing that a person can do to be better prepared for emergencies is to download the Red Cross Emergency app,” said Michael Masto, Regional Disaster Officer for the Red Cross of Colorado and Wyoming. “Once it is downloaded though people need to know how to use it.”

The Emergency app is a single ‘go-to’ source for everything from home fires to hurricanes. It includes content from a group of award-winning Red Cross apps with additional information about what to do in case of 14 different types of emergencies and disasters. Users can customize more than 35 emergency alerts based on their location and where loved ones live.

The all-inclusive Emergency app will provide you with instant access to emergency alerts, life-saving information, and ways to contact family and friends in one free, easy-to-use app for smart phones and tablets.
Screen shot of Family Safe feature
available in Red Cross
Emergency app

The app includes the “Family Safe” feature that allows the app user to notify loved ones who are in an area affected by an emergency or disaster. The recipient can instantly see the alert details as well as specific “what to do now” steps, and then respond with either “I’m safe” or “I’m not safe.”

To find out more about the Red Cross Emergency app and to download it  go to

We urge you to examine your family emergency plan, including your emergency communications plan before severe weather strikes. Take the time now because you might not have the time when severe weather strikes.

Below are some additional links that will help you to be better prepare and better informed about severe weather.

NOAA Storm Prediction Center (SPC) –
National Weather Service Northeast Colorado –
National Weather Service for Southeast Colorado –
Red Cross Emergency Preparedness Information - www.redcross.prg/prepare
Red Cross Emergency app –

Short video about the Red Cross
Emergency app

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Grad Student Majoring in Disaster Preparedness Prepares at Home

By Kelly Wheeler

Kristen Elzey
As a grad student at the University of Denver, Kristen Elzey is well-versed on the impact of disasters on victims -- her master's program is dedicated to trauma-focused clinical psychology. Yet when Kristen decided to become a Red Cross volunteer, she realized she was not prepared for a potential disaster in her own home.

After learning through Red Cross training that on average seven people die every day from a home fire and that smoke alarms cut the risk of death from a fire in half, Kristen decided to take advantage of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, whose goal is to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25% by the end of 2019. Kristen did not have working smoke detectors in her rented Denver home, so Red Cross volunteers installed four alarms, which only took half an hour. This simple act has brought peace of mind to both Kristen and her roommate, a Denver Public School teacher.

Kristen says her work at the Red Cross as a ROC volunteer has been incredibly rewarding and she looks forward to performing disaster preparedness for refugees in the near future with a volunteer team in Colorado. Certainly her degree in international disaster psychology will well-equip her to help others in need both here and abroad.

You can help others in need of smoke alarms like Kristen by volunteering with the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign on May 14. Learn more.

How a Simple Phone Call Reduced Anxiety on Two Continents

by Patricia Billinger

Mrs. C is a gentle, quiet, positive woman who doesn’t like to draw attention to herself. That’s why she agreed to share her story, but asked not to share her name and photo. That’s also why she didn’t initially think to ask for help with a somewhat unusual need: help placing a call to Italy.

Mrs. C is petite, with dove grey hair and a soft, round, smiling face. Neatly coiffed and dressed in clean clothes that fit her small frame well, you wouldn’t know at first glance that she was an evacuee who had spent the past 7 nights in a Red Cross shelter.

The Red Cross shelter where Mrs. C has been staying.
Mrs. C is one of the 130 seniors who were displaced from their apartments last week due to an apartment fire. She has been staying at the Red Cross shelter in Littleton since then. And while she quickly met her physical needs at the shelter through hot meals, fresh clothes, and help obtaining medications, she didn’t know that the Red Cross could also help her with her other most pressing need. It wasn’t a physical need, but it was just as important: she hadn’t spoken with her family in over a week, and she was worried about their inability to reach her and that they would be anxious about her well being after such an extended period of silence.

Her fears came up during a conversation with a Red Cross caseworker who met with her to find out how she was doing and open a case to determine what disaster-related needs she had and how the Red Cross and other community agencies could help meet those needs. “Yesterday, I went to sign up for the case and I said I have two problems. This is one of them: I can’t get a hold of my kids. I don’t have a phone, and I don’t know how to do it,” Mrs. C recalled.

Mrs. C was born in the United States but traveled to Italy as a young adult. “I went to meet the Pope, then I met my husband, married and had kids and raised them,” she said. After living in Italy for 40 years, she returned to the United States with her family – but her daughter and son missed the home where they were raised, and they moved back to Italy. They stay in touch with regular calls and visits.

“Me and my kids call each other and leave each other messages. If I’m home, I answer. If they’re home, they answer. Otherwise we leave messages,” she explained. Without her land line, she doesn’t have a phone capable of making international calls, and she doesn’t have a computer so never emails her children. She knew her children would worry about her when they called her evacuated apartment and got no answer. “Once before this happened. They were working on the phones and the phones were off, and my kids were so worried when they couldn’t reach me. ‘Is she sick? Is she dead?’ they were calling several times a day trying to reach me. That’s why I was so worried about this!”

Mrs. C’s Red Cross caseworker quickly got the word delivered to the Colorado & Wyoming region’s Restoring Family Links (RFL) program. Restoring Family Links is an international Red Cross program that works to reconnect families separated by conflict, disaster and migration. The Colorado & Wyoming Region is a participant in the Red Cross Restoring Family Links phone program, which provides free phone calls between family members who have been separated. In Colorado, a Red Cross worker brings a cell phone to the local family member and connects the call to their loved ones abroad using Google Voice.

The Red Cross Restoring Family Links phone program
helps connect families separated by conflict, disaster and migration
At 9 a.m. the very next morning after Mrs. C met with a Red Cross caseworker, Red Cross International Services Manager Tim Bothe showed up at the shelter with a cell phone so she could call her daughter in Italy. He took her to a quiet room away from the rest of the shelter residents so she could place the international call.

“I was able to call them today. I left a message and said ‘I’m fine. They’re working on the phones so that’s why you can’t reach me.’ I’m going to write them a card about all this,” Mrs. C said, smiling and gesturing around her at the shelter. She leaned in to explain her little white lie: “I don’t want them going into hysterics over there…once they’ve heard my voice on the message, they can know I’m OK.”

It’s a testament to her character and positive attitude that Mrs. C was so worried about how her situation would affect her children.

“That was a big load off of my shoulders,” she said about being able to let her children know she’s doing fine.

And Mrs. C says she is doing fine. “They took my blood pressure this morning. It was good! They got me some medication for my eyes – eye drops. They gave me some clothes and a jacket and socks, and food every day,” she explained. “I don’t have any worries,” Mrs. C concluded with her characteristic soft smile.

When we think about disasters, we immediately gravitate to the physical needs: shelter. Food. Water. Clothing. Medications. One of the most pressing needs of disaster survivors is far less tangible, but equally important as all the rest: Communication. 

When people have to flee their homes quickly in the face of a fire, wildfire, flood or other disaster, they often find themselves missing critical links in their ability to communicate with loved ones. They may have forgotten or broken their phone or its charger, and may not have loved one’s phone numbers memorized. The Red Cross helps to reconnect people after disasters. 

We encourage you to take two steps today: make a family emergency communication plan, and support the Red Cross in our work helping people affected by disasters and emergencies.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Helpers Clothe Displaced Seniors in Dignity

By Patricia Billinger

It had been less than 24 hours since a raging fire drove them out of their 130-unit apartment complex, but for the seniors staying at a Red Cross shelter at Littleton United Methodist Church, it felt like they had been in their clothes for much longer. The morning after the fire, a number of the seniors were concerned about fresh, clean clothing.

Just as quickly, the community responded. Members of the church brought in brand new undergarments and socks of various sizes for both men and women. Meanwhile, a representative from local nonprofit Love INC met with each of the residents staying at the shelter to gather their sizes so that a team of volunteers could go shopping for a brand new set of clothes for each person. In addition to meeting basic medical needs, Red Cross nurses secured other items to make them more comfortable, such as Depends undergarments and Poligrip for their dentures.

“It takes a whole community to meet the wide range of needs that arise after a disaster, especially when that disaster strikes a vulnerable population. It’s truly neighbors helping neighbors,” said George Sullivan, Regional Disaster Director for the Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming. “The way numerous agencies, nonprofits and religious organizations have come together to help these seniors is an excellent example of a whole-community partnership response.”

Richard Cowen proudly sports a new shirt provided by Love INC.
Most importantly, groups like Love INC stepped up to provide help in a way that helped meet the specific needs of the evacuees and did so in a manner that maintained their dignity. Rather than making the seniors paw through a pile of used, donated clothing searching for something that might fit, the residents were connected with comfortable, new clothing in their correct sizes.

Meanwhile, Love INC has also maintained a list of local residents willing to do laundry for the evacuees, reducing the need for additional clothing purchases or donations. They are also facilitating free hair appointments with Empire Beauty School and providing transportation to the appointments.

“The little things matter. I wanted to provide help in the same way I would have wanted my own grandmother to receive help,” said Jessi Lambert of Love INC. “How would you want your grandmother or mother to be treated? That’s how we should treat everyone.”

For people like 67-year-old Richard Cowen, who has been staying at the Red Cross shelter since the fire on April 6, the little things do matter.

The day after receiving a fresh pair of new clothes, Richard greeted me with a charming grin and his customary, “Hey, Trouble!” This day, he gestured proudly at his crisp, rad-and-blue plaid long-sleeved cowboy shirt.

“You look sharp!” I said, sincerely. His smile broadened and his eyes twinkled at the compliment. “You like my shirt? It’s new!” He said. He knew he looked good, and it clearly made him feel better, too. “Man, it felt good!” Richard said about changing into the fresh new shirt. “Everyone here has been so good to me.”

You can support the caring, compassionate work of the Red Cross and Love INC by volunteering or making a financial donation. Visit or to find out more.

Monday, April 11, 2016

International Services Lunch and Learn Explores Dark Chapter in Ethiopia's History

By Cassie Schoon

Ethiopian restaurants are a fixture of my East Colfax neighborhood. Ethiopian text adorns storefronts in nearby shopping centers. When I lived in the Governor’s Park neighborhood, I used to watch in curious wonder as Ethiopian women dressed in white would walk to the church at 7th and Pearl. It seems my life in Denver has never been far from the presence of Ethiopian immigrants and refugees. I’d often wonder, why did so many Ethiopian families seek refuge so far away, here in Colorado? A partial answer is a terrible historical event: the Ethiopian Red Terror, the topic of last week’s special edition of the Red Cross International Services Lunch and Learn, featuring speaker Dr. Peter Van Arsdale of University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. In the 1970s, dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam gained control of Ethiopia’s military junta, the Derg. Under his direction, the Derg carried out a campaign of violence- torturing, raping and murdering hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian people.

Dr. Peter W. Van Arsdale
Nearly four decades after the Derg’s atrocities began, Ethiopia is a nation transformed. Once the country of origin for most African refugees, Ethiopia is now the continent’s number-one host nation for asylees and refugees, particularly from neighboring South Sudan. Ethiopian life expectancy and quality of life has increased to a point where Ethiopian refugees and their families are returning to their homeland in unprecedented numbers. So why is it important to revisit the horrors of the Derg and the Red Terror? For Dr. Van Arsdale, it’s a matter of history repeating. The Red Terror may be over, but the factors that gave rise to it are evergreen.

“A consideration of the Red Terror" today is essential, since bullying, brutality, and genocide sadly are ongoing. We must learn more about the ‘how’ and ‘why,’ not just the ‘what’" of these crucial issues,” he said. “Furthermore, these are not just ‘overseas, distant lessons,’ but ‘at-home, nearby lessons.’"

For Dr. Van Arsdale, however, it is not enough to simply study and discuss these tensions. Dr. Van Arsdale’s life work has always blended an academic background with the mission of advancing human rights and dignity.

“My work in anthropology has been as an applied cultural/medical anthropologist,” he said. The key term is ‘applied,’ meaning that I've always been less interested in theorizing and more interested in what's called "praxis," the on-site intersection of practice, ethics, and theory.”

A co-founder of Denver Hospice and the force behind the Denver/Axum Sister City program, Dr. Van Arsdale has also worked toward the provision of refugee mental health resources, torture-survivor assistance and other services for the more than 30,000 refugees from Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Denver Metro area. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross remains committed in Ethiopia and surrounding nations to reconnect refugee families with their loved ones.

For more information on the presence of the ICRC in the Horn of Africa, click here. For more on Dr. Van Arsdale’s work, click here.

IHL Film Series: "Nanking" and the Horror of Wartime Atrocities

By Cassie Schoon

Philanthropist and former AOL Chairman Ted Leonis read Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking on vacation in 2005, and began researching the event himself. He was inspired by the book and his own findings to produce the Nanking and made the unconventional move to offer the documentary available online at no cost. Nanking received acceptance to the 2007 Sundance festival and earned a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize in the documentary category. The film includes notable performances by Woody Harrelson and Mariel Hemingway.

Accounts of wartime atrocities in 1930s Asia are controversial, and Nanking was no exception. Japanese historians and political figures claimed the documentary was pro-China, anti-Japanese propaganda. Japanese nationalist filmmaker Satoru Mizushima was prompted to follow the release of Nanking with his own The Truth about Nanjing, denying the massacre, less than a year later. As recently as 2014, the head of Japan’s public broadcasting organization asserted that the incident never occurred. Though the event itself was nearly eight decades ago, tensions around the atrocity and others during the Sino-Japanese wars still strain relations between Japan and China.

The film will be screened at 5:30 pm Thursday, April 14, at the Red Cross, 444 Sherman St., in Denver. A roundtable discussion will follow the presentation of the film and its connections to International Humanitarian Law, laws of armed conflict, and the advancement of human dignity. To RSVP for the event, click here. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Red Cross SAF Volunteer Experiences SAF Support

By Kyle Fiehler/American Red Cross

Army SPC Job Ojo, a native of Nigeria, is a member of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Carson. He is also a Red Cross volunteer with the American Red Cross Service to Armed Forces (SAF) program. He understands the importance of emergency communications messages and the importance of keeping families connected during military deployments. However, as a Red Cross volunteer he never thought that he would need to experience Red Cross support first hand. Fortunately he did have the forethought to make sure his family knew how to use the services in the event of an emergency.

“I’d been trained by the Red Cross, so I knew pretty much about emergency situations and the need to get information to service members,” SPC Ojo said. “I gave the information out to my family members in Nigeria, just in case.”
SAF volunteer SPC Job Ojo holds a photo of his family
while standing with SAF managers Barbara Shufelt (l) and
Gaby Skovira (r) outside the Southeastern Colorado
Red Cross office in Colorado Springs, CO. Photo
by Richard Firth/American Red Cross

And then, one day, a family emergency occurred and the Red Cross was there to help.

In January of 2016, Ojo’s adoptive father— “the one who sent me to school,” in his words— was on the way to the Federal University of Technology in Minna, Nigeria where he served as a guest lecturer. He was driving along a road very early in the morning when his car struck a truck parked on the roadside. The passenger side where his father was sitting absorbed the brunt of the impact. He suffered serious head injuries and died a little while after the accident.

SPC Ojo’s sister was the first to be notified and she immediately began passing along the news to the rest of the family, but she was unsure of how to get in touch with SPC Ojo who was with his unit in the U.S.

Luckily, an elder brother remembered information he had been given regarding Red Cross services to use in an emergency. A call was made and a message was sent to unit Command alerting SPC Ojo to the emergency. That message put things in motion allowing him to reconnect with his family. Red Cross documentation also helped secure a zero interest loan from the Army, so that he could return to Nigeria for his father’s funeral.

“I’d just like to extend my appreciation to the Red Cross,” he said. “Getting the message through the Red Cross was helpful because my chain of command was notified and that helped a lot in processing my emergency leave travel to Nigeria to attend the funeral.”

SPC Job Ojo knew that the Service to Armed Forces program would help if there was a need to connect with his family anywhere in the world. He had worked emergency communication cases for other service members. He now has an even greater appreciation for the Red Cross and the SAF Emergency Communications Service.

Many Americans aren’t aware that, as one of its five core services, the Red Cross assists the U. S. military through the Service to Armed Forces program. Providing services to the armed forces for more than 100 years, the Red Cross takes pride in being that direct link between service members and their families. Emergency Communications is one of the activities provided by the SAF program and in 2015 over 350,000 emergency communications were provided to more than 100,000 military members and their families.

You can initiate a request for emergency assistance for members of the military currently serving on active duty by contacting our Red Cross Hero Care Center, 7 days-a-week, 24 hours-a-day. Using a computer, smart phone or tablet, you can start a request for services and track its progress from anywhere in the world at To speak to a Red Cross Emergency Communications Specialist call: 1-877-272-7337.

You can support our nation’s military through the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces program as a volunteer or as a donor. Find out how you can help at

Friday, April 8, 2016

After a Disaster, The Little Things Count

By Kimberly Blanco 
The day began as any other typical day in the lives of the residents of a Littleton senior apartment complex: drinking coffee, watching television, catching up with family and friends on Facebook. In an instant, this morning was not so typical at all. As the fire alarm began to sound, residents of the complex began to evacuate the building, hoping it was just a false alarm.

It wasn’t.

Ruth, left, speaks with Jessi of Love INC.
About 130 seniors had to evacuate from their apartment building on April 6 due to an apartment fire, and they have not been able to return.

Ruth Slocum, Marjorie Seery, and Kay Rogers are not only neighbors at the complex, but are friends. Today, instead of relaxing in the comforts of home, they are sharing time together and swapping stories at a Red Cross shelter that was opened shortly after the fire broke out. The shelter, located at the Littleton United Methodist Church, has been a temporary home to Ruth, Kay, and 22 of the 130 seniors who evacuated from the apartment complex. Like many of the other evacuees, Marjorie has been staying with friends -- but she visits the shelter for medication distribution, status updates from local emergency officials, and immediate needs such as food and clothing.

 Although their lives have been upended by the disaster, the friends are finding comfort in each other and in the small details that make life out of their homes a little bit more normal and comfortable.

“Today is my hair day,” Ruth said as she smiled and ran her fingers through her short, curly hair. She never misses a Thursday appointment with her stylist; at least not until today. Missing the comforts of home, Ruth was pleased to find a comb among the various hygiene items in a comfort packet provided by the Red Cross. Although Ruth had to wait another day for makeup to complete her beauty routine, she was so pleased to be able to comb her hair and wash her face. Ruth and Marjorie shared their stories with local media.

Ruth shares her story about her "hair day" with
Red Cross volunteer Kimberly Blanco.
“It’s the little things,” explained Jessi Lambert, who works for Love INC, a local nonprofit that provided clothing, underwear and – yes – brand new cosmetics for evacuees at the shelter. She noted that everyday comforts may seem like a minor detail, but they mean a lot to people who have lost everything and find solace in regaining whatever bits of normalcy and routine they can.

Ruth and Marjorie shared their stories with local media. As the two ladies spoke, they held hands in support of one another. Describing the event as “traumatic,” Ruth and Marjorie thanked everyone at the shelter for their support in helping them make the best of this experience. Ruth admitted to getting a good night of sleep because of the care and comforts she has been provided, including being able to have her purse and medications thanks to firefighters who retrieved them from her apartment.

Like Ruth and Marjorie, Kay is maintaining a positive outlook in the face of uncertainty. “You don’t realize how lost you are” until you have nothing but the clothes on your back, Kay said. But the challenge has been eased by the help and compassion of the volunteers around them. “Everyone is really taking care of us,” she said.

The Red Cross depends on the generosity of donors and the hard work of volunteers to help people like Ruth, Marjorie and Kay. Last year the Red Cross helped nearly 1,000 people affected by disasters large and small in Colorado and Wyoming. If you would like to support these efforts, please consider signing up to volunteer or making a financial donation at

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Red Cross Responds to Multi-Unit Apartment Fire at Senior Living Facility

Final Update: Thursday, April 28 2016
The multi-agency resource center for seniors displaced from the Southview Place Towers apartments closed on Wednesday, April 27. However, help is still available for those affected by this disaster.

People who were affected by the apartment fire are encouraged to register with the Red Cross for casework services, assistance and help with their long-term recovery. You can do so by calling 303-607-4796 and leaving a message; a caseworker will call you back within 24 hours.

At this time, food, clothing, and furniture needs of the evacuees of this apartment fire are being directly met through the collaborative efforts of the agencies, non-profits and religious groups listed below. If you would like to support these efforts, please consider making a financial donation to one of these organizations.

You can also make a financial donation to the Southview Apartments Fire Victims Fund, administered by Arapahoe County.

The most pressing immediate needs for which we are seeking help are landlords/property owners who have vacant, ADA-compliant, affordable apartment units available to lease to the seniors, who will not be able to return to their apartments and need appropriate, affordable housing to move into as a permanent new home. Ideally, these units are in the greater Littleton/Arapahoe County area. Landlords with vacancies should contact Arapahoe County Housing and Community Development: Liana Escott at 303-738-8066.

The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on the generosity of volunteers and donors to carry out its mission. If you would like to help people affected by this fire and other disasters large and small in Colorado, please consider donating at or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS.

On Wednesday, April 6, the American Red Cross opened a shelter for seniors evacuated from the Southview Place Towers apartments in Littleton. The Red Cross operated a shelter for the displaced residents until Saturday, April 16, when all residents who were staying at the shelter were successfully placed in temporary accommodations in apartments, assisted care communities, and hotels. The shelter closed on Saturday, April 16, but the Red Cross continues to deliver services and meet with affected residents.
The Red Cross shelter provided more than 150 overnight stays.

While the shelter was open, up to 100 evacuees from the apartment complex came to the site each day to attend informational updates, eat meals, get clothing and access a variety of services such as Red Cross health services, clothing, laundry, and emotional and spiritual support.

From Wednesday, April 6, through Wednesday, April 27:

  • The Red Cross, the Knights of Columbus and The Salvation Army served more than 1,850 meals and snacks. 
  • Red Cross nurses had  more than 300 contacts with evacuees to help replace medications, check on their medical status and provide basic care. 
  • Red Cross mental health workers made more than 250 contacts with the seniors to support their emotional well-being. Additionally, emotional and spiritual care experts from The Salvation Army have been providing comfort for evacuees. 
  • The shelter provided more than 150 overnight stays. 
FOOD: The Red Cross, The Salvation Army and the Knights of Columbus served meals at 7 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. daily through Friday, April 15. Breakfast for remaining residents was served on Saturday morning prior to closing the shelter to place it on standby, as all residents had been placed in more comfortable housing.

Red Cross nurses staffed the shelter 24/7 from April 6 through April 16, checking regularly on shelter residents and helping with basic medical needs and medication refills.
•    Evacuees can still request help refilling prescriptions for medications. Call 303-607-4796 and leave a message; a Red Cross caseworker will return phone calls within 24 hours.

Community members and local nonprofit Love INC have purchased new underwear and clothing for shelter residents.
  • Seniors who have not yet received clothing and still need it can contact Love INC with their clothing sizes to request a fresh set of clothes.
  • The Savers thrift store on S. Datura and Littleton Blvd. is offering a deep discount on clothing and bedding for all individuals evacuated from the apartment building. Please meet with Red Cross casework to receive a confirmation slip to show to the store.

Mental Health experts and spiritual care volunteers from The Salvation Army and the Red Cross were on site at the shelter to provide emotional support from April 6 through April 16. They will continue to be available to provide comfort in coming weeks. Please call the Red Cross casework line to meet with a care provider.

Pets are an important part of many families, and their needs were being met by shelter provided by the Humane Society of the South Platte Valley. Evacuees can board their pets at the Humane Society for free.

The American Red Cross and several community partners operated a multi-agency resource center at the Life Center, 5804 S. Datura St., Littleton, to help meet the needs of seniors who were displaced due to a fire at the Southview Place Towers apartment complex fire on April 6, 2016. 

Residents displaced from Southview were able to visit the resource center to meet with caseworkers and agency representatives to discuss their disaster-related needs and get help with planning their long-term recovery. Representatives from the American Red Cross, Love INC, Arapahoe County Housing and Community Development, Knights of Columbus, St. Mary Catholic Parish, and the United Way came together to offer resources including:

  • Packing and moving services
  • Vouchers for clothing
  • Real estate searches for available housing
  • Food pantry
  • Veterans assistance
  • Gift cards to King Soopers and Safeway
  • Gift cards to Savers
  • Limited financial assistance
  • Help refilling medications
  • Weekday transportation
  • Select furnishings
  • Spiritual care and direction
  • Referrals for other services such as mental health and counseling

This blog will no longer be updated after Monday, May 2, 2016. Thank you for following our updates!

Helping Others Prepare: Become a Red Cross Trainer

By Mary Urban

Teaching others to be adept and clear-headed when handling emergencies not only benefits those who are being taught, but instills confidence in the instructor. It reinforces for the teacher what preparedness entails, as well as honing public interaction and speaking skills. The Red Cross offers the Preparedness Academy for those who enjoy teaching other community members and volunteers for any organization or business.

On April 16-17, the Mile High Chapter of the Red Cross will be hosting a Preparedness Academy that includes several different courses focused on training individuals with the desire to teach others these potentially life-saving skills. Participants can choose to attend one day of their choice or both days.

In the Ready Rating (business preparedness) and Be Red Cross Ready (individual preparedness) attendees will view a presentation with instructors. Then class attendees will facilitate the presentation within the community, with assistance from a more experienced presenter.

The Pillowcase Project teaches kids how to stay safe and how to create their own emergency supply kits by packing essential items in a pillowcase for easy transport during a disaster. Participants in the Pillowcase Project training class will watch the instructor’s presentation, and then everyone pairs up and gets a turn to present to the class, reinforcing the material multiple times.

The Home Fire Campaign class will be taught for the first time exclusively in a classroom for the Mile High Red Cross. In the past, the Home Fire Campaign training was briefly done on-site in the morning; attendees then applied their skills in the community the remainder of the day. This training will provide the skills for volunteers to help others with home fire campaigns. The Preparedness Academy attendee will train other volunteers to visit homes and install smoke alarms and educate residents about fire safety. This is a regular activity, focused on a variety of neighborhoods in Colorado.

Classes are free to the public. Breakfast and lunch will be served both days. Sign up here.

Preparedness Academy Day 1 -- 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., Saturday, April 16: Learn to train adults, organizations and the business community through the Red Cross Ready Rating program, Be Red Cross Ready Training, and the Home Fire Campaign.

Preparedness Academy Day 2 -- 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday, April 17: Learn to deliver The Pillowcase Training for elementary-age children. This training teaches children about disasters, fire safety, and how they can be prepared for emergencies.

The classes will be held at Red Cross of Colorado Headquarters 444 Sherman St. Denver, CO 80203.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Giving Your Time, Talent and Treasure

By MaryBeth Lawson

From employee to rock star volunteer and philanthropist, Catherine Barde-Levanthal is an incredible example of what it means to give your time, talent and treasure.

Catherine was first inspired to deploy following the devastating earthquake in Haiti. While Catherine said that she “didn’t know how I would be able to provide for clients and not be affected,” it was that experience which helped her feel “on solid ground” when disaster struck her own community. While employed at the Red Cross as the Director of Communications and Fund Development at the

Catherine Barde-Leventhal (L) with her husband Jim Leventhal and
Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern at the Leventhal home in Denver.
Photo credit American Red Cross
American Red Cross Pikes Peak Chapter in Colorado Springs, Catherine saw Waldo Canyon Wildfire burn several of her friends’ homes along with over 300  others residences. She worked out of a Red Cross shelter, which was also the high school her son attended, providing critical lifesaving information, while the community of Colorado Springs had to evacuate 36,000 people in a matter of hours. “Seeing my son’s school repurposed was an incredible, unbelievable and impactful experience. I was there to do a job to inform people where to find services.”

After she left her position as paid staff she continued to volunteer  for the Red Cross.  All told, Catherine has deployed 10 times, responding to disasters all over the country including Superstorm Sandy, the 2013 Colorado Floods and working as a Digital volunteer partnering with the International Federation of the Red Cross for the Nepal Earthquake. She was most recently honored with the opportunity to be a part of the Red Cross Papal Communications Team, sharing stories about how they were assisting with the reunification of families separated in the historic visit.

Catherine Barde-Leventhal provided hope and comfort while
deployed during the Superstorm Sandy Response. Photo
credit American Red Cross
When asked what continues to inspire her to deploy, she says “it all comes back to the volunteers.” During her time as an employee, Catherine and Pikes Peak Volunteer Debbie McSwain paid house calls, collecting volunteer stories. “Talking to longtime volunteers and hearing their stories – focusing on advocating for them and recognizing their accomplishments… I cannot say enough about the volunteers of this organization.” The work that Catherine does when she deploys continues to inspire her. As an APAT (Advanced Public Affairs Team) Volunteer, Catherine’s job is to tell the story and connect the dots. “I’m not only helping the media tell our story, but I am helping families find Red Cross resources to ensure the community affected gets what it needs.”

Catherine Barde-Leventhal (seated) monitors social
media at the Red Cross Digital Operations Center in
Dallas, TX in May 2015. Photo credit American
Red Cross
It is that experience of gathering and telling stories that motivates her generosity. “Having worked with people at a time of their greatest need, I see the donation at work – providing food and shelter, I see how money is used.” Catherine’s generosity qualifies her to be a member of our Tiffany Circle, a group of women who give $10,000 or more annually to the American Red Cross. Catherine recently leveraged her volunteerism in a new way and hosted an exclusive donor event during a visit from national CEO Gail McGovern at her home. “It is not just the money, but the support of my family that makes it happen.” When deploying on a Disaster Response Operation, or DRO, volunteers commit a minimum of 10 days. “My husband will lose me for weeks at a time when I deploy,” she says, and that fact is true of every volunteer that deploys for the American Red Cross. “I love the mission, I love the heart [of the American Red Cross],” she says, and thanks her family for their support and empowerment as she continues to give us her all.