Giving Back, a Way of Life

by Martine Costello, Red Cross volunteer

* Armed Services Day is May 20th.

Jean Marsilli was a new collegerco_blog_img_afd graduate in 1970 looking to support the troops when she volunteered to go to Vietnam to be an American Red Cross “Donut Dolly.” From the DMZ to the Mekong Delta she traveled by chopper deep into the jungle to remote fire bases to cheer up the soldiers with games, snacks and warm smiles.  She would sometimes see napalm burning in the distance when she landed, surrounded by snipers, as the rotors kicked up the hem of her blue Red Cross dress.

The retired teacher and grandmother is still an active Red Cross volunteer.  She distributed food to flood-stricken homeowners on Long Island after Hurricane Sandy in 2013, and worked at an emergency shelter in Baton Rouge after a catastrophic flood in 2016, putting in 12-hour shifts “with 300 of my new best friends.”

At 68, she never seems to get tired of helping, and today drives a bus to help homeless people get around. She remains ready to travel if misfortune strikes.

What keeps her going? Giving back.

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“We all had our own reasons for going to Vietnam,” she says. “I went because the guys were going and I thought it was important to be there. I volunteer today because I’ve always done it. It’s not something we should do – it’s something we have to do. We have to help each other. It’s an obligation like voting.”

The Vietnam years remain vivid to her. Unlike the USO shows that the late comedian Bob Hope used to do, flying in and out for a whirlwind tour, the Donut Dollies remained in-country. They traveled to remote mountaintops with a 1-acre patch of cleared jungle. The only other visible landmarks were guns and sandbags. The cheeky pilots would keep the rotors going as the dollies would exit the chopper, sending their skirts up in the air in the style of the iconic Marilyn Monroe photo. “I sent home for some colored underwear,” she says with a laugh. But the mood would turn serious when there was word of Viet Cong in the area and the chopper would have to use its long-range gun.  The dollies would put their fingers in their ears until the firing stopped.

“We were morale boosters,” she says simply, shrugging off the danger. “I have always tried to lead my life by helping, and I have tried to instill that in my children and my grandchildren. I try to help people who need it the most. It’s the right thing to do.”

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Boston Marathon 2017: All in a Day’s Work

by Jeff Hall, American Red Cross of Massachusetts

With the 121st running of the Bostonrco_blog_img_marathon2 Marathon in the books, we can pause for a moment and reflect on our success. Our charity running team “Team Red Cross” reached a momentous fundraising goal, collectively raising more than $530,000. A veritable squadron of medically trained volunteers treated more than 1,000 runners. The Red Cross disaster team staffed a number of governmental Emergency Operations Centers and “course disruption centers” to prepare for an unforeseen emergency. And while all of these volunteer efforts were on display, a house fire in Boston required the deployment of a Red Cross “Disaster Action Team” to assist a displaced family.

This enormous accomplishment for the 2017 Boston Marathon began last year, just a few months after the 2016 race. Our two volunteer leads, Stephanie Walsh and Paul Kastner, analyzed the positive and negative aspects of last year’s efforts, and charted the course for 2017.

The Boston Athletic Association, the organization that stages the Marathon, modifies the requirements slightly every year. It was then up to Stephanie and Paul to adjust our plans and training requirements for each of the nearly 500 medical tent volunteers.

In September 2016, the minimum fundraising goal for each Team Red Cross member was increased to $6,500 from $5,000. With this goal, the hundreds of applicants to the Team Red Cross charity team were then whittled down to the 60 bibs given to the Red Cross by the BAA. Some runners had posted qualifying times and were independently accepted in the 2017 race, but decided to run on the Red Cross charity team to raise money to help those in need here in Massachusetts.

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On the day of the Marathon, volunteers and runners gathered to receive their final words of motivation from Red Crossers before the race. Team Read Cross, now totaling 63 runners, made their way from downtown Boston to Hopkinton for the start of the Marathon.

Meanwhile in Wellesley, medical tent volunteers and support staff gathered at Babson College for breakfast, final preparations, their documentation kits and the much-coveted BAA-branded jacket. The medical stations supply basics such as petroleum jelly for chaffing, up to intravenous fluids for runners in more serious conditions. The medical stations act as mini-emergency rooms, where volunteers who work as EMTs or nurses during regular hours treat injuries and illnesses while sending the more urgent cases to area hospitals. With little shade and temperatures in the low 70s, medical tent volunteers were kept busy this year treating some of the 30,000 runners.

Once the race started, at around 9:30 a.m., medical volunteers started to see their first customers as wave after wave of runners left Hopkinton.

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Most of Team Red Cross began in Hopkinton in Wave 4, at about 11:30 a.m. The 63 runners made their way past Heartbreak Hill and into Boston’s Copley Square, where thousands of spectators greeted them. The American Red Cross partnered with Webster Bank this year to host runners and their families during and after the race. One by one, runners made their way into the Boylston Street Webster Bank location, the Team Red Cross Headquarters, to the sounds of cheers and congratulations from family and friends.

Although our medical volunteers would enjoy a Marathon where no runners require their assistance, they were called upon by numerous runners, some suffering from heat exhaustion, some from hypothermia. Over the course of nearly 12 hours, medical volunteers assisted more than 1,000 runners.

Many thanks out to all our volunteers and runners who gave of themselves to help make the 2017 Boston Marathon a tremendous success for the American Red Cross. For the corps of volunteers committed to the work of that American Red Cross of Massachusetts, it was all in a day’s work.

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Retirement and a whole new beginning

When a life is spent serving and protectingrco_blog_img_kmca your fellow citizens, retirement can leave a void that was once filled up with the simple idea of helping people.

After a 25-year career as a Massachusetts State trooper, Keith McAuliffe was finally home to shovel snow instead of out patrolling slippery roads across the state. When hurricanes stormed into coastal cities across the Northeast, he no longer had to answer the call for volunteers to deploy for weeks away from home.

It didn’t take long for Keith to realize helping people wasn’t just part of his job, it was his true self.

“I always looked at my law enforcement career as more helping people, and the Red Cross gave me a way to continue that on a local level. It’s exactly what I was looking for,” said Keith.

With his new-found free time, Keith signed up as a volunteer with the Mass Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross. As Keith worked his way through the different trainings required to become a member of a Disaster Action Team (DAT), he started to gain a better understanding of Red Cross mission and the different activities designed to achieve that mission.

“I always thought of the Red Cross as blood donation and big disasters around the country and around the world,” said Keith. Having just retired from a position that had him often away from home in the worst conditions, he wasn’t looking to go all over the country on deployments. “I was surprised when I started going to the trainings and they talked about the local stuff they do.”

Keith began responding to home fires as part of a Boston Metro DAT team, finding that staying local and helping his neighbors piqued his interest. “This is what I’m looking for. It’ll keep me busy and I can continue helping people, and do it on my terms, on my time without being overwhelmed with it every day,” said Keith. He later added, “Once you get into the work, you want to do it every day.”

It’s been nearly three years since Keith joined the American Red Cross. Now he works primarily behind the scenes, updating documentation and building and distributing the Disaster Morning Report. He works with Red Cross paid staff to make sure home fire response documentation is entered correctly, ensuring the smooth delivery of services to those affected by local disasters such as home fires.

Keith also takes pride in training new volunteers, helping them understand how they fit into the Red Cross and can achieve fulfillment from their work.

“The feeling you get when you’re out helping people who are at one of the lowest points in their lives, that feeling of good that you get makes your feel better as a volunteer. Knowing that you’re helping people who are at the point of taking those first steps after a home fire, it renews the good feeling you get as a volunteer.”

Keith knows everyone comes to the Red Cross for his/her own reasons. But the humanitarian spirit lives within every mission of the Red Cross, and it’s that spirit that draws in so many volunteers who are there, night and day, to bring comfort to those in need.hfc quincy

 

Helping our military members here and around the world

The original mission of the Red Crossrco_blog_img_dion started in the 1800’s with services that helped military members and their families. Clara Barton assisted our armed forces both during and after the Civil War.

That same spirit continues today the American Red Cross dedicated Service to Armed Forces program. Today Red Cross volunteers across the United States and around the world are ready to help service members and their families cope with deployments, assist them with critical community and financial services and provide comfort to veterans in crisis.

Allison Dion from Paxton, Mass., has volunteered with the Red Cross for more than a year, focusing on the work we do serving military families and veterans.

“I first attended an event gift wrapping hats and scarves for the Warmer Winters program to support the local veteran population during the cold months,” said Allison. “I wanted to give back during the holidays, and while at the event, I was informed of some volunteer opportunities which sparked my interest.”

The American Red Cross military and veteran services are aimed at preventing, preparing for and responding to the unique challenges that arise as a result of the deployment cycle and beyond. Local Red Cross offices provide holistic casework and coordination of resources to clients with specific needs. This key Red Cross service ranges from responding to emergency needs for food, clothing, and shelter to referrals to counseling services (e.g., financial, legal, mental health), respite care for caregivers, and other resources that meet the unique needs of local military members, veterans and their families. Through partnerships with key community partners, Red Cross caseworkers identify clients’ needs, connect them to the most appropriate Red Cross and community resources and ensure follow through.

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“The Service to the Armed Forces program was brought to my attention, and being from a military family myself, I thought this could be a unique way to learn first hand about the various ways the Red Cross is involved with the military community,” said Allison.

The SAF program also offers both pre-deployment and post-deployment programs and resources for the military and their families. Red Cross volunteers use their experience in casework services to help prepare military members and their families for the transition back home after deployment. Volunteers assist with financial paperwork and other services which might seem overwhelming during the transition of pre-or-post deployment.

“As a volunteer with the Service to the Armed Forces, I have the privilege of helping to serve military families,” said Allison. “When talking with a service member’s family, I have heard the sincerity in their voice as they personally thank and express gratitude to the Red Cross for supporting them during a difficult time.  It is incredibly rewarding to play a small part in helping to make a positive impact during a family’s time of need.”

If you would like to volunteer with the Service to Armed Forces program, please go to redcross.org/ma to sign up. There are many opportunities available to help your local community both nearby and around the world.

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Advocating for health while running a marathon

Preparing for a marathon is a commitment. Most runners

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Ken Farbstein, Red Cross blood donor, will run his 3rd Boston Marathon next month.

average more than 1,000 miles in training for the 26.2 mile event. Injuries, difficult weather conditions and the time consuming training schedule test the physical and mental strength of every person with a mind to push themselves in one of sports’ most demanding challenges.

Ken Farbstein is competing in his third Boston Marathon April 17, 2017, just as he celebrates his 60th birthday. He ran his first Boston 20 years ago, trying to prove to himself that 40 wasn’t fatal. Two decades on, Ken hopes to raise $10,000 dollars while running with Team Red Cross.

Ken is a longtime blood donor. By his count, Ken has given around 90 times, focusing now on apheresis donations. Apheresis blood collection, or ABC, is a special kind of blood donation. Instead of giving one pint of whole blood (as in a regular donation), an ABC donor gives only the components of blood needed for patients that day. ABC is made possible by a machine that separates the components of your blood, retains certain components and returns the rest to you—all with a single needle. It’s a very efficient way of directly helping patients in hospitals. By collecting the optimal number of blood components at each donation, donors help ensure that these lifesaving products are available for the community.

A long-time friend of Ken was recently diagnosed with Leukemia and that fact reminds him how important a donation can be. “I give because I want people to be healthy. When I found out Rick had Leukemia and needed blood transfusions, I knew my efforts were going to directly help people like him.”

Now with just four weeks to go before Marathon Monday, Ken looks forward to the big day’s arrival. “Access to running and training programs provided by Coach Dan has been very helpful in my own personal training.” Dan Fitzgerald, owner of Heartbreak Hill Running Company, is the coach for Team Red Cross once again and lends advice and expertise to the team of runners.

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Team Red Cross members run the historic 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston in support of the American Red Cross mission. With every mile run and every dollar raised, Team Red Cross runners help to save and transform the lives of people in their greatest time of need.

As a public health advocate, Ken has owned his own consulting firm for 20 years, promoting health and wellness. Through blood donation and raising funds for the humanitarian missions of the American Red Cross, Ken Farbstein is more than just an advocate – he’s out in his community raising awareness through his actions with the American Red Cross.

“I try to walk the talk, and I try to run the talk.”

To support Ken and his $10,000 fund raising goal, click over to https://www.crowdrise.com/americanredcrossboston2017/fundraiser/kenfarbstein

Since 2012, the American Red Cross of Massachusetts has raised 1.2 million dollars through the Boston Marathon Official Charity Program. 100 percent of the funds raised will go to the American Red Cross of Massachusetts helping those in our community and across the state.

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Local volunteer works to reunite families

Every volunteer is drawn to an rco_blog_img_edorganization for a different reason. However it is the desire to help their fellow humans that binds Red Cross volunteers together around the world.

Eduardo Sagarnaga came to the Red Cross about four years ago. He, like many other Metro area volunteers, felt compelled to help their fellow citizens in the Boston area after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

When the American Red Cross announced a new program in 2014, aimed at reducing the number of people in the United States killed in home fires, Eduardo was one of first volunteers to engage in the Metro area. Eduardo worked to adapt the program’s materials for use in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, first focusing on Chelsea.

Eduardo continues as member of the Metro area’s Disaster Action Team, responding to home fires around Boston and other outlying communities.

Eduardo now splits his DAT volunteering time with International Services, working with coordinators in Cambridge as well as Washington D.C., to help reunited families through the Reconnecting Family Links program.

“We have a liaison with the International Red Cross, and we’re helping people find members of their family who have gone missing,” said Eduardo. Currently he’s working with a Guatemalan family who has a son who tried to immigrate to the United States and who hasn’t been heard from since 2008.

“It’s a tough job because it’s hard to find people who have gone missing,” said Eduardo, who knows sometimes even bad news can give closure to families in search of hope. “Sometimes we are successful, sometimes not, but we keep on doing what we do to help these people going through difficult times.”

Armed conflict, international disasters and migration leave millions of people around the globe in urgent need of humanitarian assistance every year. In turn, violence, natural disaster, forced migration or other humanitarian emergency can cause families to be scattered to places unknown. Through its worldwide network of volunteers, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent helps find out what happened to the sister who disappeared after boarding a boat in Viet Nam, the wife whose husband was presumed dead in Uganda, or the American family of a Pole whose father fled to the U.S. during WWII. Ed 1

Eduardo’s role in providing this free and confidential “tracing service” is invaluable. His volunteer work gives hope to families looking for loved ones and supports Massachusetts residents affected by local disasters. By volunteering with Disaster Services and International Services, Eduardo makes a difference here and abroad.

Love of one another and the Red Cross this Valentine’s Day

Sharing a love and passion for one rco_blog_img_beckleyeditanother after years of marriage is something to celebrate this Valentine’s Day. Ron and June Beckley also share a passion for helping others, and that passion is shown nearly every day with the American Red Cross of Massachusetts.

The Beckley’s story began like so many volunteers. In 2005 just after Hurricane Katrina had let loose her destruction on the Gulf Coast, the Beckleys saw the devastation nightly on television news. Gulf Coast residents wandered home-town streets that storm surge from the hurricane had wiped clean. A constant visual on the news was the red disaster vest worn by volunteers from across the United States, called to help as part of the American Red Cross response to the disaster. Red Crossers walked the streets of coastal towns helping residents piece their lives back together while yet more Red Cross volunteers worked to provide a safe and dry place to spend the nights.

It was these images that brought the Beckleys to the Red Cross. Within a year, they both gained disaster qualifications to respond to national-level disasters as well as disasters near their home in Gloucester. For over 10 years, Ron and June have become fixtures in Northeast Massachusetts.

“Right now I’m the Volunteer Recognition Lead for the state,” said June Beckley. The new position is part of an effort to keep volunteers consistently engaged with volunteer connection, and as the Volunteer Recognition Lead, June finds new ways to highlight volunteer efforts in order to help retain trained and active volunteers.

Ron Beckley has been deployed nationally and to U.S. territories in support of disaster relief operations. His focus has been Disaster Services Technology (DST) support, helping improve communications in the disaster response area. Ron is one of a few DST managers from across the Red Cross. Ron was also an employee of the Red Cross Reserve program, using his past experience in law enforcement to investigate possible fraud that occurs as part of disaster operations.

Together, Ron and June Beckley have worn nearly all the hats the Red Cross has to offer, according to Ron. From sheltering, mass feeding, home fire response, administrative work and disaster deployments. And their commitment remains as strong as ever, nearly 12 years later.

There is a common thread with volunteers who have been involved with an organization for years. Conversations about the work usually turn to the good things volunteering has done for the volunteer. New friends, great experiences, a feeling of deep personal fulfillment; connecting with other volunteers and those affected by disasters is all part of the emotional experience that binds Red Crossers together.

But it’s the Red Cross that’s benefits the most from the years of service from dedicated volunteers like Ron and June Beckley. So on this Valentine’s Day we’d like to send our heart-felt thanks to all our volunteers who show so much passion every day for the humanitarian mission. Volunteers are what make the American Red Cross the organization it is.