2 Volunteers save life of runner in Hopkinton

Three Red Cross volunteers wererco_blog_img_cpr honored July 26 at the Regional Headquarters for their lifesaving work as Red Cross volunteers.

Interim CEO Chad Priest took time out to present commendations to William Marengo, Don Dooner and Louis Couillard, Red Cross volunteers here in Massachusetts.

The fire chief in Hopkinton, Mass., sent a letter to Volunteer Services praising the work of Red Cross volunteers and the important work they do daily across the Commonwealth.

Below is the text of Chief Stephen Slamen’s letter.

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Dear Ms. Flynn Jebb,

I am writing you in regards to exemplary actions that were provided by your staff in Hopkinton on June 17, 2017. While our crews were working a medical detail in support of a 5K road race, we witnessed extraordinary actions of your members in the response and care to a runner that had fallen due to a medical condition. On arrival of our crews, we found William Marengo and Don Dooner actively involved in providing lifesaving medical care to the patient. My paramedics reported that they found quality CPR being performed on arrival and as a result they were able to successfully convert the patient’s lethal rhythm back to normal. As of this date, I understand that the patient is making great progress in his recovery and I hope to update you with more complete news in the future.

My interactions with your Red Cross group was both professional and impressive. Your staff clearly understood their skills and worked well together as a team. It is my pleasure and honor to report to you that you have quite a talented team and we really appreciated their service in Hopkinton on June 17, 2017. In addition, I would like to recommend that you consider them all for a letter of commendation, they truly deserve it.

I spoke with Lou the team leader and informed him that I would act on this once I realized the patient’s outcome. If I hear more positive news from the patient I will see if we can honor your group here in Hopkinton with the patients consent and/or involvement. The members that I was able to identify and look to honor were team leader; Louis Couillard, William Marengo, Kelsey Sullivan and Don Dooner.

Sincerely,

Stephen T. Slaman

Fire Chief, Hopkinton Fire Department

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Fire Safety Education – A proven life saver

by Martine Costello, American Red Cross of Massachusetts

Three Questions on Fire Safety with Adam Lavoie, Fire Chief with the Warren, Mass. Fire Department

Fire safety starts with properly rco_blog_img_warreninstalled smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. We recently spoke with Adam Lavoie, the Warren Fire Chief, about his department’s participation in an inaugural program with the Central Massachusetts Chapter of the American Red Cross to distribute free smoke detectors to residents in need.

Can you talk about the importance of fire safety and the need for working fire detectors?   

It is a proven fact that people have a much greater chance of escaping a fire or carbon monoxide emergency with early notification from working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Unfortunately, it is an all too common occurrence to find no working detector in fatal fires across the country every year. I believe this is often due to a lack of fire safety education, or a lack of resources to keep the units installed and running. Far too many times we find missing or disabled smoke and carbon monoxide alarms during routine safety inspection.

Why are programs like this one so important?

We find that the elderly population is at greater risk due to mobility and financial reasons. These issues contribute to their inability to properly maintain detectors. We also see an increase in hoarding situations in all populations that we serve, which is making it very difficult for people to get out of their residences and for the fire department to get to them in an emergency. Again, this is another reason why early notification is so important.

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How did the program work alongside Red Cross staff and volunteers?

We advertised ahead of time and got a great response. A majority of those who signed up were elderly. I really wanted to target that population the most due to their increased risk. We went door to door and my team installed the units while the Red Cross team presented some tips and guidelines on fire safety and preparedness, the care and maintenance of the units and how to prepare an escape plan.  Mary Nathan, Disaster Program Manager for the Western Chapter of the Red Cross, led the efforts alongside volunteers James Street, Nick Street, Debbie Schaier and Roger Parent. It was a great team effort and we were able to install units in more than 20 homes.

The residents were very appreciative and in many cases the homes didn’t have any working detectors. The next day we had plates of cookies and donuts dropped off as a thank you – people were so appreciative. Best of all, within the next couple of days we had five-to-six people contact the fire station asking if we were going to do the program again. We are hoping to make this an annual event.

Do you have any additional thoughts to add?

Educating the public is our most important job. By providing education, replacing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and being proactive with safety inspections, we can hopefully prevent a tragedy before it happens. Once a month we visit the elementary school to deliver fire safety education and target third and fourth graders. During Fire Prevention Week, a national program, we target all grades. We also work with the Council on Aging to provide education to the elderly residents of the community.

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Pictured (left to right) – Chief Adam Lavoie, Eric Allard, James Street, Merrill Thompson, Christina Acerra, Nick Street, Debbie Schaier, Matt Bonneau, Seth Beall, Roger Parent, Scott Duncan, Jr.

A Night in the Life of a Red Cross Volunteer

When the Red Cross got the call from the rco_blog_img_newbedNew Bedford Fire Department to respond to a fire involving 144 units, the eight Red Cross volunteers heading to the scene prepared for the worst. The Red Cross of Massachusetts sends volunteer emergency response teams to almost 700 house fires a year; while most are single family house fires or apartment fires involving up to 50 people, the teams rarely see a disaster of this magnitude.

Mark McLoughlin, Red Cross Volunteer from Fall River, and his wife Rhonda, arrived on the scene around 11pm. Mark described what was going on, “When I got on scene the residents of the building had been evacuated to the parking lot across the street. We handed out dozens of blankets, snacks and water as the night was a bit chilly and the people were understandably in shock.”

“At this point, all we could do was wait for the Fire Department to determine the condition of the apartments in the building. A ‘non-livable’ unit means the resident must find alternate accommodations. And with 144 units in play, we were floating the possibility of opening a shelter. We just didn’t know how many people were going to be allowed back into their homes – if at all.”

While waiting, Red Cross volunteers worked through the early hours of the morning making sure people had what they needed. An elderly gentleman needed to sit so he rested in the Red Cross emergency vehicle. Several mothers needed diapers for their children. Others just needed reassurance. The Salvation Army showed up to to provide additional food and hot drinks.

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After a few hours, it was determined that only ten of the 144 units were unlivable. Families who had been out in the parking lot all night were able to return to their homes. Families of the remaining ten apartments needed help so the Red Cross volunteer trained in providing individual casework set to work to provide assistance so that they would have emergency lodging, food and whatever basic needs (such as clothing or medication) they might need. Red Cross volunteers also coordinated with the New Bedford Police to provide transportation to the affected families to their respective hotels.

Mark and Rhonda McLoughlan got back home about 4am. The next morning, Rhonda was back at work providing additional casework assistance to families that needed.

Said Mark, “Rhonda and I were both aware that there was a tremendous amount of people in need at this fire. To be able to help, to make sure everyone had what they need – this is why both Rhonda and I joined the Red Cross.”

Special thanks to all of the volunteers who helped: Shawn Curran, Andrew Enos, Rhonda McLoughlin, Mark McLoughlin, Christopher McNeil, Anthony Lessa, Rachel Keen, Paul Hoy and Ellen Sullivan.

The American Red Cross is working to reduce the incidence of harm by residential fire by 25% by providing home fire education to adults and children and by installing free smoke detectors in homes across the Commonwealth. For more information, to get yours free or to join us in our fight to #endhomefires, visit us here.

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The Power of Volunteerism

– Below is a written testimonial we received from a disaster victim –

I want to thank the Red Cross for yourrco_blog_img_reading incredibly swift response to the fire at the Old Reading Schoolhouse, in Reading, Mass., Thursday, June 1st.  You and your team were remarkable!

One of your volunteer members, Bonnie Lou, provided something to me that seemingly was impossible; she gave me the gift of hope, a priceless gift that I didn’t think could be given.

Upon arriving at the scene, I witnessed complete chaos and bedlam, as well as a fire – the likes of which I’d never seen (100 fire fighters fought the blaze; 10+ hours to extinguish the fire; the largest fire in the history of Reading, Mass.).

I just needed to get to my two cats.  Shortly after 2 p.m., a fire fighter brought one of my cats to me, my Baby Girl, Wesson.

Through all of the commotion, everyone desperately trying to make sure all people and pets were out of the building, Bonnie somehow reached me and knew I was frantic; an emotion I’d never experienced.

Bonnie was at my side and did everything for me, as if she’d known me my whole life.  My family and friends were with me and did their best to comfort me.  But it was all about the kitties and somehow she knew it…. Bonnie had an animal carrier within a minute and together we put my Wesson in.  Oh, she didn’t stop.  She then found a quiet, cool place in the Red Cross vehicle for me to soothe Wesson.  Bonnie kept going.  She instructed me to take deep breathes, she had an ice cold water in my hand, and she controlled the entire situation around me.

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I kept asking, “Who are You?” and she kept answering, “I’m Bonnie”.  My question was so much deeper…… who just sent this angel from Heaven to Sanborn Street at the most desperate moment of my life?

8 p.m. – The fire still roaring, an alarm was sent out for fire fighters to evacuate the building!  The building was no longer safe.  They would continue to fight the fire, but only from the outside of the building.  People tried to prepare me for the worst scenario.  But not Bonnie.  She kept me breathing and believing.

By 11 p.m., we were told to leave.  The Fire Chief advised us that nobody would be allowed back into the building throughout the night and it would be guarded so that nobody entered. Bonnie kept hope and promised many prayers and I knew she meant it.

At 1:10 p.m., 24 hours after the fire started, I was allowed into the building with a fire fighter, a hard hat, boots and gloves to try to locate my Smith.  And at 1:11 p.m., I had my Smith.

On Monday morning, the Town of Reading set up multiple resources at the Pleasant Street Center for Old Reading Schoolhouse tenants to attend.  When I entered, I saw the bright light of Bonnie’s smile, and heard her voice, “Kattthhhhhhyyyyy, did you get Smiiitttthhhhhhh?”

Did I just hear that right?  She remembered both our names? And when I shouted that I had them both, she cried tears of joy with me.  Again I ask, “Who is this person?”

I am so blessed for the support and kindness of Bonnie and am honored to write this to you on her behalf.  I will strive each day to give comfort to others in honor of Bonnie.

With much respect, thanks and gratitude,
Kathy Gee

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When disasters inspire volunteerism

by Susan Gilbert, American Red Cross of Massachusetts volunteer

Before joining the American Red Cross,rco_blog_img_contee Lisa Contee had never been a volunteer. Volunteerism was brought forward in her mind when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010.

Lisa had what she calls her “Haiti baby” that January, watching on television as members of the Red Cross assisted those most in need in what was one of the worst disasters in in recent history.

Lisa subsequently went to the Red Cross, got her CPR certification and attended a free disaster services class. The introductory class showed potential volunteers how the missions of the Red Cross help people here in Massachusetts during both small and large disasters.

Lisa was hooked. The work the Red Cross does locally was eye opening and exactly what she was interested in doing – lending that helping hand. Immediately after the training, Lisa went to the Cambridge office determined to get a position at the American Red Cross of Massachusetts. Lisa recalls that she “wouldn’t leave until they were down and ready to have me.”

To start, Lisa joined a Disaster Action Team. These teams are made up of volunteers who go out, boots on the ground, and help the clients of disasters – fires, floods, storms – anything that leaves people displaced.

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In 2014 when the Home Fire Campaign was announced, Lisa was one of the first volunteers to receive training to help install free smoke alarms in people’s homes.  She was quickly promoted to supervisor, and today is the lead and mentor to other volunteers interested in both DAT and the Home Fire Campaign.

Aside from DAT and Home Fire Campaign work, Lisa trained and was certified to drive and operate relief operations from Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles. Commonly known as ERVs, these mobile disaster relief and food trucks serve those in need in the hardest hit areas.

Lisa was deployed to the New York City area to support relief operations during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. She enjoyed the hard work and long hours doing and said “it was the hardest physical work” she has ever done.

In March 2017, Lisa went to an early morning fire where a building had collapsed. The collapse displace more than 45 people. The fire started in one unit and spread to several other units, affecting the entire building with either fire or smoke damage. The Red Cross took care of 11 families and worked with the management company to find hotel space for the displaced residents.

Lisa says that moments like these are why she stays with the Red Cross. “People helping out people is all we need.”

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New adventures await volunteers

Phyllis Vincent has been volunteering rco_blog_img_datever since she served in the Peace Corps after college. She joined the American Red Cross in 2010, then found even more time to give when she retired.

Phyllis’s earliest assignments with the Red Cross involved heading to the scene of house fires where she “helped people, found a “good team of people, and got to work.”

Her most memorable Red Cross moment was a fire in Attleboro, Mass., when 22 families needed help. Only three volunteers showed up to help. Phyllis said the experience was intense and lasted eight hours. They worked until the early morning, serving food and making sure that each person had a place to stay.

Several years ago, more than 100 people lost power during a large storm in Fall River and by this time, Phyllis had risen through the ranks to become a supervisor. The task at hand was so large and she knew her team had to come together to protect and serve these people. To her surprise, the community came together well enough to help not only each other, but the Red Cross team as well. It’s moments like this that give Phyllis the steam to keep coming back.

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Phyllis volunteers because she had always felt the need to help people, and because not enough people do it. “I just enjoy helping people, it makes me feel good, and I like to work with dedicated people. That is what the American Red Cross is, a bunch of dedicated people wanting to help others.” Although her family and friends do not understand, she soldiers on, telling them that volunteering is not a hobby, but a lifestyle.

After five years in disaster services, Phyllis decided to try something less likely to get her out of bed in the middle of the night. So she started working in biomedical transportation, transporting blood from drives in Massachusetts to the Biomedical Center in Dedham. She said, “It’s a lot of driving, but it helps people and that’s all that matters.”

Speaking again about her disaster work, Phyllis was once deployed to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. She recalled how shocked she was to see water above the traffic lights and houses filled with mud. But what impressed her was the idea that people had lost everything, yet were still determined to get back to life. Phyllis said it is moments like these that kept her coming back to the volunteering world.

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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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