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.

RC volunteer recalls the exhilaration of volunteering during blizzard of ’78

Red Cross volunteer recalls what the storm was like in Boston

Social media helps us connect and reconnect with Red Crossers. The communications team was monitoring Facebook and discovered a volunteer from many years ago posting about his experience with the Red Cross.

 – In the mid 70s + I was privileged to be a part of Mass Bay. A group of us would do the Arlington parade in the morning then come over to help with 1st aid along the marathon course. Remember, in those days OEMS was not what it is now!! 20 years of memories at many events and disasters. A growing up experience I will always be proud of!! – Jack Duncan

We invited Jack to talk about his Red Cross experience for our blog.

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For many years I have referred back to my daysblizzard-personal with the American Red Cross as a volunteer on the Mass Bay Disaster Team. I started around 1974, continuing in Boston until the mid-1980s when I moved to New Hampshire. Because of physical issues, I never joined the field team but I did work with the then Director, representing the team by sitting in on planning committees for disaster and hazardous materials plans.

The communications team asked me what impact the Red Cross had on me? Well, lack of sleep was likely the biggest. That period was a very busy period in time with many early morning fire responses.

But the Blizzard of ’78 had an enormous impact on me and stands out among all of my experiences as “my Red Cross story.” I was 24-years old and a student at Bridgewater State University (then College). I was majoring in Earth Sciences and we had been watching the development of the storm. A good friend, Donald Walker, was in charge of the Mass Bay Disaster Team and helped me arrange an overnight stay at the National Weather Service (NWS) at Logan Airport to fill my role as the Meteorology liaison where I would be focused 100 percent on tracking the storm.  I spent the night working with senior Meteorologist Tom Fair, and I can say I learned more in that one night than in years at college.

As there were no online radar systems at the time, all we had to work with was satellite feeds over a very large Radioteletype plotter. I will never forget the 2 a.m. feed we received that showed the low had developed into an ‘eye’. When I left the following morning, Tom gave me that printout and his non-public forecast.  Thanks to National Weather Service (NWS), the Red Cross team was able to stay a step ahead in the game and positioned multiple teams across the Mass Bay area before it even snowed! My best friend to this day, Ben Gedaminski and I set up multiple meteorology measuring devices on the roof of our former site. (Yes, I admit, I had a blast going up to the roof to take readings during the storm — still the same geek to this day!)

blizard-3Once the storm ended the reality of what hit us was beyond belief. Since Emergency vehicles were the only ones allowed on the streets (thank you Governor Dukakis), Ben and I were able to travel to our homes in a Red Cross vehicle to West Roxbury to grab a week’s worth of clothing and extra gear. We made it to his house with little trouble but my mom and family lived on the highest hill in Boston and the city plow could not make it up that hill. On arrival we had to climb six-to-eight feet snow drifts to get there.  (We brought my mother milk and dry milk to weather the storm.)

On returning to Boston proper we now had the next job: Build a helipad!! We truly thought our leader, Don Walker, had lost it but he went out on the street and negotiated a very large front end loader. After clearing the space, the Boston Fire Department came and hosed down all of the snow walls so the helicopters would not get caught in a snow blind condition when they landed.  While this was occurring Ben and I, along with other volunteers, pulled a large four-point lighting system together and ran it off our large wheeled emergency generator. Don Walker pulled off a miracle with his team and created a pad large enough for 4 military choppers.

One of the critical needs was food soBOSTON BLIZZZRD we needed to get to our supplier off route 128 in Needham.  I was the only one who knew how to get there so I was quickly assigned to a National Guard helicopter. It was amazing watching other National Guard teams rescue people off their roofs because in that area the snow was well over the first floor. Shelters were opened quickly by other Red Cross volunteers and staff.  All of this activity went on for seven days, working in shelters, getting food to those stranded and pretty much doing anything and everything.  All of us Red Cross workers slept where we could and averaged about three hours of sleep per night. When all was finally said and done, the storm was nicknamed the “Blizzard of Love” because except for a few minor incidents it was the love and human resilience that got us all through the winter of 1978.

You asked what impact the Red Cross had on me. To this day there are two things that stick with me.  The first is that all of the inventing and creativity we had with communications during the storm operation lit a radio bug in me; I get to tinker here at work where I am in charge of the New Hampshire Parks communication system.  The second is another skill I brought to New Hampshire with me!  The knowledge gained through years of working with the NWS helped me land a “Weather Forecaster” position with a radio station here in New Hampshire, where I worked for seven years.  It seems I’ve come full circle as I continue to provide severe storm updates for the New Hampshire Parks Service and with Facebook.

All in all, my Disaster Team and First Aid team experience with the Red Cross will stay with me forever!

Jack Duncan, former volunteer, Mass Bay and New Hampshire Red Cross

 – Jack continues to run a Facebook page called Concord NH Weather 

 

 

MA Volunteers head south following deadly storms

As photos and stories of the devastation in therco_blog_img-tornado Southeast United States stir emotions around the country, volunteers from Massachusetts have deployed to help ease the suffering of so many affected by the deadly tornadoes that struck a week ago.

The American Red Cross is on the ground providing shelter, food, relief supplies and other support to help people across the country after a tumultuous weekend of severe weather. Dozens of tornadoes and severe weather left a path of destruction in areas of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida over the weekend. In addition, southern California has been hit with another storm, bringing heavy rains, increased risk for landslides and leaving thousands without power.

People continue to deal with the devastation from severe storms and at least 60 tornadoes over 48 hours last weekend. The American Red Cross is with them, providing food, shelter and help with recovery. Red Cross workers will support those affected for as long as help is needed.

At this time reports indicate more than 1,100 homes have been affected across Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida. The Red Cross anticipates this number could increase once all inaccessible areas are accessed. Red Cross response vehicles are circulating through the hardest-hit areas, delivering food and relief supplies as people clean up their homes. In Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, Red Cross and community tornado-2partners have served over 30,000 meals and snacks, distributed over 8,000 relief items, and provided 900 Health Services and Disaster Mental Health contacts. At this time the Red Cross has mobilized over 500 workers to help those in need.

“Red Cross disaster volunteers across the country are responding to severe weather with comfort and support for people whose lives have been interrupted and turned upside-down,” said Ralph Boyd, CEO of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts. “Our volunteers will deploy for two-week shifts, helping residents in affected areas with financial assistance and offering a safe place to stay after these deadly storms. We will be there, in multiple affected states, standing alongside our partners as these communities recover.”

As of January 24, 2017 the Red Cross estimates it will spend more than $1 million helpingtornado-3 people affected by Southern tornadoes and storms in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. We need the public’s support to help the hundreds of people still suffering. This cost range represents our best estimate at this time and may change upwards or downwards as the situation continues to evolve and more information becomes available. It includes the costs of providing food, shelter, blankets, cots, emotional support, health services, relief supplies and initial casework support. It also includes some of the costs that make relief possible including logistics, staff and technology expenses to support such a significant disaster.

A Fire, a Cat & Renewed Hope

by Jeff Hall, American Red Cross of Massachusetts

There are common threads Red Cross disaster volunteers see every day at home fires. The smell of a home fire is generally described as that of a campfire, and it’s the first sensation every new disaster volunteer experiences. Then there’s the sound of controlled chaos as firefighters, police, residents and bystanders crowd into what was a quiet street just hours before. Fire trucks, police cars, yellow tape strung from fences to porch railings, flashing lights, TV cameras; home fires are quite literally an assault on the senses.

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Paws of hope – A Massachusetts State Police officer holds a cat who miraculously lived through a home fire in Lawrence.

However the most common scene that sticks with me at a home fire is the look of complete shock on the faces of those most affected by a home fire – people who in an instant have lost their home and often their sense of safety and security.

In late November, a fire ravaged a multi-family home in Lawrence at around noon. Several families spilled out onto the cold and rain-soaked streets to escape the flames, taking shelter in a local Disabled American Veterans (DAV) meeting hall. The fire consumed the three-story building along with pretty much everything in it. Residents lost everything, fleeing the flames with literally the clothes on their backs, and in several instances, without shoes or coats. One person ended up in the emergency room after suffering a seizure, but largely everyone escaped unharmed, at least physically. Red Cross volunteers were there to assist those affected by the fire and help them with the first steps in recovery.

If you can find a bright moment among all the loss, and believe me, most look for that moment; it was a lost pet that was thought to be taken by the devastation.

As Lawrence firefighters and the Massachusetts State Fire Marshalls began to gain access to the structure after the smoke had cleared, a resident asked a fireman if they had come across a cat anywhere near the fire. The fireman passed along a few comforting words, saying most pets naturally find their way out or find a safe spot to hide out in.

Being a relative rookie to home fire response, I thought these were merely comforting words meant to distract from an already horrible situation. I for one could not imagine what it would be like to “ride the fire out” (as the fireman had put it) as a cat inside a burning building. Needless to say, I had little hope for the owner and assumed it was another terrible aspect of how fires devastate a person’s life.

Hours went by as Red Cross disaster team members spoke with residents, helped them find hotel rooms and gave out debit cards loaded with the financial assistance the Red Cross provides. Dinner was brought in for everyone, final conversations were had and those affected slowly started those first steps in moving forward from what was likely the worst day of their lives.

One person stayed longest, and before she left she made sure we had her cell phone number in case the fire inspectors found her missing cat. As she walked out the door, I knew I would do the same. I would be filled with the same worry over a pet, even after a great loss.

I learned two final things that night in Lawrence; that we seem to have everything in the back of a disaster vehicle and that it’s okay to hold out hope in tragedy. Eight hours after the fire started, a Massachusetts State Policeman walked into the DAV building. In his arms was a medium sized grey and white cat, a little soggy from the day, but who did indeed ride that fire out. Mathew Georges-Coker, a seasoned Red Cross volunteer, miraculously brought in a collapsible, cardboard pet carrier from the back of the disaster truck and neatly tucked the cat inside, where he waited until his owner picked him up.

I work in the Communications Department with the Red Cross, helping tell the story of our volunteers and the good they do in local Massachusetts’ communities. The fire scenes I’ve been to never leave me. When I go back to take photographs of the remaining burned out structures, it’s sobering to imagine the lives and the living that went on inside. I can see through doors that no longer close, into kitchens and living rooms filled with singed and soaked furniture that made a house a home. Small possessions – teddy bears, photo albums and kitchen utensils – are still there, but they are either burned, muddied or trampled by the firefighters working to save the building. These possessions can never be replaced, and that’s the real tragedy I see on the faces of people in shelters or the back of an Emergency Response Vehicle, people in their first hours of starting over, taking those first steps.

I’m glad the Red Cross is there to provide the first steps for the faces I see. I’m glad there are dedicated volunteers like Lisa, Bob, Mathew and Justin; who dedicate themselves and donate their time to help others. Most of all I’m glad I have the chance to work for an organization that is dedicated to humanitarian service to those faces in need.

The First Step Is Acceptance

* Smita Netra is a Communications volunteer with the American Red Cross of Massachusetts.

I came to this country from India about a year ago. I was newly wed, a little nervous, a little confused and not just a little tired. Idleness is a human’s worst enemy and after two months of actively looking for something to keep me busy, anything to keep my sanity intact, I stumbled across a volunteer position at the American Red Cross. And as they say, the rest is history.

On my first day on the job, I was as nervous as little girl on her first day of school. The butterflies in my stomach were not there because I was starting a new job but because I was scared of whsmitaether people would accept me. My irrational fear was because I looked different, I spoke with an accent and I just felt strange in this new country. But the moment I walked into the communications department, three faces looked at me. To my relief, they were all smiling.

I know it sounds silly to give so much importance to a smile. Trust me when I say this, we take smiles for granted. A smile is the first step in acceptance. The genuine smiles that I saw on my colleagues’ faces made me feel a little more welcome and a lot less anxious.

The weeks went by and I received amazing assignments and projects to work on. My colleagues were extremely supportive and understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, although I must say it took them a while to pronounce my name correctly!

Over time I started to get to know more people in the building and to be honest, it felt wonderful. Yes, there were awkward moments of silence – meeting a person from a different culture can put you in a spot where you are thinking of not saying anything that might offend the other person. It’s like an auto correct function in your brain, only much faster and less reliable.

I love how people give high fives or ask about your weekends and I love our intellectual discussions on politics and religion. I always call one of my colleagues my American History teacher and the other my little ray of sunshine.

A very profound and memorable moment for me here was when I was chosen as the Volunteer of the Year. It was completely unexpected and I was stunned. I honestly thought I received the email notice as a prank. I read it at least a hundred times before I believed it to be true. The fact that Red Cross had chosen me among others over such a short time reinforced my faith in them. I knew I had come to the right place only because I was surrounded by the right people who had accepted me for who I was. These were the people who made me feel at home away from home.

The reason I believe in the Red Cross and its humanitarian services around the world is because, in my opinion, the Red Cross and its people understand the true meaning of humanity. Acceptance is the first step. The Red Cross has shown me that compassion starts at home, wherever home may be.