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.

How the Red Cross CNA Program Changed Denise’s Life

 

Denise’s story is not yourrco_blog_img_moses average tale about overcoming adversity. Her story begins as a child growing up among seven siblings, all raised by parents caught in a cycle of substance abuse. Bounced from foster home to foster home, Denise set her mind to finding a job that would allow her to rely on no one but herself, and so she dropped out of high school, found a menial job but then soon after found herself pregnant. Her childhood quickly fading away and then pregnant with her second child, Denise realized that in order to create a better life for herself and her family, she would need to go back to school.

Denise first encountered the American Red Cross as a young girl when her family suffered the devastating loss of their Boston home in a fire. The Red Cross was there to provide financial assistance and lodging for the nine members of her family, leaving them incredibly grateful to have received help when it was needed most.

When thinking about her new life to come, her Red Cross experience came to mind, and so she inquired about a career in health care and the American Red Cross Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) Program.

“CNA pays very well, you get as many hours as you want, and you can go anywhere and always have a job. That can change anyone’s life.”

While taking night classes towards her CNA certification with the Red Cross in Lawrence, she simultaneously completed her GED. Going to two schools at once consumed all of her time. The time it took to get from her home to her classes was her biggest hurdle because Denise is legally blind and unable to drive. She didn’t let transportation limitations stop her from accomplishing her dreams and instead walked to and from classes. As if this wasn’t enough of an obstacle, Denise also has a learning disability. Classes were difficult for her and she did not pick things up as quickly as her classmates but she studied hard and never gave up. “Nothing can stop me,” she said. Denise graduated from the Red Cross CNA program in 2016 and passed the state exam on the first try.

When talking about the Red Cross CNA program, Denise boasts that “the class was very disciplined. The way they teach you is very close to how it is in real life.” After, the instructors continue to call and check up on her, not because they have to, but because they care.

“They call to check and see if you have a job and if you don’t they ask how they can help. They really care.”

Immediately upon graduation, Denise was offered three positions. She now works two jobs and walks 20 miles a day to get there, five hours of walking a day. Denise leaves for work an hour before she needs to so she can stop and talk to all her neighbors along the way. She has become so attached to her clients that sometimes she will go spend time with them on her day off. “It’s not about the money, I like the fact that I can interact with the patients.”

Denise received employee of the year her first year on the job. One would think Denise’s struggle should end here. Unfortunately, Denise was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after she got her first job. While undergoing treatment, Denise managed to continue to walk to work. She never took a day off when she wasn’t in the hospital and never let the cancer stop her.

“It’s not about me, it’s about my patients. I am there for them.”

While working as a home health aide in the Lowell area, Denise stays in touch with her instructors, occasionally having lunch with them and talking about future plans. “I’m going back to school next year to continue my education to become a licensed practical nurse,” she states eagerly. “And my former instructors keep encouraging me.” She promised her kids that she would one day become a nurse and she is dedicated to continue her education until she gets there. For now, Denise is paying for her sister to take the Red Cross CNA classes so that she can follow the same path to success that Denise did.

Sign Up For Certified Nurse Assistant Training

 

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 teddy bear’s comfort on a cold night

by Jim Mosso, DAT Supervisor, Central Massachusetts

Just before 5 p.m. on a cold Monday night, the Red Cross received a call to respond to a house fire on Sheridan Street in Fitchburg. Steven Oskirko, Owen Mangan responded with me to the fire scene where we saw that the entire third floor of an apartment building was burned out. The two floors below were completely flooded from the hoses of the Fitchburg Fire Department. Firefighters had brought the fire under control before it severely damaged any surrounding buildings, and placed all 20 residents, wrapped in blankets, inside a warming bus just away from the building.fitch-pic-1

Our Disaster Action Team (DAT) did its evaluation of the scene and we planned out how to best help the four families affected by the fire. We opened the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and brought water and snacks to the families, trying to provide some comfort to them inside the bus, out of the cold night where overnight temperatures hovered around 16 degrees.

The look on all their faces was plain shock. While everyone was thankful for making it safely out of the building, a few residents were visibly upset. It’s a look DAT volunteers see across the United States.

While I was speaking with a few residents, a young girl came over to me with a questioning look. She looked up and asked if I was going to help her ‘big family?’ I told her, ‘Yes, we were going to help,’ and I would see that she and her family would have a place to sleep tonight. She smiled and went on to tell me she smelled something weird before she heard the smoke alarms, and alerted her father who was sleeping in the next room. Her family lived on the third floor, the floor completely destroyed in the fire. As other caseworkers assisted her family, I went and found one of the small stuffed teddy bears we carry in the ERV. With a smile she gladly accepted the bear and told me thank you.

Luckily, the building’s smoke alarms sounded the alert and all the residents were able to make it out of the building safely with their pets. As it is in so many cases, they were only able to make it out with what they were wearing.

fitch-pic-2A resident said to me last night, ‘I never thought this would happen to me.’ So many fires everyday around Massachusetts and we still don’t believe it will impact us, we never think that the home affected will be ours.

I can’t say thanks enough to the Fitchburg Fire Department. They do a wonderful job taking care of those affected until the Red Cross arrives.

While recovery is difficult and personal items can be replaced, the building smoke alarms worked wonderfully. Hands down, those smoke alarms saved lives that night.