Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Red Cross seeking Financial Support from the Community

Since December 1st, the American Red Cross of Central Texas has provided assistance to 18 families after their home was damaged or destroyed by a fire. A total of 39 children have seen their holidays spoiled by these events. In each instance the Red Cross has responded with emergency help in the form of shelter, food, clothing, toys, emergency medications and guidance on disaster recovery.

“Traditionally this is a very busy time of the year for the Red Cross. The holidays are fire season and we expect an increase in the need for our services. This year it has been especially worrisome. Our budget has taken something of a hit from the economy and the number of people who need assistance is on the rise. We are not a government agency and rely solely on the generosity of our neighbors. We are counting on them to come through as they always have,” said Elaine Acker, CEO of the Central Texas Red Cross.

Most Red Cross aid comes in the form of debit cards that can be used to purchase new items that are in appropriate sizes and conform to dietary restrictions of the individuals involved. This allows families to take charge of their own recovery and feel a much needed sense of empowerment during a period of trauma. For this and other reasons the Red Cross does not accept donations of items such as clothing and food.

95% of the work of the Red Cross is performed by volunteers. Training to become a Red Cross disaster volunteer is another way members of the community can help. To donate to the fund that helps the victims of all local disasters or to get information about becoming a Red Cross volunteer people can call 512.928.4271 or visit

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Check out Fox's coverage!
Serving members of the military and their families was the first mission of the American Red Cross more than 125 years ago. And as we remember those who serve on Veteran’s Day, it remains a core part of the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) mission today. Just one of the essential military services provided by the American Red Cross is the Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

For the second year in a row, the Red Cross is partnering with Pitney Bowes to collect one million holiday cards for American service members, veterans and their families in the United States and around the world. 

Those who would like to send holiday greetings to military members serving around the world, veterans and their families are asked to mail cards to: 

Holiday Mail for Heroes 

P.O. Box 5456 
Capital Heights, MD 20791-5456

Red Cross volunteers will be on hand to sort and mail the holiday cards and to ensure that every effort is made to send warm wishes and support to military members serving around the world as well as their families who will be without their loved ones during the holidays.
Providing support to military members is a daily task for the American Red Cross of Central Texas (ARCCT). 

The ARCCT provides communication services to military members in times of crisis and important events by contacting family members living in the Central Texas area. These communications are delivered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year through the work of volunteers. The ARCCT also provides counseling and referrals to military families at an average of three families per day, all free of charge. All services are made possible by the generous support of Central Texas citizens through their dollars and volunteer time.

Holiday Mail for the Heroes kicks off future Service to the Armed Forces programs from the American Red Cross of Central Texas. Stay tuned for more information.


From Marty McKellips, Chief Marketing Officer

It was pouring rain when I arrived at the fire scene on Knight’s Circle in East Austin Friday Morning.  Steve Hailey, our Emergency Services Director, and one volunteer were already there.  Steve briefed me on the tragic news that although six people were safe, one young man did not make it out alive.  He was 28.  His friends were gathered under the carport of the house next door where a number of them live.  I learned they were mostly young musicians in a band called Bankrupt and the Borrowers.  They lived and worked together, as a very close family would, and this was certainly a very difficult time for them.  

Just a few minutes later, our Disaster Action Team Captain Carole Leandra arrived and began talking to the clients about their immediate needs. Most of the residents had escaped the fire in only what they wore to bed the night before and the cold front combined with the rain was making everyone shiver.  Luckily, Jose Dominguez arrived quickly with blankets from the chapter.  I looked at those young faces and could not imagine how they were feeling.  The trauma of a fire is bad enough, but losing a dear friend is unimaginable.

We were all very relieved to see our fabulous mental health volunteer Pat Grajkowsky. Steve briefed her and she went into the house to talk to those grieving. 

Fire trucks came and went in shifts as the firefighters put out hot spots and began the investigation into the cause.  They were asking the survivors where any important and valuable items might be located.  Some instruments and amplifiers were retrieved but their cases were charred and I have no idea if they would still work.  The band had a sold out show scheduled for that evening and I wondered about the mood in the club when the news spread about this tragedy.

The news media were lined up across the street and I begin filling them in on what the Red Cross was providing.  My main message was that these services were being delivered by volunteers and we need more people to step up and help us help our neighbors. 

One young man stepped up to me and said, “I want to thank the Red Cross for everything.  I worked for the Red Cross during Katrina so I already knew how great you guys are.”  All I could say was how sorry we were for their loss.

Although this is a sad way to begin a Friday morning, I am glad I could be there.  It reminds me again of just how important the Red Cross is and why I am so lucky to be part of something that helps people everyday.

For more information about the fire and a memorial for Jon Pettis, please click here.


From Kevin and Sandy McCoy, Volunteers

In these journals I have written about how we work on fires, hurricanes, and other events. But I thought I would take some time and give a peek behind the scenes on getting ready. and making sure that the Red Cross is ready to respond in disasters. That takes a lot of education and preparation.

This week we helped in two ways. First, we took a course at the Austin EOC to get certified and badged so that we can work at the EOC when an event occurs. Second we helped to Inventory the National Assets stored to help out in disasters across the country.

National Inventory
Sandy and I worked on a team of volunteers that came in from all over the country to help out in doing and inventory at one of the few National Warehouses. This one happens to be in our home town of Austin, and is located close to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.


The Warehouse is called the Disaster Services Maintenance Center. Here are a couple of Red Cross Workers (Randall Rieffel & Gary Thompson) in process of inventorying radios.


This entire deployable inventory is stored in Pelican Cases. These are water tight cases that can survive flood and other severe conditions. That protects the assets that are sent in harms way, and make sure it is usable for the next disaster.


We had a production line to inventory more than 2000 cell phone.  Here is Sandy managing the numbers: Gary Thompson, Randall Reiffel, and Kevin’s coffee mug on the "assembly line."


Mobile Satellite dishes for voice and data communication are in these kits.  Gary is opening a Satellite Disk container.  This was tiring and meticulous work.  Even with fork lifts and pallet jacks, there was a lot of lifting to do.  So it was tiring and time consuming.

What Sandy and I wanted to get out of this to understand the range of national assets that could be drawn out for a disaster.  Counting these items may have been the hard way to do this, but it worked and we have a good idea of what is there (and how much!)

EOC Class
We took a break from the inventory assignment to get oriented to work in the EOC. That requires getting another background check, more fingerprints and a new ID.


All the resources – Red Cross, Salvation Army, FEMA, Law enforcement, Fire, all have seats at the table.

To use this system we have phones, Web based tool for facilitating Emergency Operations Center Communications – (Web EOC). In previous disasters we have worked out of the center to manage shelter operations, and coordinate with other groups.

That is all the news that is fit to click.
Kevin & Sandy