Monday, December 19, 2011

5 Fires In 1 Weekend

The winter months usually prove the most eventful for our disaster services volunteers and if this weekend is any indicator, this pattern is set to repeat itself. In just two days, volunteers on our Disaster Action Teams across the region responded to 5 disasters.

A fire in Canaan, NH met with tragic results with the death of one person. Our volunteers reached out to the survivor of that tragedy to ensure that in addition to traditional services, such as lodging, food and clothing, they knew that we could offer disaster health and mental health services. The other four responses, ranging from a mobile home fire to a multi-family dwelling to a boiler explosion, brought devastating results to 7 families in just a two day period.

With generous support of donors and tireless work of volunteers, we were able to let all of the affected families and individuals know that their community, through the work of the Red Cross, is their with some support. If you want to be part of this response, either as a volunteer or a donor, contact us at 802-660-9130.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shelter Initiative Receives Generous Boost

This is the time of year in which Sentinel Investments traditionally thanks its top producing representatives with a gift. Well, we all know that this has not been your average year. The Montpelier-based asset managment firm knows just how devastated its home state has been by natural disasters, first with the record-breaking spring flooding and then the historic destruction of Tropical Storm Irene.

Foregoing the gifts that they would distribute to their representatives, Sentinel has made an investment in preparedness here in Vermont. With a gift of $15,000, Sentinel has given their support for the local community shelter initiative being undertaken by the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross.

The shelter initiative, which was an idea already under consideration before Irene, came quickly into focus when the widespread,destructive forces of Irene demonstrated a need for heighten levels of community preparedness. While the Red Cross opened up 13 shelters across the region, some sheltering needs could not be immediately addressed.

Now, the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross intends to provide shelter equipment and training to Vermont's 251 communities and the 12 we serve in New Hampshire's Upper Valley. The idea is that every town will have some capacity to shelter its residents and the ability to deploy those assets until the help of the Red Cross and others can arrive.

Thank you to Sentinel for their generosity and foreshight to help build a stronger future for Vermont and New Hampshire's Upper Valley.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Help and Hope Delivered after Thanksgiving Fires

Thanksgiving was a tough day for several families across our region this year. However, the burdens faced by 5 families were made a little bit lighter through the help provided by local Red Cross disaster services volunteers.

In St. Albans, VT, 4 families lost their homes to an early morning fire on Lincoln Avenue. Five members of the Franklin County Disaster Action Team (DAT) responded, placing their own plans for the day on hold to help those in need. The DAT members opened the gym at St. Albans City Hall to provide a warm place for the displaced families and for the folks in the neighborhood who lost power for several hours that morning. The emergency needs of the 4 affected families was determined and help, including lodging and financial assistance for food and clothing, was provided as needed. DAT members also supported the first responders by having food and coffee at the scene.

Unfortunately, fire also struck in Newbury, VT, displacing a family of 3 early Thanksgiving morning. Members of the Upper Valley Disaster Action Team were called into action and provided assistance for food, seasonal clothing, and more. In response to both the St. Albans and Newbury fires, our disaster services volunteers were also sure to make referrals to state and community resources that would help each of the displaced families to take their next step in the recovery process.

All of this assistance was provided without charge to the families devastated by these fires. The support was available through the financial generosity of donors across our region and the generosity of time from our dedicated volunteers.

We are certainly thankful for all of our volunteers and the work they do throughout the year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

3 Fires in 3 Days

The past three days have shown the strength of our volunteer corps. In each of the VT & the NH Valley Region's three chapters, a Disaster Action Team (DAT) was called out to assist families displaced by fire.

Two families in St. Johnsbury, a mother and her two children in East Thetford and a family of 7 in Shaftsbury were all left homeless in the wake of three devastating fires in just a 72 hours. In response to each, a DAT team was in contact with the families and help provided.

The assistance, whether it is lodging or financial, is just a part of what disaster victims receive. The compassion, caring and understanding that the disaster services volunteers bring to their work is often just as valuable. In addition, the experience of our volunteers ensures that referrals are made to the appropriate local and state agencies, as well as other voluntary organizations, that will help the affected inviduals and families get back on their feet.

So, a big thank you to each of the responding DAT members and to all Red Cross volunteers who are ready to help their neighbors and communities.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Chance to Celebrate in Rutland

For 52 years, Rutland has thrown a Halloween Parade with costumes, floats and always a lot of fun. Despite being pushed back two days due to weather, this year's parade was no different.

What was unique about this year was the decision by parade organizers to say a special thank you to those who stepped up to help the people of Rutland County in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. Among those honored at the parade was the American Red Cross.

Praising the Red Cross volunteers, first responders, CVPS employees and others who were on hand to be recognized, Cindi Wight of the City Recreation Department said, “They went above and beyond. This is a way the community can give them a cheer and say thank you."

As those of you who read this Blog know, our volunteers are the very heart and soul of the American Red Cross. Often their work is done out of view of the public. The recognition of our volunteers, among other Irene responders, was an honor that was richly deserved.

Friday, October 7, 2011

$30,000 Grant Received from Newman's Own Foundation

Funds to Support Community Sheltering Initiative

The Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley Region of the American Red Cross today announced that it received a $30,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation, the private foundation started by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman. The grant will be used to support a community sheltering initiative being undertaken by the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross to address needs that were identified during the response to Tropical Storm Irene.

“The Newman’s Own Foundation grant is not only a generous gift, but is given with the recognition that Irene can serve as a learning opportunity and will help strengthen American Red Cross services in the future,” said Larry Crist, Regional Executive for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross.

The community sheltering initiative that these grant funds will support builds upon the vital role of the American Red Cross to help individuals and communities prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters. The project, in recognition of our region’s historic self reliance, will provide each community with equipment and training necessary to meet their emergency sheltering needs when weather, road or other conditions prevent access to a Red Cross shelter.

“Newman’s Own Foundation salutes the tremendous strength and resolve of Vermonters and their nonprofit organizations in responding to the devastation from Irene,” said Lisa Walker, Vermont native and managing director of Newman’s Own Foundation. “We are proud to support the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross and the important work they are doing.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Assistance Provided in Response to Deadly Apartment Fire

In the early hours of this morning, the Red Cross received a call that a fire had broken out at a 13-unit apartment building on Brooklyn Street in Morrisville, VT. The blaze took the life of one resident and left another seriously injured.

Volunteers with Disaster Action Teams from Lamoille and Chittenden counties responded to lend aid and support. The compassion with which this help was delivered was matched by the speed in which those affected were able to start the process of recovery. By 7 a.m., Red Cross volunteers had assisted residents of 11 out of the 13 units. This including arrangements for temporary lodging and financial assistance aimed at providing resources for food and clothing.

All disaster services provided by the American Red Cross are made available without charge and are funded through the support of members of the community. A dedicated corps of disaster volunteers is the public face of a community-wide effort to ensure that neighbors are there to help neighbors during time of great need.

Note: While the above photo was not taken at the Morrisville blaze, it is representative of what takes place each of the almost 70,000 times a year that Red Cross volunteers respond to disasters all across the country.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Red Cross Work Continues

“Red Cross Still on the Road in Vermont with Disaster Relief”

Flood waters have receded, clean up is progressing and road repair is underway. However, many Vermont residents are still struggling with recovery in the wake of damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene, especially in areas of the state still isolated by road closures.

To meet this need, Red Cross is continuing its disaster relief outreach with Client Services workers from Vermont as well as from other states across the country. They are making their way around road closures to bring relief supplies and recovery counseling to as many Vermont disaster victims as possible.

These workers join a total of 8,000 deployed by Red Cross in response to the floods, fires and tornadoes creating devastation in eight states. Overall, Red Cross has served 1.9 million meals and snacks, handed out more than 217,000 relief items like hygiene kits, mops, gloves, tarps, coolers and provided over 28,000 mental health and health services consultations.

Pictured:Red Cross Client Services workers Deborah Fauver and Pauline Pusey load Jump Start backpacks for distribution.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, remembering the victims and honoring the brave responders, it is vital to keep in mind that the unimaginable can in fact occur. Individual, family and business emergency preparedness can make the difference in how quickly and how well we can recover.

Visit the Red Cross website,, to learn more about creating a disaster plan, what to include in your emergency supplies kit and how to learn the life-saving skills of First Aid and CPR.

You can also help the Red Cross in its work. Our costs are growing by the hour as we help people in need. Irene alone is projected to cost $10-15 million dollars. Call 1-800-Red Cross or visit to make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief.

With 84 blood drives cancelled due to Tropical Storm Irene, the Red Cross is in urgent need of blood and platelet donations and asks that people in areas unaffected by the storm consider giving blood as well as those in affected areas when safe to do so. Call 1-800-Red Cross or go to

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Helps the Red Cross . . . Again!

Earlier this year, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) and their subsidieary Keurig® partnered with the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross to provide both the single cup brewers and coffee for use by disaster services volunteers who head out into the field to assist those displaced by disaster and to support the first responders at the scene. Pictured at left, one of the donated Keurig® machines was put to use at a feeding station in response to the severe spring flooding experienced in our area.

This week, in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, GMCR's tremendous spirit of generosity resulted in a pledge of $250,000 to the American Red Cross. The GMCR gift includes $200,000 for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross, $75,000 of which will be dedicated to ongoing relief efforts in response to Irene and $125,000 of which will be used to create a model that will allow the Red Cross to build sheltering capacity at a community level across our region. The balance of $50,000 will be split between the American Red Cross of Central and Western Massachusetts and the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts and is being provided to assist with Irene-related relief.

Tropical Storm Irene left a wide path of destruction and the scale of the response is both massive, yet at the same time very local as community leaders and individuals pitch in to help their neighbors. The $125,000 that GMCR has pledged for preparedness is being provided so that the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross can spearhead an effort to enhance the local, community capacity to shelter in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

“The GMCR donation shows great compassion for those impacted by Irene,” said Larry Crist, Regional Executive for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. “Their gift also recognizes that we can learn from this disaster and create some good from otherwise devastating circumstances.”

“The tremendous community spirit that is so much a part of Vermont and New England has been hard at work with the hands-on recovery efforts following record flooding and devastation across the region,” said Lawrence J. Blanford, President and CEO of GMCR. “Our contribution is a reflection of our belief that businesses have a responsibility to their communities; it reflects the desire to help neighbors in need that’s been so apparent in the faces and actions of individuals and community organizations working tirelessly to help each other.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Helping Children Cope with Disaster

Disasters, like the recent flooding, can be traumatic for adults, but they are frightening for children. During a disaster, children may have to leave their homes and daily routines. They may become anxious, confused or frightened. As an adult, you need to cope with the disaster and also give your children crucial guidance about how to respond.

How you react to an emergency gives your children clues about how to act. If you react with alarm, a child may become more scared. They see our fear as proof that the danger is real.

Children's fears also may stem from their imagination, and you should take these feelings seriously. A child who feels afraid is afraid. Your words and actions can provide assurance. Here are some tips:

Ask your children to explain what's troubling them. Be aware that after a disaster, children are most afraid that the event will happen again, someone will get hurt or killed, they will be separated from their family and they will be left alone.

While you look for housing or clean-up your damaged home, you may want to leave your children with relatives or friends. Instead, keep the family together as much as possible. Children get anxious, and they will worry that parents won't return.

Calmy and firmly explain the situation. As best you can, tell children what you know about the disaster. Explain what will happen next. Crouch down and talk to children at their level.

Encourage children to talk. Let them talk about the disaster as much as they want. Encourage them to describe what they are feeling. Listen to what they say. If possible, include the entire family in the discussion.

Include children in recovery activities. Give them chores that are their responsibility. This will help children feel they are part of the recovery. Having a task will help them understand that everything will be all right.

You can help children cope by understanding what causes their anxieties and fears. Reassure them with firmness and love. Your children will realize that life will eventually return to normal. If a child does not respond to the above suggestions, seek help from a mental health specialist.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Congressman Peter Welch Pays a Visit

This morning, Congressman Peter Welch visited the Rutland headquarters of American Red Cross relief efforts in Vermont. He was provided an overview of Red Cross activities by Tim Stetson, Chief Response Officer of the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley Region. The support received from Governor Shumlin, Congressman Welch, and Senators Leahy and Sanders has been a real boast for all.

ERVs continue to run the roads of Vermont, providing relief supplies to the towns hardest hit by Tropical Storm Irene. The delivery of much need items by Red Crossers is in addition to the delivery of Red Cross supplies by the Vermont National Guard. National Guard high water vehicles, 5-ton trucks and humvees have helped distribute supplies.

In the upcoming days, bulk distribution sites will be set up to disperse a variety of items to help with clean up including shovels, rakes, tarps, batteries, flashlights, buckets, radios, gloves and trash bags. Food, water, personal hygiene items, such as hand sanitizer, will also be available free of charge to anyone in need. Distribution sites and schedules will be announced when determined.

Monday, August 29, 2011

National Guard Helps Deliver Aid to Communities; Florida Red Cross Brings in Supplies

With several communities cut off, and only accessible by high water vehicles, the National Guard is assisting Red Cross efforts to get in food and water. Guard members arrived at the Red Cross office in Rutland and headed out to Cavendish and Wilmington. Additional collaboration will continue.

In an unusual if not ironic twist, Florida Red Crossers arrived with two Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) today with additional supplies. Pictured above is an ERV from Daytona Beach. Also in Rutland is an ERV from Jacksonville. On board the ERVs were shelf-stable meals, water and snacks. While volunteers from the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley have responded to hurricanes in Florida and across the south, we are fairly confident that it is the first time Florida has had the occasion to pitch in as part of a hurricane response in Vermont.

329 Sheltered Overnight, 4 Shelters Remain Open

After having as many as 13 shelters opened yesterday, as people return home 4 shelters remain open as of noon Monday. While the official count as of midnight was 329 people having received overnight sheltering through the Red Cross, several shelters saw their numbers continue to swell before dawn.

Shelters remain open at the following locations:

1. Brattleboro – Brattleboro Union High School
2. Hartford – Hartford High School
3. Barre – Barre Auditorium
4. Rutland – Rutland High School

The best means of determining where shelters, Red Cross or otherwise, are open is to contact Vermont 211.

At this time, financial contributions provide the greatest flexibility for a Red Cross response. Donations can be made at or by calling 800-660-9130. For those who are interested in volunteering, they can register on line at: or contact us at 1-800-660-9130, ext. 107.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Stage set for 8 shelters to open in response to Irene

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE … (Rutland, Vermont – August 27, 2011) With Hurricane Irene heading north and anticipated to make landfall in New England overnight, the Vermont & New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross has announced that they will open 8 shelters.

In Brattleboro, the shelter is opening at 6pm this evening to ensure the safe transfer of seniors from a low-lying housing complex. In anticipation of potential flooding, high winds and power outages tomorrow, at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning, the Red Cross will open 7 additional shelters. The shelter locations are as follows:

Opening 6:00 p.m. today (8/27/11):
1. Brattleboro, VT – Brattleboro Union High School – Fairground Road
Opening 9:00 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday, 8/28/11)
2. Bennington, VT – Mt. Anthony Union Middle School – 747 East Road
3. Springfield, VT – Springfield High School -- 303 South Street
4. Hartford, VT – Hartford High School – 37 Highland Avenue
5. Rutland, VT – Rutland High School – 22 Stratton Road
6. Barre, VT – Barre Auditorium
7. St. Johnsbury, VT – The St. Johnsbury School – 257 Western Avenue
8. St. Albans, VT – St. Albans Town Education Center – 169 South Main Street

These shelters are part of a network of over 300 locations across the region with whom the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross has agreements for potential use during times of disaster. While a hurricane cannot be prevented, the Red Cross knows that steps can be taken to prepare. At the shelters being opened tomorrow, the Red Cross will have the capacity to shelter and feed those that may be displaced by the storm.

As the storm track and impact becomes further defined, an assessment can be made as to resources that need to be shifted to different locations or consolidated in shelter locations that are part of tomorrow’s planned opening.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Safety Checklist

As the prospect of a hurricane coming into New England looks like a real possibility, many are asking what steps can be taken to prepare. To access a Red Cross Hurricane Safety Checklist, please visit our webpage at

At the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross, we too are working to prepare. This includes connecting with our disaster services volunteers to check on availability, checking in with a number of the facilities we use as shelters, and assessing what equipment and assets may be needed. Last night, Chief Response Officer Tim Stetson was interviewed by WPTZ-TV. Click here to see that story:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bennington Disaster Action Team Raises Awareness

This past weekend was a busy one for members of the Bennington Disaster Action (DAT) team. Fortunately, it wasn't flooding or late night fires that kept them on the move. This weekend was an opportunity for civic pride and raising awareness of Red Cross activities in Southern Vermont.

DAT members participated in the Shaftsbury parade, marking the town's 250th anniversary; set up a table at festivities surrouding Bennington Battle Day; and also made an appearance at the Bennington Irish Music Festival.

To see photos of DAT members Robin Greene, Diane Hart and Rob Cole, and to learn more about how they participated in these events, click on the following link to the online publication

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a disaster services volunteer with the American Red Cross in Vermont or New Hampshire's Upper Valley, contact Angela Russell at 800-660-9130, ext. 107 or by e-mailing her at

Friday, July 22, 2011

Berlin Mall Raffle Raises $3,000 for Disaster Relief

Less than two months ago, the communities of Central Vermont were devastated by flash flooding. Despite recent hot and dry weather, members of those communities have not forgotten the destruction wrought by those storms. To support the relief efforts of the American Red Cross, who has been at the heart of the flood recovery, the Berlin Mall held a fundraising raffle. Yesterday, the winners were awarded their prizes and the Red Cross received over $3,000.00.

The owners and management of the Berlin Mall saw the impact of the May 26th storm and decided there was something they could do to help. “Once the streets are clean it’s easy for the rest of us to just forget about the damage, but there are still people hurting out there,” said Mall Manager Gerry Hanifan. “People affected by the flood are members of Berlin Mall’s community, so we decided to help,” he added.

Over a ten day period, raffle tickets were sold at Bath and Body Works, the mall’s management office and by Red Cross volunteers from the Central Vermont/New Hampshire Valley Chapter. Yesterday, the two winning tickets were drawn, with the first prize being a $500.00 shopping spree at the mall and the second prize being $450.00 in merchandise and gift cards donated by many of the stores within the mall.

Just over $1,500.00 in $1 raffle tickets were sold. In addition to the Berlin Mall and its stores, the raffle was supported by local radio stations FRANK FM and FROGGY 92, part of Nassau Broadcasting. Both stations also broadcast live from the Berlin Mall yesterday to capture the final hour of the raffle.

At yesterday’s drawing, the owners of the Berlin Mall, Lerner Heidenberg Properties, represented by owners Robert Heidenberg and Ken Simon, announced that they would match the $1,500 raised through the raffle, bringing the grand total to over $3,000.00. (Pictured above, from left to right, are Ronnie Ruby and Ken Simon of Lerner Heidenberg property, Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon, TJ Michaels of FRANK-FM and Larry Crist, Regional Executive for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross.)

“The Red Cross can provide disaster relief because of wonderful partners like the Berlin Mall and the generosity of giving individuals,” said Larry Crist, Regional Executive for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. “To see a community so devastated by flooding rally like this is truly remarkable,” Crist added.

Friday, July 15, 2011

People's United and VPT Provide Generous Support

Recently, People’s United Bank found a way to help not just one local non-profit, but two. Today, one of those organizations, the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross, received $10,000.00 from People’s United to support local disaster relief.

During Vermont Public Television’s (VPT) June fund drive, People’s United Bank challenged viewers to support the station and enticed them to do so by pledging to make a donation to the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross for each pledge made to VPT. VPT viewers jumped at the opportunity and today, People’s United presented a $10,000.00 check to the local Red Cross officials.

Pictured above, left to right, are Larry Crist, Regional Executive of the VT & the NH Valley American Red Cross; George Hauenstein, Chief Development Officer with VPT; and Michael Seaver, Officer, People's United Community Foundation and President, People's United Bank Vermont.

“This spring, the Red Cross responded to record flooding across our region,” reported Larry Crist, Regional Executive for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. “The support of community partners like People’s United Bank ensures that the Red Cross is able to respond during times of such disasters,” Crist added. “The generosity of People’s United allows the Red Cross to provide assistance to our neighbors when disaster strikes and to support the dedication and compassion of our volunteers.”

The Red Cross response to spring flooding included opening 6 shelters, serving over 12,000 meals and snacks, deploying 15 Red Cross response vehicles and utilizing the services of over 130 American Red Cross disaster services volunteers.

“Through our customers and our employees, we knew that the need was great in the wake of the spring flooding,” said Michael Seaver, Officer, People’s United Community Foundation and President, People’s United Bank Vermont. “People’s United recognizes just how important it is to invest in our communities and we are pleased to support the work of the American Red Cross,” he added.

“We know that the passion that our viewers have for Vermont extends beyond Vermont Public Television and we saw this as a great opportunity to put that generosity to work for the American Red Cross,” said George Hauenstein, Chief Development Officer at VPT.

Vermont Public Television also supported the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross through the use of its studio phone bank during a disaster relief telethon sponsored by FOX 44 and ABC22 in early June.

Friday, July 1, 2011

First Lady Michelle Obama Visits Vermont

Members of the Vermont Guard and other Vermonters serving in the military, along with their families, had a special visit from First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday. The Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross was there to help. Introductions of the First Lady were made by Marcelle Leahy (seated to the First Lady's right with her husband Senator Patrick Leahy) and Vermont's Adjutant General, and VT & the NH Valley Red Cross board member, Michael Dubie (to First Lady's right).

In preparation for the event, the Guard contacted Service to Military Families Volunteer Randy Zeno and requested that the Red Cross provide support through a water station to help keep the hundreds assembled hydrated. Pictured at left with Randy Zeno (second from the right) are (L to R) volunteers Jack McNight, Tonya Hannon, Jesse Hannon and Hugh Williams.

Service to the Armed Forces is part of the core mission of the American Red Cross. We proudly assist with emergency communications, health and welfare inquiries and provide emergency financial assistance. Each year, 1000's of members of the military and their families attend events in our region at which the Red Cross participates to ensure that the services we provide are known to all.

At times throughout the year, the Red Cross is also called upon to lend a hand with special events such as yesterday's visit by the First Lady. It was an honor for our volunteers, like Hugh Williams (pictured right), to help yesterday and every day.

Senator and Mrs. Leahy Thank Volunteers

Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama was in Vermont. Her trip included a visit with the Vermont Guard and other members of the military, along with their families. Also in attendance were Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife Marcelle, who introduced the First Lady.

Before the First Lady's remarks, the Leahys took a moment to say hello to volunteers with the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. They conveyed their thanks for all the work performed by Red Cross volunteers during the spring flooding that has battered Vermont.

On hand to help supply water to the hundreds that turned out, and pictured here with the Leahys, are (left to right) volunteers Hugh Williams, Jesse Hannon, Jack McNight, Randy Zeno and Tonya Hannon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

WPTZ Story Highlights Work of Red Cross Volunteers

During last night's news, local NBC affiliate WPTZ did a great story on the dedication and committment of American Red Cross volunteers. It is very nice to see the recognition given to these compassionate folks who give so much of themselves and ask for very little in return.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fund Drive Helps Address Need

Wednesday night, FOX 44 and ABC 22 dedicated the hours of 5pm - 11pm to the Vermont & the New Hamsphire Valley American Red Cross. The goal of the evening was to increase awareness of the disaster relief operation that remains ongoing in response to flooding and to raise funds to support those efforts. The night was a success on both fronts.

Through public service announcements, live interviews and extensive coverage during their news broadcasts, FOX 44 and ABC 22 put a spotlight on the incredible upheaval endured by those affected by flood waters. The result was a tremendous $46,000 raised to support the American Red Cross. That total was reached, in large part, through the support of generous sponsors such as Casella Waste Systems who contributed $12,500 and New England Federal Credit Union who kicked in $10,000.

With the cost of the ongoing flood relief operation expected to exceed $200,000, Wednesday night provided a real boost and added to other funds already raised to meet this incredible need. However, we still have a lot of ground to cover. The Red Cross is continuing its efforts to raise the funds needed through additional efforts such as a Red Cross day supported by many of the Church Street Marketplace merchants this Saturday, June 11th; an invitation by the Flynn Theatre to raise funds at Friday and Saturday's Jazz Fest concerts; a June 16th benefit concert sponsored by WOKO at Higher Ground; the ongoing efforts of Price Chopper who is donating $1 for each fresh pizza sold; the generosity of People's United Bank who is making a donation to the Red Cross for each pledge made during Vermont Public Television's fund drive; and more.

We are so thankful for all of this support. The devastation is widespread and the need is great. All donations provide much needed support for our neighbors during their time of need. To make a donation or to find out how you can volunteer, go to our website

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June 8th Televised Fund Drive

The record rainfall experienced throughout this spring may have overflowed the banks of local rivers and lakes, but it has drained the coffers of the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. The devastation has been widespread and the need is great. Locally, the Red Cross has met the call for help each time and now it is time to fund those relief efforts.

FOX 44 and ABC 22 approached the Red Cross locally with a plan as to how they and their viewers could help. The result is that from 5pm – 11pm on Wednesday, June 8th, across both stations, an appeal will appear across the bottom of the screen letting viewers know how they can support Red Cross disaster relief. In addition, integrated into Wednesday evening’s programming will be public service announcements, news footage and live interviews. Viewers will see the impact on those affected by recent disasters, gain an understanding of the work of the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross and be asked to make a donation.

“For weeks our news people have been reporting on one disaster after another in Vermont. Telling our viewers the story just didn’t seem to be enough,” said Vic Vetters, FOX 44/ABC 22 Vice President. “We want to give them an opportunity to help the Red Cross. So, using our airwaves to raise some donations just seemed the right thing to do,” he added.

With a generous pledge of $10,000.00 for a challenge grant, New England Federal Credit Union has stepped forward to partner with the Red Cross to make the evening a success. “As a community-based financial institution, we are proud to do our share to help our neighbors recover from these terrible floods,” said John Dwyer, NEFCU President and CEO. Serving 79,000 members in the 6 northwestern counties of Vermont, NEFCU is well aware of the impact on those affected by recent events. During a defined portion of the evening, viewers will be challenged to donate $10,000.00, triggering the NEFCU gift.

A phone bank in the Vermont Public Television studios will be staffed by volunteers who will take donor calls and help to track the evening’s tally. The phone services, staff and equipment provided at VPT, just as they are at FOX 44/ABC 22, are being generously supplied to the American Red Cross at no cost.

“This Spring caps an extraordinary year for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross,” said regional Red Cross executive Larry Crist. “Before this rash of spring disasters, we had already responded at a rate that well exceeded our average. Then, in just the past seven weeks, our area has experienced three disasters of size not seen in over five years,” he added.

The Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross has experienced a year where the funds allocated for disaster assistance were exceeded by the end of March, with three months left in the organization’s fiscal year. The non-profit is now facing the prospect of providing continued disaster relief in connection with the spring flooding that could, ultimately, cost the Red Cross $200,000.00 - $300,000.00.

In addition to NEFCU’s primary sponsorship of the June 8th fund drive, additional community partners include sponsors Casella Waste Management, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and Vermont Telephone.

All emergency assistance provided by the American Red Cross is provided without charge and is made possible by donations from fellow community members. To help those in our region who have been affected by disaster, tune in to the fund drive from 5pm to 11pm on FOX 44 and ABC 22 or, as always, you can go to our website, to make a donation.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Shelter Remains Open; Volunteers Continue to Respond to House Fires

Flood waters may have receded in Central Vermont, but many families have been devastated. The Red Cross shelter remains open at the Barre Auditorium and work is underway with our partners to help identify long-term soloutions for those whose lives have been turned upside-down.

The people of Barre, Berlin, Montpelier, St. Johnsbury and other affected communities join neighbors across Northern Vermont who are still coping with elevated water levels. All in all, the unprecedented rain of the past few months has brought a level of devastation to our area that hasn't been seen in many, many years.

American Red Cross volunteers and staff have responded tremendously to the demands placed on them over the past two months, starting with the Brooks House fire in Brattleboro on April 17th. With all that has gone on with the major events, volunteers continue to respond to house and apartment fires just as always. Last night, members of the Central Vermont Disaster Action Team led the Red Cross response to a fire in Graniteville, Vermont. Volunteers provided both mass care to first responders, including beverages for hydration and 200 sandwiches, but also opened 4 case files to assist the families displaced by the apartment fire.

A big thank you to all of our volunteers and to those in the community who have provided support to our disaster relief efforts. We could not accomplish what we do without the in-kind gifts and financial contributions of our supporters or the hard work of our volunteer corps that helps carry out the American Red Cross mission.

Anyone interested in making a donation can go to

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Red Cross Shelter Remains Open in Response to Flash Floods

Now in its sixth day of operation, the American Red Cross shelter at the Barre Auditorium that opened last Thursday night remains open today. As of this morning, 29 shelter residents were being assisted. While this number is down from the approximately 170 that sought refuge in several Red Cross shelters on the night the flash flooding struck, the number was greater than Sunday evening after fears of landslides placed additional homes in jeopardy.

Shelter residents are trying to regain some sense of normalcy in their lives. This has been aided by local school buses adding the shelter as a pick up and drop off sight, ensuring kids are have a way to make it to school. At the shelter, parents are playing basketball with their kids and movies are available for viewing on a television that is on loan from a local merchant. Of course, meals, showers and other resources are also available to the shelter residents.

American Red Cross volunteers from throughout the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley region have staffed the shelter 24 hours a day since its opening Thursday night. For residents at the shelter and out in the community, the Red Cross has made available comfort kits, providing basic items for hygiene, such as soap, a toothbrush, shampoo, a razor, etc.. Mobile Red Cross emergency vehicles have also driven through the most affected areas offering clean up kits, sandwiches, snacks and water. Clean up kits contain a mop, broom, sponges, a bucket, garbage bags, gloves, masks and other cleaning materials. To supplement the standard items of a clean up kit, volunteers have also been distributing rakes, shovels and hoses to aid homeowners in the clean up process.

The Red Cross continues to work with state and local officials, as well as volunteer organizations such as the Salvation Army and Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disasters (VOAD). These associations help in ways as diverse as assistance with the feeding operations at the shelter, to support for volunteer organizations who specialize in the muck out process, to making referrals for long-term assistance as the initial emergency needs of those displaced by the flooding become long-term needs.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost to those impacted by disaster. To help the victims of this and other disasters, contributions can be made to the American Red Cross at or 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401. Please specify “Disaster Relief” in the memo of your check. Also, the Red Cross encourages anyone interested in volunteering with American Red Cross Disaster Services and responding to incidents such as this one to contact their local Red Cross chapter.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Shelters Opened in Response to Flash Flooding

(May 27, 2011) The heavy rains that fell last night and into the early hours on Friday brought flash flooding to many parts of Central Vermont. Working with local emergency managment officials, and in response to their requests, the VT & the NH Valley American Red Cross opened four shelters. Between 11:00 p.m. on Thursday night and 2:15 a.m. Friday morning, shelters were opened in Berlin, Barre, Montpelier and St. Johnsbury.

Pictured above, an American Red Cross disaster services vehicle arrives in Barre as a shelter was being opened at the City Auditorium. In Montpelier, a shelter was opened at the National Life building. Those shelters, as of early this morning, had 70 and 50 people respectively.

An evacuation shelter was opened in Berlin, with shelter residents subsequently being relocated to the Barre Auditorium. The St. Johnsbury shelter was opened as a precautionary step in light of numerous homes being evacuated. With no residents seeking Red Cross services, that shelter was later closed down and volunteers put on standby should additional rains today create a need to re-open.

With over 300 shelter agreements in place with locations throughout the cities and towns of Vermont and New Hampshire's Upper Valley, Red Cross volunteers are prepared to act quickly in response to requests of local and state officials when sheltering needs arise.

This latest disaster will make an already tight financial picture for the Red Cross even tighter, as the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross continues to meet the needs of those impacted by disaster in an unusually busy year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vermont Public Radio Puts Spotlight on High Demand for Red Cross Services

As has been noted in this Blog many times, this past year has been an extraordinary one for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. Whether it was the Brooks House fire in our Green Mountain Chapter, a greater than 50% increase in demand for services seen by the Central VT/NH Valley Chapter, or the record-breaking floods that have been seen throughout the Northern Vermont Chapter, Red Cross Disaster Services has been on the scene helping our neighbors to recover.

Yesterday, Vermont Public Radio aired an interview with Regional Executive Larry Crist that focused on the impact the events of the past year have had on our organization's financial resources. To hear the interview, click on this link

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Fire Displaces Two Families

(South Burlington, Vermont – May 9, 2011) Being forced from their homes due to fire was not how two families in a two-unit apartment building in South Burlington intended to mark Mother’s Day. The call came in to the Northern Vermont Chapter of the American Red Cross early Sunday afternoon that there was a fire on Southview Drive, impacting both apartments in the structure. The Chapter’s Chittenden County Disaster Action Team responded, interviewing family members from the apartments.

Disaster Action Team members are trained in client casework, among other skills, and interview those impacted by fire or other disaster to assess their emergency needs. The mother and her two children that lived on the ground floor were in need of emergency shelter and lodging was arranged at a local motel. The family on the second floor had made alternate arrangements.

In the face of the recent flooding and the assistance provided to over 200 people by Disaster Action Teams across Northern Vermont, it was easy to forget that the majority of the disaster services provided each year by the Red Cross in our region are in response to house fires. Disaster services volunteers are located throughout the region and are trained to provide disaster relief and emotional comfort. They are available to respond at any time, day or night, to disasters in their communities or surrounding towns. The Red Cross primarily assists with emergency shelter, food, clothing, medical and disaster mental health services where a verified need exists and will support the families further by providing referrals to other community support resources.

All emergency assistance provided by the American Red Cross is provided free of charge and made possible by donations from fellow community members. To help the victims of this and other disasters, donations can be made to the American Red Cross by sending a contribution to the American Red Cross, Northern Vermont Chapter, 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401-3323. Please specify Disaster Services in the memo of your check.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mobile Kitchen On The Move Again

The Mobile Kitchen Unit has truly been mobile over the past week, making its latest appearance in Milton at the Agency of Transportation (AOT) depot yesterday afternoon. After the Governor's declaration of a State of Emergency, the Milton AOT site became a staging area for additional supplies and resources. This includes members of the Vermont Army National Guard (pictured below).

Mobile Kitchen Lead, Jesse Hannon (above), and Mass Care Lead Steve Pernicka's tomato soup received rave reviews from the Guard, State Police and VT Emergency Management folks on hand for last night's dinner service. The Mobile Kitchen Unit will be on site at the Milton AOT for the next few days.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Update: Vermont Flooding

Vermont remains in the midst of significant flooding. The American Red Cross has been active with State and private partners to assist throughout this period. Allow this entry to provide an update as to some of the activities we have been, and remain, engaged in to provide assistance to affected individuals and communities.

We presently have 25 cases open, providing assistance to 70 individuals. The primary form of assistance has been with lodging, placing individuals and families in hotels/motels as close to their homes as is feasible. Additionally, some of those we have helped have been provided financial assistance for food and clothing. Referrals to additional resources (State, community, etc.) are also provided. Some, but I am sure not an exhaustive list, of the towns where we have helped people would include: St. Johnsbury, Burlington, Derby, Beecher Falls, Essex Jct., Colchester, St. Albans, Cambridge/Jeffersonville. In several towns, including Johnson and Isle LaMotte, we have been in contact with local officials and they are aware of the services the American Red Cross can provide.

In addition to these individual cases referenced above, it is worth noting that we have had a shelter opened in St. Albans for the past 3 days to assist should any families need shelter from the rising lake level. [Pictured above are Jesse Hannon, Steve Pernicka, Tonya Hannon, Krissie Houghton, Christina Stetson, Conner Stetson (in front) and David Stetson as they open the St. Albans shelter.] A significant component to our initial response last week was to assist an additional 30+ families (over 75 additional individuals) in the Cambridge/Jeffersonville area. Exemplifying the importance of community partners, those displaced families were provided lodging through the generous support of Smuggler’s Notch and we did not need to open a public shelter. The Red Cross arranged for meals, preparing many from our Mobile Kitchen Unit.

During this crisis, we have provided 100 clean up and comfort kits, over 400 meals, over 550 snacks, deployed 6 Red Cross vehicles into the field and relied on over 20 volunteers to help provide the assistance described in this entry.

The Red Cross is actively assessing damage throughout the region. Continued rain and rising water levels are expected to translate into an increase in demand for Red Cross services. We remain active with our State and private partners in trying to address and anticipate additional needs.

Let's not forget, our response to the flooding comes on the heels of a major fire in Brattleboro, where we have assisted close to 50 families displaced by that disaster.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Red Cross Responds to Flooding Across Northern VT

Cambridge and its Village of Jeffersonville may have taken a heavy hit from rising flood waters, but similar scenes played out across Northern Vermont and in many instances the Red Cross was called for assistance. With 34 families and close to 100 people forced from their homes in Cambridge and Jeffersonville yesterday, the Red Cross set out to find sheltering arrangements. Fortunately, our first call was to Smuggler's Notch Resort who generously agreed to put up 30 families. Arrangements were made for the remaining families at a nearby motel.

While shelter arrangements were squared away, there were additional client services needed to assist the displaced residents. Not the least of these services was to feed the families. Regional Mass Care Lead Steve Pernika and Mobile Kitchen Team Leader Jesse Hannon have been spearheading feeding efforts with the support of additional Disaster Action Team volunteers. Pictured above, left to right, are Jesse Hannon, Tonya Hannon, Wendy Kruger, Lori Stancliff, Erica Bornemann and Steve Pernicka.

In addition to the famlies served in Cambridge/Jeffersonville, volunteers with the Northern Vermont Chapter of the VT & the NH Valley American Red Cross have assisted flood-affected families in Essex Jct., Burlington, St. Johnsbury and Derby. The Regional Operations Center, lead by Regional Chief Response Officer Tim Stetson is keeping an eye on flooding situations in other communities, maintaining contact with local emergency providers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Barre Town Apartment Fire Makes for Second Response of the Day

(Barre Town, Vermont – April 13, 2011) In response to a fire this morning in Barre Town, Red Cross Disaster Action Team members are providing support to displaced residents. The fire victims were residents in a 2-unit apartment building on Richardson Road.

“With more than two months left in our fiscal year, our Central VT/NH Valley Chapter disaster volunteers have already responded to 50% more calls than all of last year,” said Tim Stetson, Regional Chief Response Officer for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley Region of the American Red Cross. “On a day like today, when our teams respond to multiple calls, it is wonderful to see that the dedication of our volunteers is clearly up to the challenge,” Stetson added.

The disaster services volunteers responding in Barre Town are members of the Berlin Disaster Action Team (DAT). This is the second DAT from the Central VT/NH Valley Chapter called into service today. The Upper Valley Team responded earlier to a fire in Lebanon, NH. The Disaster Action Teams are volunteers who, when requested, provided client assistance for victims of disaster and can also assist first responders with rehabilitative services in the form of hydration and food. The client assistance takes the form of temporary housing and financial support for food, clothing and other emergency needs. The Disaster Action Teams respond day or night.

American Red Cross emergency assistance is provided without charge to those in need and is made possible by donations from fellow community members. To help victims of disaster, contributions can be mailed to American Red Cross, 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401-3323. Please specify Disaster Services in the memo of your check. Additionally, donations can be made on-line at

Upper Valley DAT at Scene of Lebanon, NH Apartment Fire

(Lebanon, New Hampshire – April 13, 2011) At this hour, Red Cross Disaster Services personnel are on the scene of a 2-unit apartment fire in Lebanon, NH. The responding personnel are volunteers with the Central VT/NH Valley Chapter’s Upper Valley Disaster Action Team.

Rehabilitative support, in the form of hydration and food are already being provided to fire fighters and other emergency personnel. At every scene, affected individuals are interviewed to determine their immediate, emergency needs. In this instance, it is believed that there are a total of five residents, two in one unit and three in the other. The Red Cross primarily assists with emergency shelter, food, clothing, medical and disaster mental health services and supports families further by providing referrals to other community support resources.

“Our Disaster Action Teams are trained to provide the mass care and client assistance required at the scene of a fire such as the one seen today,” said Tim Stetson, Regional Chief Response Officer with the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley Region of the American Red Cross. “While we can provide the training, it is our volunteers that bring compassion to those whose lives are turned upside down by fire, flood and other disasters,” he added.

American Red Cross emergency assistance is provided without charge to those in need and is made possible by donations from fellow community members. To help victims of disaster, contributions can be mailed to American Red Cross, 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401-3323. Please specify Disaster Services in the memo of your check. Additionally, donations can be made on-line at

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Local Outpouring of Support for Japan

Since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan of March 11th, the people of our region have demonstrated tremendous generosity and support. This has taken the form of individual donations, large corporate gifts and initiatives by school groups, churches, civic organizations and more. In addition to events organized for the sole purpose of raising funds to support recovery in Japan, some organizations have utilized existing events as opportunities to heighten awareness and generate donations. One such event was Matsuri 2011, A Festival of Japan.

The Japan-American Society of Vermont invited the VT & NH Valley American Red Cross to join them for Matsuri 2011, a festival celebrating the art, culture and history of Japan. We were pleased to participate and to serve as a resource of information and an avenue for support of the Japanese people.

At a booth, run by staff and volunteers, we saw a steady stream of festival goers throughout the day. Pictured (from left to right) are Beth Bloomberg, Haley LaBonte, Max Levy and Alison Levy. For more on this event and the Red Cross participation, click for WCAX's coverage or, for WPTZ's story, click

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Time to Catch up on a Busy Week

It has been a busy week for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. Allow us a few minutes to catch you up on what has been happening.

It started last week in Montpelier with the help and support of Governor Shumlin. At a ceremony in his ceremonial office in the State House, the Governor signed a proclamation declaring March as American Red Cross Month and he urged all Vermonters to support our organization.

While at the State House, we also took a moment to confer the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit upon Mr. Ned Kirsch of Essex Town, VT. The award is given to a person who uses their Red Cross training to save or sustain a life. Through his work as an educator, Mr. Kirsch had learned CPR and renewed his skills several times through recertification. Ultimately, it wasn't a colleague or student who needed his help; it was his own brother. After his brother was felled by a heart attack during a family gathering this past summer, Mr. Kirsch jumped in and administered CPR until EMS arrived. His actions are credited with saving his brother's life. To highlight the importance of the award, the Governor helped us to present this award to Mr. Kirsch.

While winter may have come to an end on the calendar, we all know better. Unfortunately, this past week looked much like the rest of this winter with regard to a great demand for Red Cross disaster services. Members of our Disaster Action Teams went out on response in Enfield, NH and Colchester, VT. In both instances, assistance was provided to people whose homes were struck by fire. For our Central VT/NH Valley Chapter, their rate of response has already exceed all of last year, with over 3 months still remaining in the current fiscal year.
As noted, March is Red Cross month and while it may be marked by well-deserved proclamations, the heart of what we accomplish is seen in the quick action of Ned Kirsch and the compassion and dedication of our Disaster Action Teams. Thank you to everyone who supports the humanitarian mission of the American Red Cross.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WCAX Places Spotlight on Animals During Disasters

Click here to view today's WCAX story on the new partnership between the VT & NH Valley American Red Cross and Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART). Anchor Keagan Harsha interviewed Chief Response Officer Tim Stetson . . . and don't miss Max, the disaster dog.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tune in to WCAX on Tuesday, March 15th at 6:55am

At the beginning of the month, we shared with you the formalization of a partnership between the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross and Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART). The two groups established a framework of cooperation to provide emergency response resources for animal owners and their animals. The Channel 3 News has a weekly segment, Everything Animals, that airs Tuesday morning at 6:55am. Tomorrow, they will devote the segment to this issue. Tune in tomorrow, March 15th, to catch Tim Stetson, Chief Response Officer for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley Region Red Cross.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Swimmers Sought to Help "Swim" the Long Trail in Support of Red Cross Disaster Services

In an effort to raise funds to support critical disaster relief services, the American Red Cross announced today that they are recruiting swimmers to help “Swim the Long Trail.”

Adopting a novel approach to “hiking” the Long Trail, the goal is for volunteer swimmers to raise funds in advance of taking to the pool on April 2nd and then, as a group, for their combined efforts to cover a distance equal to the 273 mile iconic trail. Swimmers can do their part at one of two locations, The Edge in Williston and the Upper Valley Aquatic Center in White River Junction.

The goals of event organizers is to bring attention to the vital disaster services mission of the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross and raise funds to ensure that the necessary resources are available to support the people and communities in our region during times of disaster.

“Swim the Long Trail is a great way for swimmers of all ages to enjoy a swim, while also knowing that their efforts are lending much needed support for the American Red Cross,” said Larry Crist, Red Cross Regional Executive for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley Region. “We are putting out the call to all swimmers, swim teams and local organizations to join us for this fun event.”

The Vermont and the New Hampshire Valley region of the American Red Cross plays a vital role in helping people to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. In addition to training thousands in lifesaving skills across our region each year, the American Red Cross provides disaster assistance, at no cost, to community members at their hour of greatest need. These services range from shelter and food, to clothing and medicine. Red Cross disaster services are supported by the generosity of donors.

“With the support of the Upper Valley Aquatic Center, The Edge, Mascoma Bank, Best Buy and Price Chopper, there will be two wonderful sites to swim, prizes, food and fun for all participants,” Crist added.

Interested swimmers and volunteers can find more information at or by contacting Eric Cochran at 802-660-9130 x113 or via e-mail at

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Local Red Crossers in Haiti focus of News Story

Published February 26, 2011
‘From Relief to Disaster Recovery’
Valley News staff writer

Port-Au-Prince — George Sykes was alert, poised to cross the street as a turbulence of tap-taps and mopeds swept past.

“I’m just really cautious,” Sykes said.

Suddenly, he plunged into the traffic, ignoring the honks, then hustled down a side street toward the American Red Cross annex in Petionville, a suburb of the capital. He passed a collapsed concrete building where children stood outside begging and tossing pebbles at passersby.

It’s been a bit of an adjustment for the former Lebanon city councilor. Sykes and two others with Upper Valley ties — Meg DiCarlo, of Woodstock, and Cristina Hammond, of Hanover — are working for the Red Cross in the capital long after many workers from non-government organizations have closed up shop.

They’re helping to implement and expand Red Cross programs aimed at assisting the displaced Haitians dwelling in makeshift encampments. Progress is creeping along, they say.

“It’s hard for someone who hasn’t been here a while to see, but we’re moving from relief to disaster recovery,” Sykes said.

After the earthquake struck a year ago, the former career firefighter said he watched the television coverage of the disaster with his wife, Jayne, who was in tears over the scale of the suffering. Jobless at the time, he was inspired to take action.

“Honestly, there’s a little bit of selfishness,” said Sykes, 59, who claims to be the oldest American Red Cross delegate in Haiti. “I feel really good about me here.”

A short-term commitment has become, now, open-ended. Sykes took on a one-month volunteer stint in April. He’s since renewed his commitment three times and will be in Port-au-Prince until at least May 31, managing the American Red Cross facilities in the Port-au-Prince area.

After that, he may renew again. In the best case, Sykes and the others say, they work themselves out of a job.

“The hope is, they don’t need you anymore and you go home,” he said.

That outcome at present seems distant. About 800,000 people still reside in encampments, according to Red Cross numbers. Still, that’s half of the 1.5 million people in camps after the quake. And the camps are a bit improved from the early days when sticks and bed sheets were called tents. Many are living in sturdier canvas tents now or metal shanties covered in tarps. NGOs supply the camps with potable water, latrines, vaccinations and other forms of health support. The Red Cross alone says it provides daily drinking water for about 317,000 recipients.

The Haitian government asked organizations to stop providing food last April, saying it was slowing the recovery of farming and commerce, said Julie Sell, American Red Cross spokeswoman in Port-au-Prince.

Other signs of progress are more mundane. Sykes recalled having to drive around a gaping hole in the road for months. Recently, he noticed a new grill over the sewer opening.

“It’s a small example but that’s progress here. You have to remember how it was here before the earthquake, too,” Sykes said.

‘A Certain Style’

Jonas Sainta, 40, was a plumber before the earthquake and made a decent living.

“Before the earthquake, there was a certain style of life. We had the power to buy things. When the earthquake happened, we lost the fight we had before,” Sainta said, speaking through translator Julien Rodolphe Fils Debrosse.

“Now, there’s a new style of life. ... Out of job,” Sainta said.

On a dry, rocky hillside, in the camp known as Acra III, Sainta volunteers in a Red Cross cholera prevention center. The domed tent is nestled amongst tarp-covered shanties that are home to more than 2,000 Haitians. The camp is on a bony knob that overlooks the Gulf of Gonave, the sprawl of Port-au-Prince, and in the distant haze, the Central Plateau to the north. Sainta was one of three volunteers staffing the tent, ready to provide oral rehydration solution, information on correct hand-washing or information about nearby cholera treatment centers. The volunteers typically see anywhere from five to 10 people a day seeking help or information, Sainta said.

One day in late December, shortly after the cholera outbreak, 78 people visited the tent fearful for themselves and their families, Sainta said. He credited Red Cross preventive measures for there being no more than seven confirmed cases in the entire camp.

“This was a disease that scared many people here, especially in the camps. They didn’t understand it, didn’t know where it came from, and it’s a disease that can kill you in the matter of hours,” said Hammond, the Hanover resident and health delegate who oversees the cholera program in Port-au-Prince.

Here in the capital, where disasters seem to stack up on top of one another, cholera actually falls in the success category for Red Cross officials, including Hammond and DiCarlo, who have played pivotal roles in minimizing its impact. After the outbreak, the Red Cross set up cholera tents in more than 50 camps and doubled its number of “promoters,” typically young Haitians, trained to go into the camps to educate people about cholera and other diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.There are now 200 promoters venturing out with backpacks of supplies and information each day, said DiCarlo, who oversees all of American Red Cross health programs in Haiti.

“We were able to scale up very quickly,” she said.

Hammond and Debrosse, cholera program manager, visited Acra III Thursday to leave a stretcher at the cholera tent. Previously, sick people were carried by hand down a steep embankment.

Life in the camp is squalid and discouraging, Sainta said. More than anything, people need jobs. But Sainta said his new volunteer role gives him solid footing.

“It’s not easy but I try to help people and begin a new life. It’s a new style of life but I am hopeful,” he said.

‘Place of Paradoxes’

“If the toilets are working, that’s one less thing people have to worry about,” Sykes said.

It’s not the most glamorous job in disaster response, but Sykes said it’s important. He manages two office buildings, a warehouse and five apartment buildings. Basically, his duties are making sure everything works, including the toilets, and improving cost and energy efficiencies where possible.

He manages a staff of about 10 janitors and maintenance workers, “some of the least appreciated staff here,” he said. Sykes said he would consider another extension if it’s offered.

“This is a place of paradoxes. A place where wonderful things can happen,” he said. “There are warm-hearted generous people here. … It will get better.”

For Hammond, who has a background in biostatistics and epidemiology, volunteering in Haiti presented a unique opportunity to practice the international health programming she had long studied. And the work fit her criteria for happiness: making a difference, learning new things and having fun.

“I love the work that I do. I feel incredibly humbled to be doing it,” said Hammond, whose husband is Bill Hammond, a Hanover High teacher.

Having spent seven years in Tanzania, DiCarlo is the Red Cross veteran of the group.

“These things are a little addictive,” she said.

Woodstock is her hometown but DiCarlo gave no indication she was moving back home any time soon. There’s still much work to be done in Haiti.

“Progress is never as fast as we want it to be. It frustrates me. I want things to be faster,” DiCarlo said. “But we are seeing progress here. ... And being in the trenches, it’s very fulfilling.”

Gregory Trotter can be reached at, or 603-727-3210.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Relief Organizations Partner to Care for Animals During Time of Disaster

Red Cross Partners with Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Burlington, VT – March 1, 2011) While we might all understand how the upheaval caused by disasters impacts the basic human needs of disaster victims, two local organizations have given a great deal of thought as to how such events impact the needs of animals. After considerable work, the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross and Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART) have announced a partnership that focuses on how to best meet the needs of animals during times of disaster. The two groups have entered into an agreement, establishing a framework of cooperation between the organizations to provide emergency response resources for animal owners and their animals.

With over ninety years of disaster relief experience in the region, the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross knows a thing or two about disaster response. What they have learned is that times of disaster are no time to go it alone. This applies not only to those helped by the Red Cross, but for the organization itself. The human element has been the focus of the Red Cross, who provides shelter, food, clothing and more during times of disaster. What the Red Cross is unable to do is shelter and feed animals.

“The compassion and dedication Red Cross volunteers bring to their work to alleviate human suffering during times of disaster is matched by the passion of those who never forget the suffering of animals at such times,” said Tim Stetson, Chief Response Officer for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. “Partnering with VDART was a natural fit for both organizations,” he added.

VDART, like the Red Cross, is a non-profit organization. Their mission is to provide for a coordinated effort in preparing for, preventing, responding to, and recovering from any emergencies affecting animals. In fulfilling this mission, VDART supports the development of a system of Regional Operating DARTs. Currently there are three DARTS, with more in the planning stages to permit optimal coverage of the State. VDART provides assistance to regional DARTs during their formation, along with training, operational and logistical support.

VDART works with partners at many levels, including its work with the State of Vermont in which it assists with responsibilities for implementing the State’s Animal Disaster Emergency Plan. Since VDART is not a direct response agency itself, the work of VDART during a disaster is through its system of regional response team affiliates across Vermont and could range from providing referrals for animal care to the operation of shelters for companion animals that are established in close proximity to the human shelters.

VDART’s sheltering capabilities are aided by resources such as the Companion Animal Mobile Equipment Trailer, or CAMET, that VDART purchased through grant funds provided by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The trailers provide immediate shelter when disaster strikes and contain items such as crates, a generator, first aid kits, a pressure washer, power cords, animal ID bands, dog bowls and more. Once unloaded, the trailer also serves as a local command center. The State of Vermont has a second CAMET that may come to VDART for assignment.

Due to health and safety concerns, the Vermont & New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross does not allow animals, other than service animals, inside its disaster or evacuation shelters. The Red Cross does, however, recognize the importance of pets to their owners and appreciates the sense of responsibility and interdependence that pet owners feel toward their pets. “By partnering with VDART for the protection and care of people’s pets, the Red Cross knows that we are also serving the needs of the people we are sheltering,” Stetson said. “The peace of mind gained from knowing that a pet is cared for can be as important for many as the cot we provide or the meals we serve.”

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two organizations covers not just a working relationship between VDART and the Red Cross, but also the affiliated regional Disaster Animal Response Teams (Regional DARTs) and the Red Cross. The coordination of services during times of disaster and may include:

 Communication between the organizations before and during disasters;
 The inclusion of VDART personnel at Red Cross shelters;
 Referrals for services between the organizations;
 Animal sheltering;
 The promotion of community awareness of preparedness; and
 Future work on the development of emergency response plans.

This first of its kind agreement in this region has a four year term, but both organizations believe that this will be a relationship that has a much longer future.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Burlington Fire Displaces Residents of 40-Unit Complex

The American Red Cross responded to the scene of a fire early this morning in Burlington that may displace as many as 40 families. The call came in to the Northern Vermont Chapter’s Disaster Operations Center just before 6:00am. The Chapter’s Chittenden County Disaster Action Team (DAT) mobilized and headed out to the complex on Hildred Drive in Burlington.

While it is the understanding of the Red Cross that the fire was limited to one unit, the complex’s property manager has advised that water damage and other fire-related consequences are such that residents in 40 units have been asked to leave their housing units. As the ability to return to those units is not yet known, the Red Cross has already started working with those affected, assessing the need for emergency assistance.

To meet the potential need created by this event, the Red Cross has established a service center at their 29 Mansfield Avenue headquarters in Burlington. For anyone in need of assistance who has not yet spoken with the Red Cross, they can contact the Northern Vermont Chapter at 802-660-9130. At the service center, staff and Chittenden County Disaster Action Team members will interview those affected to determine their emergency needs.

Red Cross disaster services volunteers are located throughout the region and are trained to provide disaster relief and emotional comfort. They are available to respond at any time, day or night, to disasters in their communities or surrounding towns. While the Red Cross primarily assists with emergency shelter, food and clothing, help is also provided in the form of medical and disaster mental health services and further support is provided to those affected by making referrals to other community support resources.

All emergency assistance provided by the American Red Cross is provided without cost to the disaster victims and is made possible by donations from fellow community members. To help the victims of this and other disasters, donations can be made to the American Red Cross by sending a contribution to the American Red Cross, Northern Vermont Chapter, 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401-3323. Please specify Disaster Services in the memo of your check.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

3 Calls to Red Cross in Just 12 Hours

Call goes out to Red Cross regarding Barre, Lydonville and Newark Fires

In a pattern that seems to be repeating itself throughout a busy winter season, calls to the Red Cross have once again come in bunches. In the course of 12 hours, on three occasions local Red Cross Disaster Action Teams either went to the scene of a house fire or were put on standby for a potential call into service.

The first call came in response to a Friday fire in Newark, VT that displaced a family of three. Volunteers with the Caledonia County Disaster Action Team (DAT) responded to a call for support, providing financial assistance to the family for food and clothing. Additionally, they supplied rehabilitative services to firefighters and other first responders from multiple area departments. Members of the Caledonia DAT also readied themselves Friday evening by being on standby should assistance have been requested for a Lyndoville, VT fire.

The third fire garnering the attention of the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross was a call to action in Barre, VT after a kitchen fire displaced a family of 8, including 2 adults and 6 children. The Red Cross’s Berlin Disaster Action Team extended support to the Barre family in the form of lodging and financial assistance for food and clothing.

American Red Cross Disaster Action Teams are comprised of volunteers who respond, day or night, to assess the needs of disaster victims and, when requested, provide aid to first responders, most often in the form of hydration, food and rehabilitative support.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Irasburg Fire Part of 30% Higher Winter Response Rate

(February 15, 2011) Fire, local emergency response and then a call to the American Red Cross. This is the chain of events that has repeated itself over and over again this winter. The latest call for Red Cross assistance was at 4:00 a.m. this morning, when members of the Orleans County Disaster Action Team, part of a network of volunteer responders with the Northern Vermont Chapter of the American Red Cross, went to the scene of a fire in Irasburg, VT. Once there, the Red Cross disaster services volunteers met with the 2 people displaced by the fire to assess their immediate, emergency needs. The 2 were helped with food, clothing and lodging. Assistance was also provided to emergency responders in the form of food and beverage.

The Irasburg fire was the third such response over the past 24 hours for the 3 chapters that comprise the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. Yesterday afternoon, members of the Central Vermont/New Hampshire Valley’s Upper Valley Disaster Action Team responded to a call for assistance for a family of 5 displaced after a barn fire spread to a home in Royalton, VT. That family also received assistance with food, clothing and lodging. While such assistance is what is most commonly provided, the Red Cross also can also provide medical and disaster mental health services and supports families and individuals further by providing referrals to other community support resources.

The first of the most recent three fires was the fire in Lunenburg, which was the subject of a release yesterday morning. A recent review of the responses for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross showed that this winter has seen its Disaster Action Teams called into service at a rate of 30% more than for the same period last year.

The assistance given by the Red Cross Disaster Action Teams is provided free of charge and made possible by donations from fellow community members. To help the victims of these and other disasters, donations can be made to the American Red Cross by sending a contribution to the American Red Cross, Northern Vermont Chapter, 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401-3323. Please specify Disaster Relief in the memo of your check.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Fire Displaces Lunenburg Family

February 14, 2011 -- For a Lunenburg family, this will not be a Valentine’s Day they will soon forget. An early morning house fire has put the family of two adults and one child out of their home. When notified about this family’s personal disaster by local first responders, Red Cross volunteers with the Northern Vermont Chapter’s Caledonia Disaster Action Team responded. While the family has a place to stay, emergency assistance was provided by the Red Cross to aid with food and clothing to help as they begin to rebuild their lives.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Red Cross at Scene of Colchester Blaze

7th Response in 9 Days for VT & NH Valley American Red Cross

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE . . .(Colchester, Vermont – February 9, 2011) For the third time in 24 hours, and seventh in the last nine days, Red Cross volunteers are responding to a local disaster. Disaster services volunteers with the Northern Vermont Chapter’s Chittenden County Disaster Action Team are en route to the scene of a fully-involved structure fire on Red Rock Road in Colchester.

In response to a call from the Colchester Fire Department for mass care services, the Disaster Action Team Volunteers will provide rehabilitative services to first responders. Hydration and food will be provided in support of the firefighters and others on the scene.

This assistance is on the heels of the support provided last night at the scene of a fire in East Burke, VT and the support supplied yesterday to over 50 first responders at the scene of a barn collapse in Chester, VT. “The demand for Red Cross services traditionally sees a spike in the winter months,” said Tim Stetson, Chief Response Officer of the American Red Cross in Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley. “This winter, however, we have seen a larger than normal call for our services.”

Red Cross disaster services volunteers are organized in Disaster Action Teams throughout the Vermont & New Hampshire Valley Region. In addition to the rehabilitation services provided to firefighters and other first responders, individuals and families affected by disaster are interviewed to determine their immediate, emergency needs. The Red Cross primarily assists with emergency shelter, food, clothing, medical and disaster mental health services where a verified need exists and will support the families further by providing referrals to other community support resources.

As a non-governmental organization, the American Red Cross relies upon the donations of community members to ensure that disaster services are available when called upon. American Red Cross emergency assistance is provided without charge to those in need. To help victims of disaster, donations can be made to the American Red Cross by sending a contribution to the American Red Cross, 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401-3323. Please specify Disaster Services in the memo of your check.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

East Burke Response Second for the Day

At this hour, the Northern Vermont Chapter of the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross is responding to a house fire in East Burke, VT. Members of the Chapter’s Caledonia Disaster Action Team will provide mass care support to first responders in the form of food and hydration. Additionally, Team members will interview those affected by the fire to determine their immediate emergency needs, such as shelter, food and clothing.

The East Burke response will be the second of the day for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. This morning, members of a Disaster Action Team in the region’s Green Mountain Chapter responded to a barn collapse in Chester, VT. Once on scene in Chester, the disaster services volunteers, with the assistance of local merchants, provided support to approximately 50 Urban Search and Rescue members and local firefighters.

After a house fire or other disaster, the recovery process begins at the moment the disaster strikes. The Red Cross, which is mandated by a Congressional Charter to provide relief during times of disaster, carries out that Charter through the work of Chapters across the country. Across the three Chapters that make up the Vermont and the New Hampshire Valley Region, this relief is carried out by a network of local, volunteer Disaster Action Teams.