North Jersey Region Honors Outstanding Volunteers

The American Red Cross North Jersey Region honored some exceptional volunteers at three volunteer recognition events held this month. We are thankful for the extraordinary work of our volunteers and are proud to work alongside such compassionate who are always willing to help those in need.

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Outstanding Volunteer Service Award

Julie Siciliano, Red Cross New Jersey Crossroads

Holly Lenhardt, Red Cross of Northern New Jersey

Carmella and Tommy Ditmars, Red Cross of Central New Jersey

Outstanding Youth Involvement Award

Jordan Gross, Red Cross New Jersey Crossroads

Varun Ravichandran, Red Cross of Northern New Jersey

Edison Red Cross Club, Red Cross of Central New Jersey

Pacesetter Award

Red Cross New Jersey Crossroads:
Judy Chester, Tish Corvino, Hart Coven, Elizabeth Hissim, Sheila Keefe,
Anne LaFontaine, Molly Lenz, Frank Manniello, Lou Piccoli, Victor Prasad and Joe Runkle.

Red Cross of Northern New Jersey:
Ed Callahan, Robert Fischer, Bill Lampert, Paul Lalka, Aida Lopez,
Ginny Molinaro, Maureen Moniz, Lisa Saeman, Sydney Scirica, Carol Lee Spages,
Fred Spages and Albert Warren.

Red Cross of Central New Jersey:
Mary Brown, Barbara Flagg, Claire Geyer, Marv Goodman, Irwin Horowitz,
Allie Mathews, Mary Petti, Thomas Seel, Michele Termini and Shawn Watters.

Outstanding Volunteer Service Award Recipients

JULIE SICILIANO

???????????????????????????????Julie is an amazing and versatile volunteer. In her more than 12 years as an American Red Cross volunteer, Julie has served as a disaster responder; logistics procurement member; a member of the New Jersey Crossroads board of directors; a fire safety trailer operator; a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer; a shelter manager, and a team leader for shelter survey and agreement activity in Union, Somerset and Morris counties.

As a disaster services volunteer, Julie has selflessly responded to numerous large-scale disasters to comfort, support and provide emergency assistance to affected families. Julie’s work during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, as well as following New Jersey flooding and home fires, has been outstanding. In her work managing shelter activity, she has gone above and beyond the call of duty to bring relief to families affected by disaster.

Julie is an avid supporter of our veterans. Earlier last year, Julie co-chaired a program at the East Orange VA Hospital where she and her fellow volunteers assisted veterans training to compete in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in Philadelphia this past August. Veterans and trainers alike were always thrilled to have Julie help out at their training sessions. She has also  supported Stand Down events for homeless and in-need veterans as well as countless other activities. Her compassion and desire to help others makes Julie a remarkable volunteer who embodies the spirit of the Red Cross.

HOLLY LENHARDT

???????????????????????????????For more than six years, Holly Lenhardt has dedicated herself to helping the  region’s Disaster Services team provide the best care possible to families affected by home fires and other disasters.

When appointed to her role as volunteer partner to the region’s Senior Disaster Programs Manager, Holly was instrumental in helping the North Jersey Region navigate disaster re-engineering and transition to Disaster Cycle Services.

In addition to performing an endless array of operational tasks, Holly also made it her mission to mentor and assist her peers. As new systems, including Volunteer Connection and CAS 2.0, were rolled out across the region, she eagerly learned the new tools so that she could pass on that knowledge and help guide other volunteers. On many occasions Holly met with volunteers one-on-one in their homes to help them understand and troubleshoot Volunteer Connection and CAS 2.0. Her tireless effort to help her fellow volunteers is remarkable and appreciated by all.

Staff and volunteers alike knew that if they came to Holly she would be more than happy to do whatever was needed to support them. Holly is a valued volunteer partner that is a treasured part of Disaster Services and a tremendous asset to the North Jersey Region.

CARMELLA & TOMMY DITMARS

???????????????????????????????Carmella and Tommy are a team within a team – and what a team they are. The couple dedicates an astonishing 250 hours a month to supporting American Red Cross programs and services. They are often found at community events across the region helping New Jerseyans become better prepared for disasters.

Carmella is not only a Disaster Preparedness Trainer, but she has also recently taken on the role of Disaster Preparedness Team Leader where she immediately began galvanizing the team and looking for innovative ways to expand the group. Tommy has worked hard to become an exceptional Disaster Preparedness Presenter and is a steadfast and valued member of the region’s Preparedness workforce.

When the Red Cross was requested to participate in the Boy Scouts of  America Annual Emergency Preparedness Cubarama in Mercer County, the Ditmars jumped forward to take the lead. They immediately went to work             coordinating and planning for the event. In an effort to enlarge the Red Cross presence, Carmella and Tommy seamlessly incorporated Service to the Armed Forces by inviting children to participate in Holiday Mail for Heroes. Thanks to their hard work and dedication, more than 250 scouts and their families learned

about fire safety, emergency preparedness and the Red Cross mission. The children were all smiles as the Ditmars showed them the features of the Red Cross prototype Emergency Response Vehicle.

The duo have also been avid supporters of The Pillowcase Project, enthusiastically teaching children about fire safety and how they can prepare for other disasters. They have a flair for getting children excited about disaster preparedness.

Tommy and Carmella are truly extraordinary volunteers dedicated to helping members of our community stay safe.

Outstanding Youth Involvement Award Recipients

JORDAN GROSS

???????????????????????????????As Chairperson of the Morris Youth Council, Jordan has encompassed what it means to be an American Red Cross volunteer. Jordan joined the Red Cross as a high school freshman and has participated in countless activities over the past three and a half years. This participation earned Jordan the Presidents Volunteer Award for three consecutive years.

When the Red Cross received a last-minute request to present Scrubby the Bear and The Pillowcase Project presentations at a local school, Jordan volunteered to come on her day off from school to help lead five consecutive presentations. Even though it was the first time she had presented The Pillowcase Project, Jordan was able to jump in and contribute to the presentation like she had been doing it for years.

Peer education is a passion for Jordan. She was Peer Education Chairperson for two years before being appointed to Youth Council Chair. Jordan has trained more than 15 youth council members to become Peer Education Presenters for Scrubby Bear.

Jordan leads by example and consistently makes the Red Cross a priority. She has been a devoted volunteer since her first day with the organization and has logged more than 150 hours of service. Jordan is a young talent who has been an incredible asset to the North Jersey Region.

VARUN RAVICHANDRAN

???????????????????????????????Varun was the driving force behind the James Caldwell Red Cross Club’s organization, including the appointment of the club’s leadership team and the drafting of the club’s constitution. He continues to steer the club in a direction consistent with the Red Cross mission.

In addition to his role as Red Cross Club President, Varun has taken on the additional responsibility of serving as the appointed Youth Volunteer Representative to the Northern New Jersey Board of Directors. In this role, Varun attends monthly board meetings, participates in community outreach engagements and keeps the board informed of the chapter’s youth volunteer activities.

Since the club’s formation in 2013, Varun and his fellow Red Cross Club members have organized numerous successful events to support the Red Cross. They have held multiple fundraisers to benefit the creation of “Kids Care Kits,” which will be distributed to Essex County children displaced by home fires. The club was instrumental in coordinating the first James Caldwell High School American Red Cross blood drive, which collected more than 60 units of life-saving blood. Additionally, Varun and the Red Cross Club have been actively involved in bringing the Scrubby the Bear Program to children in the Caldwell area.

Varun is a fantastic volunteer with exceptional leadership skills who is helping build a strong foundation for the future of the Red Cross.

EDISON RED CROSS CLUB

???????????????????????????????Eager to have an American Red Cross Club in their community, high school   students Mustafa Jaffry and Rajas Nagpurkar enlisted the help of five of their peers to create the Edison Red Cross Club. The students created a board, ratified the club’s constitution and convinced the Edison Library to host the club’s meetings. After a tremendous amount of work, the JP Stevens High School students were now proud members of the Red Cross North Jersey Region’s first community club.

The club’s 30-plus members meet monthly to discuss and plan events and activities that help fulfill the Red Cross mission in their community.

The Edison Red Cross Club was a driving force behind October’s Home Fire Safety Campaign canvassing event in Perth Amboy. Club members joined other volunteers and went door-to-door in fire affected neighborhoods talking to   families about fire safety and encouraging them to check the batteries in their smoke alarms and practice a fire escape plan. The club members were motivated to bring important fire safety information to as many families as possible. Their participation was key to the event’s success.

The club members have demonstrated a commitment to serving all Red Cross lines of service. They have entertained veterans at the Menlo VA Memorial Home, held food collections for local food banks, participated in disaster preparedness fire safety training at elementary schools, hosted multiple blood drives and sent holiday cheer to veterans and members of the military through the Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

The Edison Red Cross Club is always enthusiastic to take on new projects to serve their community and the Red Cross.

Pacesetter Recipients

RED CROSS NEW JERSEY CROSSROADS

???????????????????????????????Elizabeth Hissim – Administration 
During her time with the Red Cross Elizabeth has made huge impact on reducing  the time needed to onboard volunteers and helped create an excellent prospective volunteer tracking system. Elizabeth’s enthusiasm is contagious and she is always willing to go above and beyond to help support her fellow volunteers.

Joe Runkle – Blood Services
Joe can be found at blood drives across the region where he uses his sparkling personality to put blood donors at ease and provides them with a great donation experience. He is a dependable volunteer whose coordination of high school blood drives is exceptional.

Molly Lenz – Disaster Action Team
For nearly a decade, Molly has been an esteemed member of the Disaster Action Team and currently serves as a team leader for Union and Somerset counties. Molly also utilized skills and commitment to helping others providing Mass Care to help those affected by Superstorm Sandy.

Judy Chester – Disaster Health Services
As the state nursing lead, Judy’s strong leadership has been an asset to the Disaster Health Services team. Whether dispatching disaster health services volunteers or maintaining the region’s cache of consumable medical supplies, Judy demonstrates a commendable level of excellence.

DSCN7097Frank Manniello – Disaster Logistics
Frank has an impressive 33 years of Red Cross service under his belt. As the logistics lead for warehousing, Frank has spearheaded the region’s shelter trailer maintenance, including managing repairs and enhancements as well as managing inventory.

Victor Prasad (posthumously) – Disaster Cycle Services 
Victor was a warm and compassionate person who was always willing to help those in need. During his tenure with the Red Cross, Victor was always willing to jump in to help with disaster response and be there for families after a fire. He also deployed to large disasters across the county. Victor was a mentor and leader to his fellow volunteers. He will be greatly missed.

Sheila Keefe – Meals on Wheels
For nearly two decades, Sheila expertly managed the volunteer coordination for the SAGE Meals on Wheels program serving the Millburn and Short-Hill area. Under her leadership, volunteers ensured residents in need received a meal from a friendly face.

???????????????????????????????Hart Coven – Preparedness
In his role as regional preparedness volunteer partner, Hart has been a vital   asset helping to shape and strategize the region’s preparedness goals. His support has been key to growing the region’s preparedness objectives.

Anne LaFontaine – Service to the Armed Forces
Anne is an avid supporter of our veterans. She helps coordinate activities for patients in the Women’s Trauma Unit at the Lyons VA Hospital. These fantastic events are made possible through Anne’s hard work and generosity.

???????????????????????????????Tish Corvino – Service to the Armed Forces
Tish is a regular at the East Orange VA Hospital where she organizes a number of fantastic events for the veterans. This year, Tish stepped up to provide encouragement and support to veterans training for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in August in Philadelphia. The

Lou Piccoli – Volunteer Services
For the past 10 years, Lou has been a valued member of Volunteer Services. As a member of the Volunteer Appreciation Committee, Lou enthusiastically helps the region support and honor its volunteers.

RED CROSS OF NORTHERN NEW JERSEY

Albert Warren – Administration
Albert exemplifies the values of the American Red Cross. He greets all who enter the Montclair office with a kind smile and a hand shake. Albert is a treasured member of the volunteer team who is eager to help serve his community however he can.

Sydney Scirica – Blood Services
As president of the Essex County Youth Council, Sydney has done a phenomenal job coordinating blood drives at local high schools. Her exceptional leadership, dependability and organizational skills have made Sydney an asset to the Blood Services team.

Bill Lampert, Ginny Molinaro & Maureen Moniz – Braille
Bill, Ginny and Maureen share a love of Braille. Together the trio devotes more than 100 hours a month to transcribing books for the visually impaired as well as providing invaluable instruction to new volunteers. Bill is a leader in complicated math tactile drawing that is essential in Braille math transcription. Ginny and Maureen are both pioneers concentrating on studying the newly released Unified English Braille code.

???????????????????????????????Aida Lopez – Disaster Action Team
For more than nine years Aida has been a cherished member of the Passaic County Disaster Action Team. Aida was instrumental in opening the Paterson office five years ago and continues to staff the office three days a week to provide comfort and support to disaster clients.

Ed Callahan – Facilities
For nearly a decade, Ed has helped transport much-need supplies to Red Cross locations. His commitment to ensuring supplies are on hand at the proper locations is essential to the success of Red Cross programs and services. Ed brings his delightful sense of humor to all of the offices he visits.

Robert Fischer – Transportation
For the past six years, Bob has graciously dedicated more than 40 hours a month to driving Nutley area senior citizens to and from doctor appointments.  Bob’s positive demeanor never fails to brighten the day of the clients, volunteers and staff. His commitment to the transportation program is commendable.

Paul Lalka – The Pillowcase Project
Paul is always willing to go the extra mile to help bring preparedness programs to Bergen County and surrounding communities. His proactive approach and talent for forging community partnerships helped bring The Pillowcase Project to a number of schools. His kindness and compassion embodies the spirit of the Red Cross.

DSCN7106Lisa Saeman – Preparedness
As the Regional Preparedness Workforce Administrator, Lisa has proven herself to be a valuable asset to the disaster preparedness team. Her commitment to finding new and innovative ways to improve support functions for the region’s dedicated preparedness volunteers is extraordinary. Thanks to Lisa the region’s preparedness teams are more efficient than ever.

Carol Lee & Fred Spages – Service to the Armed Forces
Carol Lee and Fred are a driving force in the behind Service to the Armed Forces. In addition to bringing joy to veterans by visiting and organizing activities at VA hospitals, the couple skillfully coordinates the Red Cross involvement in the Sussex County Veterans Parade.

RED CROSS OF CENTRAL NEW JERSEY

Michele Termini – Administration
In the days following Superstorm Sandy, Michele fielded the massive volume of calls coming into the Somerville office. Michele took the initiative to develop lists of community groups and resources in order to most efficiently serve the public. Each week she tackles projects with the same passion she displayed during Sandy.

ps flaggBarbara Flagg – Blood Services
Barbara’s kindheartedness and impeccable people skills make her a top-notch Blood Services volunteer. She assists at all Johnson & Johnson, Titusville blood drives where she has received praise for her interaction with the blood donors. Barbara is also a wonderful on-site trainer who helps instruct new volunteers.

Shawn Watters – Disaster Action Team
Shawn is an experienced Disaster Action Team leader who has skillfully supported shelter and mass care operations following major fires as well as  during Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Even in the most difficult times, you can count on Shawn to have a smile.

Mary Brown – Disaster Action Team
Mary has been an integral part of the Somerset and Union counties Disaster Action Teams. In addition to responding to home fires, Mary deployed to Louisiana following Hurricane Isaac and worked Mass Care during Superstorm Sandy. She is a strong, dependable team lead who knowledgeably mentors new disaster responders.

Marv Goodman – Community Partner Services
In his role as community partner services lead, Marv has worked tirelessly to build and maintain strong partnerships with agencies and organizations across the region. His ground-breaking work developing the Community Partner Services framework is being modeled for other disaster support functions.

???????????????????????????????Claire Geyer – Disaster Staffing
Claire is an exceptional disaster cycle services volunteer who steps up whenever and wherever there is a need. In addition to her outstanding work as a Disaster Action Team lead, Claire is the county mentoring lead for Hudson, Middlesex and Mercer counties.

Thomas Seel – Meals of Wheels
A reliable volunteer, Tom has been delivering meals to homebound and elderly residents for five years. He conscientiously checks in on the well-being of the clients, who look forward to Tom’s visit. Tom has picked up additional routes when needed to ensure all clients received their meals and a visit from a friendly face.

Mary Petti – Health & Safety Services
Mary is a wonderful Health and Safety instructor whose patience and kind-heartedness is always appreciated by her students. She is particularly gifted at teaching Babysitter’s Training to teens who constantly praise her teaching skills.

Irwin Horowitz – Preparedness
Irwin is a remarkable volunteer who is passionate about providing valuable preparedness information to New Jersey residents. Whether he is manning  preparedness tables at community events or giving a preparedness presentation, Irwin has a gift for being able to connect with and engage his audience.

ps allieAllie Mathews – Service to the Armed Forces
Allie does a phenomenal job coordinating semimonthly visits to the Alzheimer Ward at the Menlo Park Memorial Veterans Home. The terrific programs she organizes are greatly enjoyed by veterans.

10 Driving Tips to Keep you Safe this Winter

winter stormOld man winter hit our region with some wicked winter weather last weekend that left many New Jersey roads covered in ice. Looks like the #Blizzardof2015 is heading our way. While we encourage you to stay off the roads if possible, if you have to drive in snow or freezing rain, follow these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm or what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle:

  1. Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter with a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications, blankets and important documents or information you may need.
  2. Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  3. Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  4. If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  5. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  6. Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  7. Don’t pass snow plows.
  8. Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
  9. If you get stuck, don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
  10. If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.

Drive safe!

Volunteers Mark MLK Day by Bringing Fire Safety to Perth Amboy

DSC01633To mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, the American Red Cross teamed up with the Perth Amboy Fire Department and Puerto Rican Association for Human Development (PRAHD) to promote fire safety.

More than 50 representatives from the Red Cross, the Perth Amboy Fire Department and PRAHD went door-to-door visiting approximately 375 Perth Amboy homes offering fire safety information and free smoke alarm installation in homes that needed them.

DSC01620Many of our Red Cross youth volunteers, including those from the Edison Red Cross Club, Franklin Red Cross Club, Westfield Red Cross Youth Council, Somerville Red Cross Youth Council and Somerset Vocational Technical High School Red Cross Club, happily spent their day off from school talking to families about how they can be better prepared should a fire break out in their home. Volunteers spoke with more than 140 families about fire safety and having a fire escape plan.

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The fire safety canvassing event was the second in a series being held in Perth Amboy as part of the Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign. Launched in October, the national campaign aims to reduce home fire-related injuries and fatalities by 25 percent over the next five years.

Simple Steps to Save Lives

Join the campaign by taking three simple steps to help keep your family safe in the event of a fire in your home.

  1. Test the smoke alarms in your home and replace the batteries as needed. If your home doesn’t have smoke alarms, install them.
  2. Review your fire escape plan with your family. Make sure that everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes. Don’t have a plan? Click here.
  3. Practice your fire escape plan. Time your family and keep practicing until everyone can exit the home in under two minutes.

For additional fire safety information, including free tools and resources visit redcross.org/firesafety.

Salvation Army Joins Red Cross for Collaborating Essentials Course

The American Red Cross North Jersey Region invited The Salvation Army to participate in the January 7 session of the Red Cross Collaborating Essentials course, a free instructor-led disaster course designed to promote and support collaboration at the Red Cross.

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Members of the Red Cross and The Salvation Army attend a Collaborating Essentials course at the American Red Cross in Fairfield on January 7.

Participants engaged in discussions and scenarios to determine the different skills and behaviors required for building and maintaining internal and external relationships. The course emphasizes the role that collaboration plays in the successful delivery of disaster services.

What better way to learn about collaborating than to actually collaborate on taking the class together? Four members of The Salvation Army’s New Jersey Emergency Disaster Services leadership team attended – and not only did they get a better understanding of the roles the Red Cross has during the Preparedness, Response and Recovery phases of a disaster – the four Red Crossers who attended got a great understanding of the same from The Salvation Army. Both organizations are key partners to the State of New Jersey when it comes to large scale disasters like Hurricane Irene or Superstorm Sandy, and also coordinate, collaborate, cooperate and communicate with each other on smaller scale events as well.

North Jersey Regional Mass Care Manager Lauri Gill taught the course utilizing examples and activities from both organizations during the class. The most frequent disasters which both organizations respond to in New Jersey are home fires. While The Salvation Army’s response tends to focus on supporting the first responders on-scene, many times that effort needs to be coordinated with the Red Cross activities supporting the disaster-impacted residents. Both organizations agreed that pre-planning, joint training and communications ahead of disasters helps the coordination in advance of any disaster responses.

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The Salvation Army, a Red Cross community partner, stepped in to provide meals at a Red Cross shelter in Orange following a fire that affected more than 240 people in November of 2014.

During the class, a multi-family fire at a resident hotel in Middlesex County temporarily pulled away many of the participants and we were able to incorporate the unfolding situation directly into the class. The class reached out to Lyn Scott, disaster program manager, American Red Cross North Jersey Region, who covers Middlesex County. Lyn was able to provide a live update to the course participants on what was happening at the fire scene including how the Red Cross and The Salvation Army were collaborating on providing assistance to the 80-plus first responders and the residents of the 25 impacted units.

The North Jersey Region plans to host Collaborating Essentials at least quarterly in 2015 and we will continue to offer this free disaster training opportunity to all of our disaster partners.

By Michael Prasad
Disaster Support Functions Director | American Red Cross North Jersey Region

An Elf’s Point of View: Spreading Holiday Cheer to Children Affected by Home Fires

???????????????????????????????On Saturday, Dec. 20, a team of Red Cross volunteers spent the day spreading holiday cheer to Central New Jersey families who recently experienced a home fire. The annual Red Cross Holiday Gift Run is a volunteer led program that matches the wish lists of affected children with generous donors in the community. The culmination of hundreds of hours of volunteer effort is the day that Santa and his team of elves head out into the community.

???????????????????????????????On the surface, the holiday gift run seems simple. It’s a team delivering presents, holiday spirit and hope to families that can use a smile. But then again, nothing is quite as simple as it seems. You see, the holiday gift run is much more than that. Every family we visit has recently suffered a home fire. For some, the emotions of that disaster are still raw.

A typical experience – we find the house, we ring the bell, the door opens and there are ear piercing squeals of delight as the kids realize that Santa and his elves are at their house. There are lots of smiles on the faces of the children as the bag of gifts is handed out and the wrapping paper seems to disintegrate from each of the packages.

???????????????????????????????The team takes a moment to look around the room – and there you see it.  Usually off to the side or to the back of the room, the adults are taking a moment to take a deep breath. A volunteer steps over to have a quiet word with the parent or relative, who is often wiping tears from their eyes. We talk about how they are doing since the fire, we talk about the grinning children opening gifts and we share a moment where hope is indeed alive and well.

???????????????????????????????For several of the families, the Red Cross disaster volunteer that was there the night of their fire is here on this day spreading holiday cheer. It is difficult to explain the bond that forms between a Red Cross volunteer and the families they assist. Often, it is not a spoken word but rather a look that says “It’s a relief to have someone standing by my side and giving me a shoulder to lean on today.” On the Holiday Gift Run, we reconnect and talk about their recovery since the fire and then we are overcome with the holiday magic occurring in the living room.

???????????????????????????????From the vocal six-year-old who squeals “Oh Momma, that’s just what I wanted!” to the more subtle teenager who just says “Whoooaaa,” the day is simply magical. After the laughter and tears of joy, it’s time to sing a holiday song. We get confirmation that the holiday spirit is in the air – even the teenagers are singing along!

At the end of the day, the Red Cross team takes the time to reflect on their favorite moment of the day. In the simplest terms, it boils down to humanity. It’s that tear of joy, that ear-to-ear grin, the feeling in your gut that tells you that this family is going to be just fine. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holidays – can you?

See all the photos of Santa and his elves in action.

The Holiday Gift Run is made possible thanks to generous donations by employees at Wilkin & Guttenplan, P.A. in East Brunswick and members of the New Jersey Physician Assistant Foundation who helped fulfill the children’s holiday wish lists. In addition, thanks to Rutgers Recreation, the Red Cross Holiday Gift Run is one of the designees of toys collected from participants of the Rutgers Big Chill 5K.

Happy holidays!

– Elf Julie

By Julie Daigle
volunteer, American Red Cross North Jersey Region

5 Things to do Before Ringing in the New Year

2015 is right around the corner. See how many of these items you can check off before ringing in the New Year:

1. Give the Gift of Life.  Donate Blood and bring a friend.  During the holidays, blood donations fall very low and yet the need for blood is high.  With each blood donation saving up to three lives, think of the impact you could have this holiday season.  Visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive near you.

2. Give the gift of preparedness. Take steps to show your loved ones that you care by helping them prepare for emergencies. Take 30 minutes to talk through your family disaster plan with household members to ensure that everyone has the same understanding of what to do if there is a disaster.

preparedness

3. Give a Symbolic Gift from the Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog for someone on your list, and your tax-deductible donation will support a Red Cross program. For example, you can:

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4. Give the Gift of our Free Lifesaving Mobile Apps. While sitting around the table enjoying a cup of eggnog, pull out your smart phone and show loved ones that the ability to save lives rests in the palm of their hand.  The teenagers can bond with Grannie as they help her download the free First Aid, Tornado, or Hurricane Apps, which will remind her how to respond in emergency situations.  And check out the app that helps kids stay safe while having fun: Monster Guard!  Visit redcross.org/apps for more information.

Appse

5. Give the Gift of the Red Cross Mission.  The holidays are a great time to gather with friends and family.  You are each a vital part of our lifesaving mission and we want you to share this with those you love.  Wear your Red Cross pin and tell your Red Cross story this holiday season.

pine

Thanks to the dedication of our volunteers and the generosity of our donors, last year, the Red Cross North Jersey Region served the community by responding to 494 local home fires providing food, shelter, clothing and other assistance to 1,130 displaced families. It has allowed 60,441 people to be trained with life-saving skills in preparedness, CPR, AED use, first aid and aquatics; provided 1,877 military family case services with emergency messages, helping families find assistance and/or get counseling and referrals; and collected 25,420 units of blood through blood drives and Red Cross Blood Donation Centers.

7 Fire Safety Tips for Holiday Decorating and Entertaining

The American Red Cross North Jersey Regions wishes all a happy and safe holiday season. As you celebrate with your loved ones, keep these holiday fire safety tips in mind:

1. Choose decorations and artificial trees that are flame resistant or flame retardant. Place the tree away from heat sources and exits. Water real trees daily.

Trees and Decor

2. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended.

Fireplaces

3. If hanging stockings on the fireplace, do not use the fireplace for fires.

Stockings

4. Keep items that can catch fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as sources of heat or stoves.

Heater and stoves

5. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and the total number of bulbs to 50.

Lights

6. Keep children, pets and decorations away from lit candles.

Candles

7. Check food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer as a reminder that the stove is on.

Cooking

For more fire safety tips, visit redcross.org/FireSafety.

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