Homeless Shelters Crowd With Cold & Bad Economy

January 15, 2009

The following article was reported on Rockford’s News Channel 23 – WIFR on 1/14/2009

Weather like this makes us thankful to be indoors and that’s how area homeless are feeling as they crowd local shelters to escape the frigid cold.

“I appreciate it very much,” says one man checking into the Red Cross downtown Rockford shelter.

Appreciation is all the Red Cross needs in exchange for a hot meal and a warm bed and as the temperature plummets below zero, it’s a full house, with 49 people planning to stay at the overnight shelter on Cedar Street in downtown Rockford.

Several people said they didn’t even want to think about where they would be without this shelter.

“Underneath a bridge or making a fire down but the river or something,” says one overnight resident.

Another adds, “I really believe that God takes care of his children so I am thankful to him and to this place.”

And these days the cold isn’t the only thing driving people to area shelters. Red Cross volunteers say more people are coming in saying they’ve lost their jobs and can’t afford rent anymore.

“I hear more and more people say that they’ve never stayed in a shelter before. So it’s not the usual people that you would see,” says Red Cross Volunteer Nancy Burkett.

Betty Irelan falls in that category. Even though she struggles with diabetes, she says she’s been working since she was ten, but recently hit job troubles and has been unemployed since June.

“So I went like seven months without any money and finally the landlord got upset and evicted me last Friday,” says Irelan.

And even as more people are in need of help, it’s harder for the Red Cross to meet that need, because donations are down. They especially need warm socks and toiletries.

But workers say even when they fill up, they’ll never leave someone out in the cold.

“Everyone deserves to have a warm safe place to stay,” says Burkett.

I also spoke with a man who said he actually has a full time job, but he said he would still be out on the street without the Red Cross.

If you need help from the Red Cross, or you would like to make a donation, call 815-963-8471, or visit http://www.rockriver.redcross.org.

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Red Cross Shelter Work Shows ‘real need’ [from rrstar.com]

January 5, 2009

By Chris Green, Rockford Register Star

During the past four months, Dave Dinges has become quite familiar with the daily operations of the Cedar Street Red Cross Homeless Shelter and the vital role it plays in the community.

The Stenstrom General Contracting employee served as project manager of the agency’s recently completed $330,000 expansion and renovation project. However, Dinges said it was during the construction process when the project took on a special meaning for him. A woman looking to house a mother and her children mistook him as an employee of the shelter and made a request:

“This woman was looking for a place for them to stay,” he said. “That’s when I had my eyes opened to what the real need was here in Rockford – providing shelter to those who have no place to go.”

Dinges oversaw the completion of a 1,550-square-foot addition, which included a new heating and air-conditioning system, a larger dining and activity room, an area to prepare food, and plenty of storage space for donated clothing and supplies. More importantly, the former dining room was remodeled and has been designated to serve entire families, something Red Cross officials say they are encountering more of on a daily basis.

The shelter office also was expanded and equipped with new computers, filing cabinets and a one-on-one case management room.

Going the extra mile
However, Pat Ambrose, the shelter’s service coordinator, said she was most appreciative of the extra work provided by Dinges and his 16-year-old son, Eric.

When Dinges wasn’t on-site, he was in the community gathering thousands of dollars in donations, such as benches from Spider Manufacturing. The metal seats were installed in a newly created and heated waiting room.

He also gathered office furniture from Michaelsen Office Furniture in Machesney Park.

His son spent part of his Christmas break also in the community gathering donations from area businesses collecting 20 Rubbermaid large plastic tubs, most of which were filled with new bed linen, new socks and hats.

“They had this large storage space, and it was empty,” Eric said. “I just decided to go around and see if I could get someone to help fill it.”

‘A lot more room’
Richard Wooten, 42, and his fiancee, Kira Rhodes, and their 11-month-old daughter, Ameliana, have lived at the 48-bed shelter off and on for several months.

They said the expansion couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It’s not congested in here now,” Wooten said.

Rhodes added: “There’s a lot more room and privacy now. The problem I had before was getting (Ameliana) to go to sleep at night with all the noise. That’s been eliminated.”

Since its opening in 1995, the shelter has housed more than 6,600 individuals, and more than 1,500 people have found permanent housing with assistance from the Rock River Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Staff writer Chris Green can be reached at cgreen@rrstar.com or 815-987-1241.

SCOTT MORGAN | RRSTAR.COM Kira Rhodes and Richard Wooten stand with their 11-month-old daughter, Ameliana Rhodes-Wooten, in a family area where Rhodes and her daughter have been staying Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at the Red Cross Homeless Shelter in Rockford. The shelter recently completed a $330,000 addition, which includes a larger dining area. The old dining area has been divided into three family rooms. The shelter policy is for men to sleep in the mens area, even if they are in the shelter with their family.

SCOTT MORGAN | RRSTAR.COM Kira Rhodes and Richard Wooten stand with their 11-month-old daughter, Ameliana Rhodes-Wooten, in a family area where Rhodes and her daughter have been staying Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at the Red Cross Homeless Shelter in Rockford. The shelter recently completed a $330,000 addition, which includes a larger dining area. The old dining area has been divided into three family rooms. The shelter policy is for men to sleep in the men's area, even if they are in the shelter with their family.

SCOTT MORGAN | RRSTAR.COM Eric Dinges (right), 16, and his father, Dave Dinges, stand in a new storage room Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at the Red Cross Homeless Shelter in Rockford. The shelter recently completed a $330,000 addition, which includes a larger dining area. The old dining area has been divided into three family rooms. Eric volunteered to solicit donations to the Red Cross by asking local businesses to contribute.

SCOTT MORGAN | RRSTAR.COM Eric Dinges (right), 16, and his father, Dave Dinges, stand in a new storage room Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at the Red Cross Homeless Shelter in Rockford. The shelter recently completed a $330,000 addition, which includes a larger dining area. The old dining area has been divided into three family rooms. Eric volunteered to solicit donations to the Red Cross by asking local businesses to contribute.

SCOTT MORGAN | RRSTAR.COM A new dining area Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at the Red Cross Homeless Shelter in Rockford. The shelter recently completed a $330,000 addition, which includes the larger dining area. The old dining area has been divided into three family rooms.

SCOTT MORGAN | RRSTAR.COM A new dining area Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at the Red Cross Homeless Shelter in Rockford. The shelter recently completed a $330,000 addition, which includes the larger dining area. The old dining area has been divided into three family rooms.

Click here to see the article on rrstar.com


Tomorrow! Record a Video Message to the Troops at Culver’s in Dixon, Illinois

January 5, 2009

If you’re in the Dixon, IL area and want to record a message to send to a loved one who’s serving out country at home or abroad you can at Culver’s tomorrow from 11am-6pm. You can record up to a 2 minute message and all you need is the person’s email address to send them this message.

You can even re-record your message if you don’t like the message you recorded the first time! See below a video sent at our last Viditalk event.


The Red Cross Offers Holiday Travel Tips for a Safer Trip to Grandma’s

December 18, 2008

The American Red Cross Helps Winter Drivers Stay on Track

With thousands of people in Rockford hitting the road for holiday travel in the coming weeks, the Rock River Chapter urges families and individuals to take precautions against the deceptive dangers of wintry weather and prepare for winter travel. According to the US Department of Commerce, almost 70 percent of winter injuries related to snow and ice take place as a result of vehicle accidents. But there are steps people can take to stay safer while traveling this winter.

“The American Red Cross recommends that people prepare for disasters and other weather emergencies wherever they spend a lot of time, and for many of us that includes our vehicles,” says Cedric Johnson, Community Relations Coordinator at the Rock River Chapter. “As we gear up for holiday travel, it’s even more important that we all take simple steps to help keep ourselves and our loved ones safer while on the road.”

The American Red Cross offers the following preparedness tips before hitting the road:

Winter-proof your vehicle:

  • Get your vehicle checked by a mechanic and pay extra attention to the battery, tire pressure, heater, defroster, wiper blades and washer fluid.
  • Carry a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle at all times with basics like non-perishable food, water, a battery-operated radio, flashlight, first aid kit, emergency flares, and jumper cables.
  • Make sure your kit includes winter items like a shovel, windshield scraper, blankets, and sand or cat litter for tire traction.
  • Try to keep your gas tank as close to full as possible in case of an emergency and to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

Before you travel:

  • Let your family or friends know your destination, your primary and alternate route, when you plan on leaving and when you expect to arrive. If your vehicle gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • Pay attention to the weather forecast. Your local TV and radio stations can provide updated storm information that can help you avoid treacherous weather.
  • Motorists should also be cautious about animals on the highway.

If you are stranded:

  • Stay with your vehicle and don’t attempt to walk to safety. It’s easy to become disoriented in wind-driven snow and exposure increases your risk of developing hypothermia and frostbite.
  • As you sit, exercise your arms and legs to maintain body heat.
  • Use the heater for 10 minutes every hour and leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so you can be seen. Open the window a crack for fresh air and to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear from snow and ice so fumes won’t back up in the vehicle.
  • Make it easier for rescuers to find you by tying a brightly colored cloth to the antennae.
  • After the snow has subsided, raise your vehicle hood to indicate you need help.

For additional winter safety tips and information on building a disaster supplies kit for your vehicle, contact: (815) 963-8471 or visit www.rockriver.redcross.org.


REMINDER: The American Red Cross is Helping You Record Video Messages to the Troops – Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 12, 2008

Record a two-minute streaming video, which will then be e-mailed to their loved ones serving in the Armed Forces.

  • Where: Chicago Rockford International Airport’s (RFD) Main Terminal
  • When: Tuesday, December 16th from 6am to 7pm
  • Who: Friends and family members
  • What do you need: the soldier’s email address

Many thanks to the organizations below for helping
us spread the word!

rfd-airport-logo-cmyk wtvo-logo2

wxrx-multi-color wnta-multi-color


December 16th – Send a Viditalk Holiday Message to the Troops for Friends and Family Members 6am-7pm

December 5, 2008

On Tuesday, December 16th the American Red Cross – Rock River Chapter will be on hand at the Chicago Rockford International Airport’s (RFD) Main Terminal to record VidiTalk web videos to forward to servicemen around the globe. From 6am to 7pm friends and family members can record a two-minute streaming video, which will then be e-mailed to their loved ones in the service overseas.

The Red Cross is a lifeline to members of the U.S. Armed Forces, sending communications all over the world on behalf of family members who are facing emergencies or other important events. “This project gives people the opportunity to send their support to our soldiers who, while valiantly serving our country, may need this boost from back home,” says Dr. Robert Willis, Executive Director of the Rock River Chapter.

In addition to bringing their loved one’s e-mail address to the video taping, friends and family members are also invited to bring an ornament to decorate the “Operation Tree of Honor” located in the Airport’s Main Terminal. This tree was presented to RFD by the Friends of Camp Grant in honor of the 33rd Illinois National Guard Troops who were deployed to Afghanistan on December 1st. The Friends of Camp Grant are also collecting Christmas cards to send to the Guard Division.

VidiTalk is a powerful, cost effective, easily implemented solution to improve communications. It enables users to easily create and send high-quality personal video messages (Vidis) from their computer to recipients on high-speed or dial-up connections. Vidi messages can also be streamed to cell phones and other wireless devices. The user creates a video message on their computer where it is automatically compressed, encoded and sent to the hosting server. The VidiTalk server returns a hyperlink to the creator for placement into email, instant messages or any electronic document. Recipients click on the link and view the streamed video message in a customized playback screen using Microsoft Windows Media Player.


Conrats to Barbara Olson Center of Hope & Dick Kunnert on Winning Excelsior & Excalibur Awards!

December 5, 2008

And the winners last night were Barbara Olson Center of Hope won the Excelsior Award who offers life skills training and job placement opportunities for 300 teens and adults with mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy and Dick Kunnert won the Excalibur Award for his work as an advocate for the mentally ill and homeless.

Those who were nominated for Excelsior included:

Judy Gard and Bob Willis attend the Rockford Register Star Excalibur & Excelsior Awards on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008, at Cliffbreakers in Rockford. Photo by SCOTT MORGAN | RRSTAR.COM

Judy Gard and Bob Willis of the American Red Cross Rock River Chapter attend the Rockford Register Star Excalibur & Excelsior Awards on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008, at Cliffbreakers in Rockford. Photo by SCOTT MORGAN | RRSTAR.COM

Carm Herman reacts as she walks to the podium after it was announced the Barbara Olson Center of Hope won the 2008 Excelsior Award during the Excalibur & Excelsior Awards at Cliffbreakers in Rockford on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008 Photo by EDDY MONTVILLE | RRSTAR.COM

Carm Herman reacts as she walks to the podium after it was announced the Barbara Olson Center of Hope won the 2008 Excelsior Award during the Excalibur & Excelsior Awards at Cliffbreakers in Rockford on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008 Photo by EDDY MONTVILLE | RRSTAR.COM

Dick Kunnert reacts after winning the 2008 Excalibur Award during the Excalibur & Excelsior Awards at Cliffbreakers in Rockford, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008. Photo by EDDY MONTVILLE | RRSTAR.COM

Dick Kunnert reacts after winning the 2008 Excalibur Award during the Excalibur & Excelsior Awards at Cliffbreakers in Rockford, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008. Photo by EDDY MONTVILLE | RRSTAR.COM