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


American Red Cross Releases Top 5 Disasters of 2008

December 15, 2008

The American Red Cross today announced the top five disasters of 2008, based on the number of people needing shelter, food, and comfort. They are:

  1. Hurricane Dolly
  2. Hurricane Gustav
  3. Hurricane Ike
  4. Midwest Flooding
  5. Indiana Tornadoes

Weather played a disastrous part in many people’s lives in 2008. A record number of tornadoes destroyed homes and memories. The worst flooding in more than a decade inundated the Midwest. Hurricanes followed each other, leaving devastation in their wake. And wildfires sparked by severe dry conditions and high winds blazed several times in the west.

The American Red Cross was there through it all.

“No matter where our help was needed, we were there,” said Joe Becker, Senior Vice President of Disaster Services for the American Red Cross, “But helping those affected by all of these disasters has been costly. We’ve spent all funds contributed for Red Cross Disaster Relief.”

The Red Cross set up almost 900 shelters; served more than 16.5 million meals and snacks; distributed close to 275,000 comfort and clean-up kits, and deployed more than 27,000 Red Cross workers to respond to these five disasters. These numbers do not include the many other disasters which struck across the country, large and small.

Earlier this year, Red Cross launched a $100 million nationwide fundraising campaign — the Campaign for Disaster Relief. As the year draws to a close, Red Cross is asking the public to remember those whose lives are changed in an instant by disaster and make a contribution to the Disaster Relief Fund, which allows us to mobilize volunteers and resources to help communities throughout the United States.

You can make a donation by visiting www.redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Spanish speakers can call 1-800-257-7575. You can also use your cell phone to donate $5 by text messaging the keyword “GIVE” to “2HELP” (24357). If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, you should call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).

“We thank all those who have supported our disaster relief efforts,” Becker said, “and ask those who have not yet made a donation to please give whatever they can to help us continue to be there with food, shelter, and comfort when disaster strikes.”

For more information on those disasters please visit the Red Cross Online Newsroom.


Facebook Members Choose the American Red Cross

December 2, 2008

With 18,582 supporting votes, the American Red Cross placed first among eight non-profit organizations in the Western Union Foundation’s Our World Gives campaign. Based on this endorsement, the Western Union Foundation will award the American Red Cross $50,000 in support of its life-saving mission.

We are honored to have been selected by Facebook members as their favorite charity,” said Jeff Towers, Chief Development Officer for the American Red Cross. “Our sincere thanks to the Western Union Foundation and the many Facebook members who voted and mobilized their network of friends in support of the American Red Cross. As we continue our current campaign to raise $100 million for disaster relief, we are encouraged by this endorsement of our mission.”

The Western Union Foundation partnered with the Facebook social networking site to create the Our World Gives campaign to raise awareness of the incredible work done by the participating charities in addressing critical social issues. Our World Gives is part of Western Union’s Our World, Our Family program – a five-year, $50 million commitment to facilitate global economic opportunity and help migrants and their families stay connected, overcome barriers and realize their dreams. Our World, Our Family is designed to reach people on every rung of the economic ladder.

Other participating non-profit organizations include: Accion USA, CARE, Mercy Corps, Room to Read, US Fund for UNICEF, Opportunity International and World Vision. For more information, please visit westernunion.com/foundation.

Thanks to all those who voted for the Red Cross!


American Red Cross – Rock River Chapter Nominated for Rockford Register Star’s Excelsior Award

December 1, 2008

The Excelsior was established by the Rockford Register Star in 1979, honors an organization or institution whose work has a positive impact on life in the Rock River Valley. The winning organization receives a plaque and check for $500.

The 2008 Finalist for the Excelsior Award are:

Thanks to all those who nominated us!


News about the California Wildfires and Red Cross – Link/Video

November 17, 2008

A newsroom has been opened for information on the Red Cross and response to the current wildfires in California at http://newsroom.redcross.org.

Click the link below to see a video on the wildfires.


Click here to view a story on the Wildfires and Red Cross

To volunteer at the Rock River Chapter go to rockriver.redcross.org or to find your local chapter click here.


Red Cross News Coverage from Veterans Day

November 12, 2008

Thanks to all those who showed up and recorded their video messages and thanks to Veterans Memorial Hall to letting use their facility. Below is a story 13 News and WTVO 17/FOX 39 MyStateline.com did on the Red Cross Viditalk Project.


Click here to watch the story.

Sending Veterans Day Video Message to Loved Ones in Military by Katie Crowther – MyStateline.com