Red Cross gets lift from local volunteers By Corina Curry [from Register Star]

September 29, 2008
AMY J. VAN HORN | RRSTAR.COM Lora Gilbert talks about her Red Cross volunteer work, including a recent trip to the Gulf Coast to help hurricane victims.

AMY J. VAN HORN | RRSTAR.COM Lora Gilbert talks about her Red Cross volunteer work, including a recent trip to the Gulf Coast to help hurricane victims.Three years ago, Lora Gilbert watched as images of destruction and grief flooded her TV screen.

Hurricane Katrina had just hit the Gulf Coast, and there was no way to escape the constant barrage of sad story after sad story.

She grabbed the phone.

The then-Loves Park resident knew no one in harm’s way. Her home, car and all of her belongings were safely 1,000 miles from the devastation, 740 feet above sea level. She didn’t dial a friend to talk about what she had seen and how it saddened her. She called the American Red Cross.

“I knew there was a lot of chaos. I knew they’d need as many people as they could get,” Gilbert said. “I thought ‘People need help. I have the time. I have the energy. I should go.'”

Gilbert never did get to help with disaster relief efforts for Katrina. She had yet to go through training.

But earlier this month, she and two other Rock River Valley residents left their Rockford area homes for Louisiana and Mississippi where they played crucial roles in relief efforts for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

For two weeks, Gilbert did damage assessment and client intake, meeting with hundreds of people whose homes and belongings were destroyed. Mike O’Brien of Rockton and Greg Larsen, who were on a three-week deployment, hauled hundreds of meals each day to shelters and people working in the field.

They, along with hundreds of other volunteers from across the country, worked from before sunrise until well into the evening making sure people were fed, had a place to sleep and were getting the help they needed to get their lives on track.

“I feel blessed that my family and my home isn’t in that type of situation,” O’Brien said. “It’s hard to live down there. Imagine every couple years having to run for your life because of hurricanes.”

Gilbert, O’Brien and Larsen are three of the Rock River Chapter’s 161 volunteers who are trained in disaster relief operations. The Rock River Chapter had more than 98 volunteers assisting in Hurricane Katrina efforts. That number includes volunteers on the Gulf and in the Rock River Valley who help evacuees as they relocated to the Rockford area. Gilbert, O’Brien and Larsen were the only ones to assist in hurricane relief efforts this past month.

Cedric Johnson, American Red Cross Rock River Chapter community relations and development specialist, calls them and other volunteers the backbone of the organization.

“Without the generosity and dedication of our volunteers, the American Red Cross would not exist,” Johnson said. “These are everyday people who realize the weight of our humanitarian mission: helping our neighbors when they need it most.”

Gilbert, a Realtor with Dickerson & Nieman, spent her days trudging through mostly rural areas of southern Mississippi going from small town to small town, doing face-to-face interviews with people at their wind- and water-damaged homes.

She saw a lot of tears.

“It’s very upsetting to see these people. They’ve just been through two storms in two weeks. They don’t know what to do. They’ve lost everything. They don’t have any money,” Gilbert said. “One of the first things I thought when I came home was ‘I will never complain again.’ It puts your life in perspective.”

O’Brien, a 54-year-old machinist, came back with similar thoughts.

“When a complete stranger is there in front of you and they’re pretty distressed, you’re there listening and trying to understand how they feel. They’re so grateful,” O’Brien said. “It’s very heart-warming.”

Staff writer Corina Curry can be reached at or 815-987-1395.


Dylan the new face of homelessness in the Rock River Region needs your help

September 23, 2008

Dylan the new face of homelessness in the Rock River Region
Dylan may not know he’s homeless, in fact he’s a very happy 21 month old little boy, he stays at our Emergency Overnight Shelter with his Mom and Dad on 809 Cedar Street in Rockford Illinois. We have actually renovated our shelter to better serve families and children who are homeless an increasing demographic in our area of people in need.

On October 25, 2008 we will be having a Ribbon Cutting to open our newly renovated part of the shelter for children and families. On that day as well there will be a clean-up day where people can volunteer to clean up the shelter and the grounds surrounding it.

If you’d like to donate, volunteer, or learn more about our Emergency Overnight Shelter please visit our website at or call 815-963-8471.

Baby Born in Shelter, Caberet, Haiti – Photo

September 16, 2008
Six-day old Alicia was born in a crowded Haitian shelter less than one week after heavy rains from Hurricane Ike pushed the half-island nation to the brink of catastophe. The American Red Cross is working hand-in-hand with the Haitian Red Cross to get relief supplies to Alicia and other people living in the twelve government-run shelters in the western city of Caberet, Haiti.

This photo is available to the media for distribution. Courtesy American Red Cross/Matthew Marek.

For more information, please visit the Red Cross Online Newsroom for Hurricane Ike.

Hurricane Ike, Caberet, Haiti 9.16.08

Baby Born in Red Cross Shelter – Photos

September 15, 2008

These photos are available for media distribution. Please click the photo for caption and courtesy information.

New Braunfels, TX 9.12.08

Red Cross volunteer Judy Sperling-Newton displays baby Katrina Paw, born to Ku Paw at a shelter in New Braunfels.

Photos courtesy American Red Cross/Bruce Newton

For more information on how Red Cross is responding to Hurricane Ike go to the online newsroom.

New Braunfels, TX 9.12.08 New Braunfels, TX 9.12.08 New Braunfels, TX 9.12.08 New Braunfels, TX 9.12.08 New Braunfels, TX 9.12.08

Red Cross Benefit – “Golf’n for the RED” pictures are now in!

August 21, 2008
Golfn for the RED Committee

Golf'n for the RED Committee who made it all possible.

New pictures are now in from Golf’n for the RED. It was a wonderful day and a good time was had by all.

Just click here to see the pictures!

New Roof is up on our Rock River Chapter Emergency Shelter

August 7, 2008

New Roof on the Shelter

The roof is up now on our Emergency Shelter. Construction has been going great, if you’d like to volunteer just visit our website. This renovation will allow us to better serve families and children. Click the link above or here to see more pictures.

Brother and Sister Give Back to Chinese Earthquake Victims

July 18, 2008

Everyone can give back to the Red Cross in various ways. Thomas Yue Wu and Christna Yi Wu, a brother and sister, who’s Mother hometown was struck by the earthquake in China decided to act after they heard the news. They decided to raise money to help the efforts of Red Cross in China doing relief work.

When it was all said and done the brother and sister team raised over $1,000 to help victims of the earthquake in China. You can see a picture of them below. They’re students at Machesney Park Elementary School and Ralston Elementary School.

Thanks Thomas and Christina! They are pictured below.