Peoria Heartland Heroes – Officer Nick Taylor and Office Luke VonDerHeide

At 3:59 pm on November 3, 2013, Renee Alexander received a text from her 15-year-old daughter Belen, saying she was going to take the dog for a walk. But 45 minutes later, Renee picked up her cell phone to strikingly different news: Belen was in the ICU at Pekin Hospital. Although Belen has no memory of the day whatsoever, her walk abruptly ended when she collapsed in a neighbor’s driveway. A barking dog alerted the neighbor, who couldn’t rouse the girl and quickly called 911. Read the rest of this entry

Peoria Heartland Heroes – Jeff Morrow and Michaele Potter

Although Charlie Meischner wasn’t a winner at the American Legion’s jackpot drawing on the night of July 3, 2013, he was extremely lucky: Michaele Potter and Jeff Morrow, two other guests in attendance that night, saved his life.

Charlie was eating at the Spring Bay hall when he suddenly fell out of his chair and landed face-first on the floor. Michaele Potter, a registered nurse, rushed over to help and began rescue breathing. Her friend started chest compressions, but soon Jeff Morrow took over. “As a nurse, I’ve had this training every other year for 26 years, so it’s automatic,” said Michaele. “But while I’ve had to respond in a hospital setting, I’ve never had to use it in public.” Jeff Morrow can’t say the same. “Its odd,” he said,  “so many people who take the Red Cross class don’t think they’ll ever have to save a life, but I’ve had to utilize some form of my training five times in the last two years. “ Read the rest of this entry

Peoria Heartland Heroes – Bill Slusher

August 2, 2013 had all the makings of a bad day for PDC employee Bill Slusher. He got called in early, started his trash pick-up route late, and was one of the last ones to return at shift’s end. But Bill wouldn’t change a thing about that day, for this particular set of “bad” circumstances also helped him save the lives of two young women. Read the rest of this entry

Peoria Heartland Heroes – East Peoria, Pekin and Washington

The violent tornadoes that ripped through this area on November 17, 2013 will not soon leave our collective memory. These powerful storms shredded homes and lives, and the devastation and chaos left behind was immense. What force could hope to counter such a brutal path of destruction? The mayors of Washington, Pekin and East Peoria know the answer: overwhelming community support.

Pekin Mayor Laurie Barra said the city experienced a huge outpouring of compassion from numerous charitable organizations and churches. “It was such a very trying time in terms of destruction, but it was also very caring time for the community.” Washington Mayor Gary Manier agreed. “So many organizations showed up to be at our side – the Red Cross, churches, Salvation Army – and without these resources, I’m not sure we’d be as strong as we are.” These sentiments are echoed by East  Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus. “I was amazed at the assistance that poured in – in terms of volunteers and goods and services. It was overwhelming… we weren’t sure how we would exhaust the supply it was so abundant.” Read the rest of this entry

Why I Love Central IL

Special events season is always nutty… caterers, decorations, invites, and 10 million little details that can just about drive a girl insane.  In April, the Central Illinois Region is hosting the Evening of Stars in Bloomington, the Diamond Affair in Decatur and the Heartland Heroes Dinner in Peoria. So it is three times the “fun”! But every year, along about now, I get to see the final video features that showcase the people we are going to honor at one of the events, and it always reminds me of why we do it.  Red Cross services in our communities are only possible through fundraisers like these, and these services not only help people, but in many cases they help make heroes.   Read the rest of this entry

Saving teens, one school at a time

April unravels me in a whole lot of ways. It isn’t just because the weather is getting warmer and I am determined to get a little more organized at home, it is also the start of our grant’s busy season. Don’t get me wrong, I love being on the go; the issue is mainly the emotional toll that some our events have. Namely, the crash reenactments we help local high schools host. Our grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation helps us to reach tons of local kids on subjects ranging from bike safety to seatbelt use, but our crashes are by far the most powerful.

Here they are in a nutshell… Read the rest of this entry

What Does the Fox Say: Finding the Goodness of People

At the American Red Cross, we know that the worst of times brings out the best in people, but it was hard to imagine that anything good could come from the tragedy of the November 17th tornadoes. How wrong we were!

We cannot change the devastation and heartbreak that the tornadoes caused, but we can change the course of recovery. The horror of the tornadoes awakened the goodness of people, and within hours of the touchdown, neighbors and strangers were banding together to extend a helping hand.

Representative Aaron Schock told us that he drove to Washington as soon as he learned about the tornadoes and saw people trying to climb out of their basements. He helped pull them up and realized they had nowhere to go. He drove them to safety, returned to help more people and soon there was a small brigade pulling people out of their basements and driving them to safety. Read the rest of this entry

Blame it on the Rain

I hate floods.  Truly, I am not a fan of any disaster that disrupts families, but floods just seem, to me, to be the worst. They are a yucky disaster that leave mud and mildew in it’s wake, and unfortunately, we know it is a common occurrence around here.

A year ago next month, this happened.

A year ago next month, this happened.

I sincerely hope that despite the current river level and predictions for this spring,  we never see this sight again.  But we all know that’s wishful thinking. Floods are the most common natural disaster for many of our local communities… But never fear! The American Red Cross developed its new Flood App to help save lives and reduce losses from floods and flash floods. Read the rest of this entry

Airing our dirty laundry

What I am about to write about isn’t your typical dirty laundry! (And to be honest, it isn’t really dirty.) The laundry I am talking about is really a pillowcase, and it’s clean. This pillowcase doesn’t have a typical life. It’s one goal is to help children learn about local hazards and preparedness.

Now, you must be thinking “Is this woman delusional? Talking about laundry and preparedness? How does this even relate to each other??” In this case, the Pillowcase Project teaches students how to stay safe and calm during an emergency, and how to be prepared for when emergencies happen. It is designed for 3rd through 5th graders, and is a National Red Cross pilot program. Our Region was awarded a grant to present this program to our local youth and, to be honest, it’s very timely considering some of our recent weather. Read the rest of this entry

Tennessee volunteer finds a second home in central IL

This is Paula doing what she does best… smiling!

This is Paula doing what she does best… smiling!

Alright, so this is sorta long, but it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  A little back story… I love all Red Cross volunteers.  They are an amazing group of selfless individuals that make all of our work possible, but every once in a while, I meet a volunteer that I just fall in love with.  Paula is one of those, and if I could steal her from Chattanooga then I so would! (Be warned Tennessee! Ha!) Paula is compassionate, fun, lively and just exudes joy, but you will see that after you read my many words. (Again, so sorry.)

Prepare to feel warm and possibly fuzzy…

Volunteer Paula Coll, of Tennessee, considers central Illinois her second home. Paula, a Red Cross client representative, spent weeks along the Illinois River assisting after the historic flooding last spring and fell in love with the people she met. “I could just wrap you all up, put you in my pocket and take you home to Chattanooga,” said Paula. “Central Illinois has some of the best people I have ever met.”

When Paula heard her beloved home away from home was hit by a catastrophic tornado in November, she let her local chapter in Tennessee know immediately that she was available to come help. Just days after the tornado hit, Paula walked through the Central Illinois Chapter’s doors to report for duty.

In Paula’s role at the Red Cross, she gets to know those affected by disasters on a personal level. This enables her to be able to tailor the assistance to their specific needs and situation. Many times though, volunteers like Paula walk away being moved to tears and forever changed after hearing the stories. The first family Paula met with in Washington was such a case. Read the rest of this entry

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