Red Cross Volunteer Responds to a Truck Explosion

Thank you letter from victim

Thank you letter from fire victim Photo Credit: Anthony Peppe

Disasters that affect societies on a large scale attract the majority of headlines. However, the American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and assists an average of 190 families per day; the majority of the responses are to fires. Our volunteers are the brave individuals that make up the disaster action teams around the country, for communities like ours – providing support that may not be elsewhere.

Amanda Hall, a legal operations specialist at Merrill Lynch in Jacksonville, Florida has volunteered for the Red Cross since September 2008. She is a disaster action team captain, emergency response vehicle driver and continues her Red Cross education by consistently participating in community disaster courses. She is the epitome of what makes the Red Cross successful in its mission to aid those suffering from disaster by being a dedicated and interactive volunteer.

Hall responded to a crisis to assist in the aftermath of a fire that caused a truck to explode, destroy a camper and the majority of the couple’s personal items.

She received a call from the Red Cross dispatch system informing her of a fire on I-95 and was given the number to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department’s dispatch system, which informed her that both individuals were taken to UF Health, one of them sustained injuries.

Hall responded swiftly and beat the fire department to the hospital, where she learned that the husband who suffered injuries needed to be transported to UF Health in Gainesville by life flight.

An essential component to disaster relief is providing emotional care to the victims. They are physically rattled, in fear and need an individual to be there when all seems lost. Hall recognized that the wife afflicted by fire will need emotional support and an advocate to work on her behalf between the hospital, fire department and the Red Cross in Gainesville.

Once she arrived at UF Health, Hall helped the wife by assisting her when she spoke with the case worker at UF Health. She also reached out to the fire department to find out where the client’s truck and camper were towed to and learned that the firemen were able to save some medication as well. With an advocate working for the client, the process went smoothly and a taxi to Gainesville was accommodated by the hospital and the medication was dropped off so the client was prepared to travel, which covered the immediate needs associated.

UF Health performed its service of providing transportation to Gainesville, however, everything the client had was destroyed or lost.

“She couldn’t even rent a car, or buy a plane ticket as her credit cards and driver’s license were gone,” said Hall, “her husband may have his ID, but he was hospitalized.”

The client didn’t know how she was going to leave Gainesville, so Hall told the client with confidence that she wasn’t going anywhere until everything was sorted out.

“I reached out to see if the Gainesville chapter had anyone available to meet her at the hospital, and at least sit with her for a little bit until she was able to settle in and feel comfortable since she had absolutely no one,” said Hall.

The taxi reached Gainesville safely and the client who sustained injuries left the hospital healthy. Once discharged from the hospital, their insurance was able to assist with providing transportation back to New Hampshire, their home state. They called Hall once the returned home to inform her they made it home okay. She learned that the client that sustained injuries was doing much better and they wanted information to send a thank-you letter to the fire fighters that responded.

“She jokingly said that Jacksonville, Florida was the best place to have to go through what her and her husband went through, and she was very thankful that their situation happened where it did,” said Hall. “The clients were also very impressed with JFRD, and said that they were very compassionate and they could tell that they cared.”

While the Red Cross does offer a variety of resources and aid during crisis, emotional support is intrinsic to disaster relief and invaluable. It is the work of volunteers like Hall that help clients when all is lost and panic sets in.

“Having support immediately available is so important because it provides a level of comfort both to the clients and also to us as volunteers, because we know that the person or family isn’t going to go through their situation alone,” said Hall.

The Red Cross assists those suffering by providing physical, emotional and informational services, and experiences like a common fire proves how important all phases of relief are to the people we serve.

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Prepare and Become Red Cross Ready this Hurricane Season

Hurricane Alex approaching Corpus Christi, Texas. 

Hurricane Alex approaching Corpus Christi, Texas.

Hurricane season begins on June 1, 2016, and Tropical Storm Ana proved that it is never too early to be Red Cross Ready when it formed on May 8 in 2015.

Being Red Cross Ready prepares individuals for any disaster that may occur. Since hurricanes are prone to cause storm surges and tornadoes, all precautions are necessary in order to limit the damage that a natural disaster may cause.

Your family’s personal safety is of top concern, and a disaster plan should be discussed, implemented and practiced. Each member of your family should know and understand their responsibilities in the event of disaster. Hurricanes can change course in a moment’s notice, and your community may be put under hurricane watch – giving you only 48 hours to react to disastrous conditions. If the storm is strong enough, your family needs to have a plan and know proper evacuation routes; which can be found through the GPS-based JaxReady mobile app.

Once your family has plan for natural disaster, preparing an emergency kit helps your family become Red Cross Ready.

The emergency kit should be easily accessible and readily capable to be utilized. Your kit may have a plethora of items that is necessary, although, it needs to be a kit that is easy to carry. Therefore, a family’s emergency kit needs to be personalized to your family’s needs, while possessing essential items. These essential items include a first aid kit, flash light, water, cash and further supplies that is detailed in the Red Cross’ hurricane safety checklist.

After your emergency kit has been prepared, methods of information regarding the hurricane is imperative. The Red Cross offers a hurricane phone app that monitors conditions in your area and offers crisis communication, while the emergency app provides weather and emergency alerts from 35 different networks. Applications alone are not enough, therefore, your family should track a hurricane and be aware of your community’s NOAA radio station.

Maintaining a consistent flow of information during a disaster decreases the probability of anyone in your family being harmed by being aware of the hurricane’s conditions, track and possible storm surges or tornadoes. However, radios and local news networks cannot relay communication to your family outside of the community. The Red Cross’ Safe and Well website can assist your effort in reconnecting with loved ones; or if the internet is not accessible, registering you and your family over the phone can be done as well: 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Now that you and your family are prepared for a hurricane, helping your community during and after disaster can be done with the American Red Cross. Volunteer effort is the heart and soul of the Red Cross and makes up for 90-percent of the workforce. In the wake of disaster, the Red Cross mobilizes its volunteer force to respond, recover and prepare the community for the next disaster.

Holiday Mail for Heroes Join us this upc

Holiday Mail for Heroes

Join us this upcoming holiday season in giving something that means something. You can do this by participating in our Holiday Mail for Heroes program! Send those who serve and protect our country a touch of home.

What is it?
The Holiday Mail for Heroes program is an annual campaign where the American Red Cross provides people in the community to Give Something that Means Something during the holiday season. The community will have an opportunity to give messages of thanks and holiday cheer to the military member, veterans, and their families. Volunteer groups can host card-making and card-signing events for their organization or their entire community.

How does it Help?
Did you know that over the past six years the Holiday mail for Heroes program has collected and distributed over 6.5 million cards to service members, veterans, and their families? This program is an easy but meaningful way to Give Something that Means Something. These cards are a great way to express gratitude but also to send a touch of home.

How do I get Involved?
You can be involved by hosting a card signing event, volunteering to sort holiday cards, or volunteering to distribute cards. Check out the links below to learn more about how to be involved in your area.

Pensacola: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/fl/pensacola/services/disaster-services%20/Send-a-touch-of-home
Panama City: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/fl/central-panhandle/volunteer/Send-a-touch-of-home
Tallahassee: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/fl/tallahassee/Send-a-touch-of-home
Jacksonville/Gainesville: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/fl/jacksonville/Send-a-touch-of-home http://ow.ly/i/ebJnT

Home Fire Preparedness Campaign

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What is the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign all about?

The American Red Cross launched the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign with the goal of reducing deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25% in the next five years. It may seem like a difficult task but we believe we can do it with YOUR support!

We are asking every family in the America to help us achieve our goal by taking part in two simple steps.

1. Check your smoke alarm or install a smoke alarm if needed.
2. Prepare for an emergency by creating a fire safety plan.

Home fires can be devastating. They can cause physical damage, property damage, and mental health problems. Here are the facts…

  • On average 7 people die every day from a home fire
  • On average, 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day
  • Over $7 billion in property damage occurs every year

Our local chapter has been busy spreading the word about our campaign. We have gone door to door installing smoke alarms, spoken to youth about fire safety and spread the word across social media platforms.

Please join us in the fight to reduce home fires. With your help we can bring change and ultimately save lives. For more information or to see if you are eligible for a free home smoke detector call (904) 358-8091

Preserving Red Cross History – George Hapsis

George Hapsis began volunteering for the Red Cross as a lifeguard in 1950 when he was only 17-years-old.

George spent a great deal of time at Jacksonville Beach with his family and friends. He was fascinated with the ocean and always wanted to learn more about the sea, especially the rip currents and waves. While at the beach one day, a lifeguard approached George and asked him if he would like to join the Life Saving Corps. George knew that lifeguards had a great reputation so he joyfully accepted the challenge!

Although George didn’t know much, if anything, about being a lifeguard he was grateful for the opportunity. He hoped that his time as a lifeguard would allow him to learn more about the water and give him the confidence he would need to help someone if an emergency occurred.

“I was proud to be involved with the Life Saving Corps. because it was just like a brotherhood. We worked hard and then we played hard,” said George Hapsis.

After serving for 10 years on the Red Cross Life Saving Corps, George began working with the Duval County school board and eventually the state of Florida. He organized files and set proper building standards for county schools and hospitals throughout the state.

George quickly became notorious among all of his coworkers and friends for his unique knack of organization.

In 2009, George attended a Life Saving Corps. meeting where he learned that they were in need of an archivist, someone who could organize all of Jacksonville’s pictures and documents. After the meeting, he once again joyfully accepted the challenge.

“I always strive to look within my community and if something needs to be done I try to take it on as a project,” said George.

When he first started his role as an archivist, George knew he had a lot of work to do. Many of the pictures and documents he found were faded, ripped or destroyed. George knew that they were not properly taken care of and he vowed to start a change.

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Photo credit : Craig Uria

Now, George has completely organized thousands of articles, pictures and documents and preserved them for future generations. He has created a “Jacksonville yearbook” since 2009 that highlights major city events and articles. He works over 60 hours a week both at our local Red Cross chapter office and at his home. Many days, he is even up until 3 in the morning working on various tasks. It is obvious that he truly loves his work.

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Photo credit : Craig Uria

George is genuinely committed to the Red Cross mission and it is evident to everyone he comes in contact with. His passion for organization and history is contagious.

Not only has George been a major asset to our local Red Cross chapter, he has also dramatically shaped the city of Jacksonville by preserving history. We are thankful for his contribution and love for the community.

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Photo credit : Craig Uria

Dedicated to the Mission – Vince Edwards

Vince Edwards felt a push to help others last year (Aug 2014) but he wasn’t sure how or where he would begin. When his professor at the University of North Florida mentioned the Red Cross, Vince began doing some research and looking up volunteer opportunities.

Before doing research, Vince thought that the Red Cross was only about donating blood. However, once he saw all of the volunteer opportunities he knew exactly where he was supposed to be.

“What I found cool about the Red Cross is the number of areas that you can volunteer in. You can try one thing and then try something else if you don’t like it. There is something for everyone,” said Vince Edwards.

Vince currently serves in a variety of different ways with our local Red Cross chapter. He works alongside the ham amateur radio group, public relations team and is a DAT team captain, chapter disaster assessment lead and Red Cross instructor. Through every role, Vince strives to lead others by reflecting his passion, commitment and work ethic.

“The most satisfying aspect of volunteering with the Red Cross by far is when you help a family while out on a disaster call.  Many families lose everything and they are left with only the clothes on their back. Seeing the relief on their faces when they see you makes the hard work worth it,” said Vince Edwards.

If an emergency happens, the Red Cross is here to help – no matter the time of day. Thank you to our incredible volunteers who sacrifice so much in order to give back to those in need. We are truly thankful for all that you do.

Photo credit : Craig Uria

Photo credit : Craig Uria

A Legacy of Service

Every year the American Red Cross awards two outstanding volunteers for their service and impact in the community. This year, both Max Ervanian and Charles “Skip” Cramer were recognized.


Few people have served others quite like 20-year-old Max Ervanian has. As a recognized and multifaceted leader in the community, Ervanian was the perfect choice for the Navin Narayan Award.

The Navin Narayan Excellence in Youth Leadership Award is given annually to a Red Cross youth volunteer who demonstrates exemplary leadership skills and service to the organization. It honors the life of Navin Narayan, who began volunteering with the Red Cross at age 14 and died of cancer in 2000 at age 23.

Ervanian’s service was apparent even at a young age. When Ervanian was only 11-years-old, he organized a non-profit that served the Jacksonville Beach homeless community. He organized volunteers, food and donors to help those in need during the Christmas season. Through his efforts, 150 people were given food, clothing, backpacks and bus passes.

Despite having a part-time job and being an honors college student, Ervanian still strives to be involved in the Jacksonville community. Some of the awards he has received for his volunteer efforts include:

  • Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps Award
  • Character Counts Award
  • Rotary Youth Leadership Award
  • St. John’s County Local Hero Award
  • National Good Deed Award

“If Clara Barton had a son, it would have been someone like Max Ervanian,” said Red Cross Volunteer Specialist Meghan Hotchkiss.

Maxwell Ervanian receives the Navin Narayan Award from Gail McGovern and Sherri Brown. Photo by Jason Colston/American Red Cross

Max Ervanian receives the Navin Narayan Award from Gail McGovern and Sherri Brown. Photo by Jason Colston/American Red Cross

“The wonderful thing about Red Cross is the wide variety of activities in which a volunteer can engage,” said Ervanian. “There is literally something for everyone!”

Although Ervanian has enjoyed serving others, he wants to learn more and continue to serve in new ways. His next objective is to be an active Disaster Responder and Disaster Services Instructor.

With leaders in the community like Max Ervanian, the opportunities are endless.



With 23 years of service to the American Red Cross, Charles “Skip” Cramer was the perfect recipient for the 2015 Red Cross Presidential Award for Excellence.

The Presidential Award for Excellence is presented to American Red Cross employees and volunteers who demonstrate superior job performance aligning with the organization’s priorities in one of the following areas: Maintaining Financial Stability, Revenue Generation, Providing Safe Blood Products, Modernizing IT Systems, Revitalizing the Brand or Mission Fulfillment.

During his time at the Red Cross, Cramer has served as a chief executive officer, volunteer and board of director’s member. Currently, he serves as a full-time volunteer as Regional Volunteer Services Chair.

Cramer has also had an especially productive past year. He helped to equip Pat Shea who joined Red Cross this year as Northeast Florida regional executive and has been responsible for leading a variety of Red Cross initiatives. His level of organization and responsibility is also clearly reflected in the way that he handles himself at work each day.

“Skip’s meaningful and enduring service to our Red Cross reflects the impact our volunteers have on our communities.  I am extremely proud to know him and happy that he, accompanied by his bride of many years, Glenda, is being recognized by our national team for his exceptional work,” said Pat Shea, Regional Executive American Red Cross North Florida.

In addition to his time at Red Cross, Cramer has proven his leadership skills through his community involvement in other organizations such as The Salvation Army, USO, Leadership Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Rotary Club.

Charles “Skip” Cramer receives the Presidential Humanitarian Award from Gail McGovern and Sherri Brown. Photo by Jason Colston/American Red Cross

Charles “Skip” Cramer receives the Presidential Humanitarian Award from Gail McGovern and Sherri Brown. Photo by Jason Colston/American Red Cross

“I have never met a more dedicated and generous group of people, willing to go anywhere and work under any conditions in order to provide comfort and care to people in serious need. The work of these volunteers inspired me to continue with Red Cross as a volunteer,” said Skip Cramer.

The Northeast Florida Chapter of the American Red Cross is thankful for Skip Cramer and his high level of humility, dedication and service. His example of service is one that we all strive to emulate.

Fire Prevention & Safety Day 2015

There was something for everyone at the annual Red Cross Fire Prevention & Safety Day. Children from across Jacksonville played trivia games, colored pictures and even enjoyed a Red Cross themed fire safety puppet show! However, the children weren’t the only ones learning and having fun. Adults were able to create a fire safety plan and learn various fire prevention tips from the Red Cross and Jacksonville Fire Department, as well as sign up for free smoke detector installations through the Red Cross National Fire Preparedness Campaign. By the end of the event, volunteers from the Red Cross had:

  • Canvassed 181 homes in Northside Jacksonville
  • Conducted 69 Fire Safety conversations including the creation of escape plans
  • Signed up 35 homes for free smoke detector installations
  • Distributed 158 Fire Safety Tear Sheets and Door Hangers to Jacksonville residents

The event is part of the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the number of fire deaths and injuries in the United States by 25% within five years.

The Red Cross plans to do this in 3 unique ways:

  1. Door-to-door installation of smoke alarms and completion of home-safety checklists.
  2. Engagement of youth in classrooms and after school with technology, challenges, and science based education.
  3. A marketing and public relations campaign to motivate safety and fire prevention.

Each year approximately 365,500 home fires are reported in the United States. We hope that Fire Prevention & Safety Day will help our initiative efforts and remind people about the importance of fire safety.

The Fire Prevention & Safety Day was an incredible day for families all around the city of Jacksonville. However, it wouldn’t have been a success without all of our partners.

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Youth Leadership Extravaganza!

Youth Leadership Extravaganza!

Did you know the Northeast Florida Chapter of the American Red Cross has youth oriented clubs? That’s right youth from elementary to college can start a club on their campus or join “Club Red,” which is the Red Cross community club where youth from all schools and ages are welcome to join. Club members gain leadership and life skills through a variety of volunteer experiences with the Red Cross, local nonprofits, and other businesses in the Jacksonville area.

Below are photos from the Youth Leadership Extravaganza, an event where all Red Cross youth and their families are invited to the Chapter for a day filled with team skill building fun! Throughout the day prominent guest speakers from the Jacksonville community present a variety of success driven topics and allow everyone to become engaged with group activities and projects that relate to the benefits volunteering, being a successful leader, and working as a team.

If you would like more information on our next Youth Leadership Extravaganza, Red Cross Clubs, or Youth Volunteer opportunities please email, Meghan.Hotchkiss@redcross.org, call (904) 358-8091, or visit our website http://www.redcross.org/fl/jacksonville.

“Being a Successful Leader” Malivai Washington

Malivai Washington Kids Foundation, Jacksonville FL

“True Colors” Personality Presentation –FSCJ

“International Volunteering” Uli Decker- World Affairs Council

“The Benefits of Volunteering & Academics” Daphne Vagenas- Bolles School

“Team Skill Building Project” -National  Red Cross Training Call

Mayor Brown Honors Local Hispanic Community Leaders

Jacksonville, FL October 13, 2014 - Local community leaders were honored by Mayor Alvin Brown and members of the City of Jacksonville’s Mayor’s Hispanic American Advisory Board for their significant leadership roles in the community.

Jacksonville, FL October 13, 2014 – Local community leaders were honored by Mayor Alvin Brown and members of the City of Jacksonville’s Mayor’s Hispanic American Advisory Board for their significant leadership roles in the community.

A native of Costa Rica, Maurice “Mo” Rudolph has served the Jacksonville community for over 27 years in the business and public service sectors.Rudolph has been a member of the American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps for 27 years and has logged over 3000 volunteer hours as a guard, board member, vice-president and president of the board. He was awarded the Education Award in 1994 for achieving new levels of training as an instructor in open water rescue. He led fund-raising efforts for the New Century Capital Campaign which funded the addition of a class room for community public safety classes, a Junior Lifeguard Program and training of lifeguard volunteers. In 2006 Rudolph was awarded a “Rescue Pin” – one of the highest honors of the organization – for saving the life of a 4-year-old-child who was drowning at Jacksonville Beach. Rudolph was an International Committee Member in 2007 when he travelled to Lima, Peru with a Committee of eight Volunteer Lifeguards to instruct fellow Latinos in open water rescue due to high levels of drowning on the beaches in Peru. He has served as Instructor, Second Mate, Quartermaster, Registrar and twice as Captain of the ARCVLSC. Rudolph has been a board member of the Northeast Florida Chapter of the American Red Cross since 2010 and served as its 2011-2012 Vice-Chairman and 2013-2014 Chairman. He also acted as Chairman of the 2013 CEO Search Committee.

Rudolph is currently the Vice President for Land Development at Standard Pacific Home and was previously the Business Development Manager at Auld & White Construction. Mr. Rudolph also managed the City of Jacksonville’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Mr. Rudolph has served as Event Chair and Community Relations Chair of the First Coast Manufacturers Association. He is Membership Committee Chair and a member of the Management Committee of the Urban Land Institute – North Florida District Council.

Rudolph has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of North Florida.