So where are they now?

American Red Cross Chief Nurse Sharon Stanley in Orlando, FL

By Laureen Martinez, Chief Public Relations Officer

When I ask people ( and believe me I talk to a lot of folks in our community) what they think of when they think of the Red Cross, most say disasters, blood and CPR. What I find missing from the list is something I think should be at the top.  Nurses.

If you look at old photos of the Red Cross you’ll see the world-recognized emblem on white nursing caps on the tops of  women’s heads all dressed in crisp, clean uniforms.  These iconic images remind us of the important role nurses have taken in the history of the Red Cross….so where are they now?

The fact is nurses are still a HUGE part of the Red Cross. They are often in shelters, at the volunteer leadership table, they may even be disguised as volunteers in other service areas.   Nurses are everywhere. And rightly so. Nowadays they blend in,  but make no mistake, nurses are trained, educated professionals who excel in so many aspects of Red Cross services.

This became clear to me when American Red Cross Chief Nurse Sharon Stanley came to Orlando to meet with our staff and volunteers. Her words were fascinating.  She said there are currently more than 5,000 nurses across the Red Cross which makes up about 88% of our disaster services workers. During her visit she also said, “Part of my mission is revitalizing nursing in the Red Cross.”   Stanley said to get there we must engage our nurses and see them as more than individuals who can take a person’s blood pressure and temperature. Nurses are on the front lines –  safe guarding our community’s health. And when you consider the nurses in training at our local colleges and universities and the nurse assistants, you realize there is a wealth of talent and individuals willing make a difference.

I think the Red Cross has the power to improve health services in communities hit  by disasters and recovering from emergencies.   Nurses can not only help treat survivors but they can educate, lead and improve our communities.  They are, after all, Red Cross superstars!! And they are most certainly here to stay!

If you are in the health field and interested in using your skills at the Red Cross please go to and start the new volunteer process!

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The day that changed us – 10 years after 9/11

An American Red Cross Family Service Center Near Ground Zero, Photo Taken October 2001

By Laureen Martinez, American Red Cross Mid-Florida Region Communicator

Like so many of us, I vividly remember the morning of September 11, 2001. My phone rang, my mother said “turn on the TV” and I spent about 2 minutes staring at the screen before I jumped out of bed, quickly got dressed and ran out the door to go to work. At the time I was a local television journalist and I knew this would be a day like no other – even thousands of miles away from the Twin Towers. I would eventually travel to New York City three weeks after the attack to document the work of local responders helping the city recover. I interviewed police from my city as well as American Red Cross volunteers. I worked out of the NBC studios which later meant I had to get tested at the hospital because of  the Anthrax scare.

I learned a lot of lessons that year.  September 11 taught us all that disasters can happen at any time  – shocking us beyond the realm of reality.  They come in all forms from earthquakes (even where they are not supposed to happen) to hurricanes to terrorist attacks.  The only way we can better handle what comes our way is to prepare.

Fittingly, September is National Preparedness Month which gives us all the opportunity  to both remember the victims of 9/11 and honor those who responded, and to make a renewed commitment to being better prepared for the future. We can all certainly do better and it’s easy if you follow these simple steps: build a kit, make a plan, and be informed.

 The American Red Cross can help everyone with information on exactly how to do that . Just go to

No one can predict where or when the next large disaster will strike, but preparedness steps taken today can save lives and livelihoods tomorrow. So no matter when an emergency happens (you be awakened from a sound sleep or you may be at school or at work) you’ll have a better sense of what to do.

Addtional information: Remembering 9/11 and Preparing for Future Disasters.

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“DAT” Superteam

Robert and Veronica Kramel

The Kramel's when they aren't volunteering

By Robert Kramel, American Red Cross Volunteer

    My wife and I move around the country a lot, it happens about every two years. We have done this since the start of our marriage seven years ago. Even while moving and “changing it up” every couple of years, it helps to find norms through all the chaos that moving involves. One of the norms that we have developed is the practice of doing charitable work or community work where ever we land.

                Since I am still taking classes and working full time, she took on the task of finding a good fit. She eventually stumbled upon the American Red Cross of Ocala. After the orientation, she met with the group of volunteers and knew this was it. The folks here in Marion County took her right in and made her feel like one of their own. We’ve learned so much in a few weeks about the Red Cross – like how different it is from other organizations in that they focus on the immediate needs of people affected by a disaster. They are the ones that specialize in showing up when disaster strikes.

                We are now part of the DISASTER ACTION TEAM! It’s just as cool as it sounds!  Here is the deal; DAT is a team that is on-call for the Red Cross a week at a time and responds to disasters like house fires.  When we found out we were like wow this is it! The cool thing about it, at least for us, is that there is no set time to be there or a certain amount of hours you must put in every week. That allows us to keep business as usual but respond when a need presents itself.  To start, we went out with experienced DAT members who would walk us through the process.  It was so rewarding to see somebody who just lost their home change because of your time and efforts. I can see how the Red Cross is able to help them start the recovery process and it is an experience you will never forget. Now we are ready to go out on disaster calls on our own. So stay tuned…..

If you are interested in becoming an American Red Cross in the Mid-Florida Region volunteer or a disaster relief volunteer like the Kramel’s click here.


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Why you should know everything about Emily

Tropical Storm Emily Churns in the Atlantic

Let me introduce you to Emily. Tropical Storm Emily. While I don’t know her all that well (after all we just met!). I have a feeling we may get close. 

So,  I’m taking her seriously. And you should too. 

By that I mean you should prepare, prepare, prepare for the possibility of this storm affecting you.  Click here for info on how! At the Red Cross, prepare is our middle name.  Right now Red Cross chapters from Florida to North Carolina are coordinating with local emergency officials and ensuring that shelters, relief supplies and volunteers are ready to help if coastal communities are threatened.

Just so you know, Red Cross work starts long before a tropical storm makes landfall. In fact, we keep a variety of supplies and equipment on stand by year round to be ready to help people in need. For example, we have 26 warehouses stocked with disaster relief supplies, more than 60,000 trained workers and more than 320 mobile response vehicles ready to respond.

The Red Cross needs about $378 million every year to respond to nearly 70,000 disasters ranging from a house fire involving one family to other disasters like hurricanes impacting entire communities. 

You can help people affected by disasters by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation today.

By Laureen Martinez with contributions from the American Red Cross.

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Vacation Lodge – After the Fire

After the fire

After the fire

By Sheridan Becht, Red Cross Volunteer

When Jack returned to his extended stay motel after a long day of shuttling families to theme parks in his taxi specially equipped to handle wheelchairs, he found his neighbors standing in the parking lot watching a small fire in one corner of the motel.  He watched as his room, and more than 130 others, gradually succumbed to a raging fire that eventually consumed the entire property.

The following afternoon Jack was sitting in the bleachers of a High School, near Kissimmee, FL.  The gym was now a temporary American Red Cross shelter.  Watching children play while their parents visited with case workers, Jack was introspective. “I lost a few things, but it was no big deal,” he said. “Life goes on.”

Jack initially didn’t think he needed help from the Red Cross but neighbors convinced him to go to the shelter and register for assistance. Seeing the Red Cross volunteers in action he was touched. “I want to thank the Red Cross with my heart and soul,” he said.

Standing in line and tired from no sleep, one parent was still trying to come to grips with everything that had happened in the last sixteen hours. His family lived in the complex for more than a year and they had lost everything in the fire. His children were still wearing the pajamas they were sleeping in when they were awakened to firefighters pounding on their door.  He was thankful to have the Red Cross helping him get back on his feet. “This gives people a little slack. It can’t solve all our problems, but it helps.”

Another resident, a father with his family had called the motel home for nearly four months. The father of five children, ages 19 to seventeen months, was still searching for answers. “My five year old asked me, Daddy where are we going to live? I didn’t know what to tell her,” he said.

Starting over would not be easy. The young father still did not have an answer for his daughter. But in his pocket was a Red Cross client assistance card and voucher for a month’s rent and that was a good start.

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The Changing World of CPR

By Valerie Moses

My first introduction to CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) took place when I was in middle school. As pre-teens hoping to make some extra money, my sister and I had signed up for a babysitting course with the American Red Cross in our town, where we learned some skills that could save a child’s life. Then, in my sophomore year of high school, I enrolled in another life-saving course with our local fire department, where I brushed up on my CPR skills as part of a health class.

Of course, four years later, the world of CPR has changed. With the next generation of Red Cross classes on the verge of release, members of the community are learning new methods for keeping victims alive. The Red Cross now teaches compression-only, or hands-only CPR; mouth-to-mouth is usually performed by the more experienced medical professionals. The newly designed classes will change the way we think about CPR and other life-saving skills.

Because four years have passed since my last CPR class, I will certainly need a refresher. I look forward to learning the new methods! To learn more about the classes you can take at your local Red Cross, click here.

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Disaster Preparedness and College

By Valerie Moses

Last week, as each crash of thunder resonated outside, I huddled inside my dorm room with no idea of what to do next. I had walked across campus through rain before, but with the weather this severe, was I still expected to attend my first class? After receiving emails about the day’s tornado watch, I ultimately chose my safety over my academics.

However, other than that, I didn’t really know what else to do. I have always assumed that my building was secure enough to withstand a lot, but hearing about the aftermath of these storm throughout the state had a sobering effect on me. In the case of another storm, what would I do to protect myself?

Many college students aren’t aware of how to prepare for these natural disasters. When we are home, we rely on our parents (as we always have) to know what to do in the event that the unthinkable does happen. But when we are away at school, we solely expect the university or the apartment complex to plan our emergency responses for us.

As adults, however, we must learn to take responsibility for ourselves. We should figure out our plans in the event of a disaster so that if the time comes, we are ready. For college students, taking a class at the Red Cross could be both life-changing and life-saving. The skills we learn now will be vital when we move into our own houses and start our own families.

For tips on creating your own emergency plan, click here. It could mean the difference between life and death.

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Intern of 21st Century

By Valerie Moses

As an Advertising/Public Relations student at the University of Central Florida, I am always interested in learning about the ways that different people and groups pass on their messages. Hundreds of years ago, local businesses advertised through mostly pictoral outdoor advertisements, and communication between individual people was often slow and inefficient. Flashing forward to 2011, we find our modes of communication changing rapidly, as we become more connected than ever before.

Because of this, I think that now is the most exciting time to be an intern in any form of communications. It seems that every day, the world finds a new way to craft its messages, and that there is a social media outlet for every purpose imaginable. Although the American Red Cross was founded in 1881, our Mid-Florida Region alone utilizes Facebook, Twitter and other types of social media (not to mention, its own website) to share its latest news and events with the community.

Even today, I was instrumental in the planning of a new and exciting type of event that Edward Bernays and the other 20th century leaders in communications had never even dreamed of. In 2011, communicating with the public has become a lot more imaginative and interactive.

Interning at the Mid-Florida Region of the Red Cross has shown me just how well such an established organization has kept up with the times and utilized the surge in technology to change the world for the better.

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Life as an Intern: Part II

By Valerie Moses

Interning for the American Red Cross means learning something new every day. Regardless of any ongoing projects I may have, there is always room to develop a new skill or gain knowledge about particular organizational procedures. Whether compiling media lists, writing about an upcoming event or interviewing local volunteers, I am often challenged to perform a task I’ve never tried before.

Today was no different. This morning, the other interns and I received our first lesson in media training. As someone who tends to shy away from the cameras and public speaking, the idea of media training made me both nervous and excited. I have always admired our supervisor, Chief Public Relations Officer Laureen Martinez, for her abilities to communicate effectively with the media, and I knew that the lesson would be beneficial.

After participating in mock-interviews on camera with Laureen and another reporter who had come in to give us pointers, I definitely feel more confident in my ability to speak on television or even in front of others. The constructive criticism we each received will help us in the future, if we ever need to speak on behalf of the organization after a local disaster, or even if we just want to talk to the press about an upcoming event.

Because I am interning for an organization that communicates well with the public, I too am learning how to best express myself on behalf of such an amazing organization!

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Interning at the Red Cross

By Valerie Moses

At the American Red Cross Mid-Florida Region, there is never a dull moment. When disaster strikes, staff and volunteers must be prepared to provide relief and support to the affected families, and so no two days are ever the same. As one of the organization’s spring interns, I have not only learned how to adapt to change, but I have also been able to do what I love for a cause I believe in.

A sophomore at UCF with a major in Advertising/Public Relations, I wanted my first internship to take place at a non-profit organization, but I never envisioned myself playing such an integral role so early on. However, since I began interning at the Mid-Florida Region in January, I have written radio PSAs, press releases, articles and various other materials, as well as information about the relief efforts for the earthquake in Japan. Our work in disasters like this, both large and small scale, reminds me of how necessary this organization is. Although it was originally founded in the United States more than 100 years ago, its presence in the community still stands strong, and I am proud to be a part of that.

Becoming an intern at the Red Cross is the best decision I made this semester. Being able to write something that may encourage people to consider our mission or donate to our cause is an amazing feeling, and I love having the opportunity to help turn heartbreak into hope.

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