Donated items prove useful during Minnesota/Wisconsin clean-up efforts

September 13, 2007

By: Jeffery L. Biggs
American Red Cross


RUSHFORD, MN, August 29, 2007 – When relief workers and residents in the flood-ravaged areas of southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin began the arduous cleaning process, they didn’t have to worry about having the proper supplies. Instead, the American Red Cross has been able to provide more than 3,000 clean-up kits which include brooms, buckets, cleaning solutions, and more. The Red Cross has also been able to provide invaluable gloves and hand sanitizer to the workers; helping protect themselves during the potentially hazardous cleaning process.

The gloves, manufactured for the American Red Cross by Magla Products under a licensing agreement, provide an extra layer of protection for disaster relief workers and residents cleaning their homes and businesses; helping protect them from potentially harmful contact bacteria and hazardous materials such as nails, screws, and other sharp objects.

The hand sanitizer, also manufactured for the American Red Cross under a special licensing agreement with WaterJel, gives users a way to clean and sanitize their hands after working in the mud and muck of the flooded areas.

One of the folks taking advantage of the gloves and sanitizer was Larie Wohlert of Spring Grove, Minn. Larie was working relief efforts in Rushford as part of the Houston County, Minn. Cattlemen’s Association clean-up project.

“It’s great that we can have something to protect our hands while we’re working and then have a good cleanser for them when we’re done,” said Larie. “The Red Cross has been extremely helpful in providing supplies to help get the work done.” In addition to hand sanitizer and work gloves to help people with individual clean-up and salvage, local vendors like Valley Crest donated two-wheeled sturdy hand trucks to easily move pallets of in-kind donations perhaps the most precious donation – a little girl’s donation of 75 cans of insect repellent to help workers in the flood zones.

“This 5-year-old girl and her mother, Lisa Anttila, brought in several cases of bug repellent to be used by the workers,” said Sandy Zuiderhoek of in-kind donations. “It was a very nice gesture and greatly appreciated.”

“Marissa wanted to help out,” said her mom, Lisa. “I’m an Avon representative, and she always likes delivering [products of orders]with me. We sent out a call to all of our customers for bug spray because we had heard that the bees and mosquitoes were so bad. We were able to collect at least 70 cans of spray, and she enjoyed bringing them to the Red Cross so she could help out, too.”

The distribution and use of the gloves, hand sanitizer, and other clean-up materials is all part of the Red Cross’ plan to help those who need it most when disaster strikes, and is part of the Red Cross’ nationwide campaign which encourages people to “Be Red Cross Ready.”

This campaign stresses individuals and families taking preparedness steps ahead of time for whatever the future may bring – be it a natural disaster, a personal disaster such as a house fire, or even a traffic wreck while traveling. The focus of the campaign is to get or make an emergency supplies kit – both for home and in the car; making an evacuation and family communications plan; and being informed about what to do during an emergency.

McKesson Pharmaceutical boosts Red Cross efforts

September 7, 2007
By: Glenda Plunkett
American Red Cross 


Rochester, MN, September 6, 2007; It all started when Scott Mooney, Distribution Center Manager for McKesson Pharmaceutical, received a phone call from his client in St. Charles, MN. The client had experienced flooding over the weekend and needed his help. Mooney went to see him. While there he heard for the first time that there was trouble in Rushford. Rushford had been overwhelmed by a disastrous flood causing great loss to businesses and homes. Mooney’s thoughts turned to a previous client, Tom Witt and his business, Witt’s Pharmacy.

Mooney knew the townspeople and the nursing home, Good Shepard, relied on this small mom and pop pharmacy. He made a trip to Rushford to see his former client Tom Witt.

He found Witt at the Good Shepard Nursing Home. Witt was in trouble. The rumors were true. His business was lost. Witt asked him to walk across the street with him to the Red Cross shelter.

Mooney said, “The shelter was packed with cots and blankets. It hit me like a brick what the Red Cross was doing for these people. I thought we need to help too. I was also impressed with how Tom was helping the people there even though he had lost his business. He recovered what medicines were left and channeled them through the shelter to those who really needed help. My next question for Tom was what do you need to make this work?”

I called our foundation and we agreed to give a check for $10,000 to Red Cross in the city of Rushford and another $10,000 to the National Headquarters of the Red Cross,” said Mooney. The McKesson Foundation founded by McKesson Pharmaceuticals, the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America. Each day they distribute one-third of the medicines used in the United States.

Witt needed counter tops, cubicle dividers, and a refrigerator to name a few things. He needed rubber gloves, cotton balls and other odds and ends for the make shift first aid center in the back of the shelter.

Mooney said, “Let me see what I can do.”

Mooney went back to his warehouse in La Crosse, WI where he procured portable tabletops, counters, cabinets, and other odds and ends. “I bought him a refrigerator since I didn’t have one in the warehouse. We sent all of it directly to Rushford. There we helped to assemble a make-shift pharmacy and office so that Witt could operate his business again. He needed a refrigerator and I bought him one at Menards,” said Mooney.

By Tuesday morning thanks to the generosity of McKesson Pharmaceuticals the St. Charles Pharmacy and Witt were back in business. Witt was once again providing needed medication to the Good Shepard Nursing Home and the residents of Rushford.

After doing so, Mooney spoke with the health professionals running the first aid station. These professionals were a mix of Red Cross volunteers and Winona Public Health Department. Winona Health was also a former client of McKesson but this made no difference to Mooney as the nurse relayed her dilemma. The health department was dispensing shots of tetanus and Hepatitis B to those of the public that wanted them but were running out of the much needed vials of serum.

Once again Mooney sprang into action. He sent for 300 vials of tetanus serum and 300 vials of Hepatitis B serum from his warehouse for Winona Public Health’s use.

“It was the right thing to do,” lamented Mooney. “We are all in the business of helping people and it touched my heart how much they needed our assistance.”

“A couple of times Tom has brought up buying from McKesson again. I told him now is not the time for that. We can discuss it in the future. Right now we have to get you on your feet and back on-line,” said Mooney.

Mooney continued, “The Red Cross support I saw there was incredible. It touched me from the first time I walked in. I walked up to a woman who was checking people into the shelter. It turns out she lost her mobile home and everything in it, but it didn’t stop her from helping other people as they checked into the shelter. I stopped in there several times over the next few days and each time she greeted me. She put everything in her life aside to help others.”

 “As time went on, I saw the Red Cross progress from a shelter to more support services…feeding, nursing, clean up supplies, and making financial assistance happen. They had Salvation Army, FEMA and the Small Business Association in there with a host of others working alongside them doing various kinds of support for the locals there. I was truly impressed with the will to help,” said Mooney.

Jim Jackson an inspiration to all

September 7, 2007
By Glenda Plunkett
American Red Cross 

Rochester, MN, September 7, 2007; Volunteer Jim Jackson is a familiar face at Mid-Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross. He has been with the chapter for twenty years and has served on dozens of national disasters.

He started when he was 57 and the Red Cross came into the plant, A. E. Staleys of Decatur, IL.  Red Cross provided training for an in-house disaster plan. “I took all of my training right there over the next two weeks and decided this is for me,” said Jackson.

  Practically a staple on national disasters, Jackson has served in many dimensions. He has been in logistics, served as an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver, run the cafeteria for staff, warehousing, damage assessment, and courier service to name a few.

“Jim is never without a smile and a kind word for whoever he meets. He is a true inspiration to all,” said Executive Director Dennis Eller, Mid-Illinois Chapter.

“It makes me feel really good to be able help someone. I always listen when someone is upset. Then I give them a big hug and say, ‘Well, tomorrow is gonna’ be a better day,’” said Jackson.

He told a tale of a national disaster in Virginia when he called to be an ERV driver. He took a wrong turn and wound up driving up a narrow gravel road that led to an old shack.

On the front porch sat an elderly woman. Jackson approached her and asked if she had eaten today. She said she had no electricity and that her phone lines were down. She said she hadn’t heard or seen her children in days and she figured that it was time the Lord took her home. So she had decided to wait until the Lord came and got her on her front porch.

Jackson responded with a smile, “The Lord told me He was busy today so He sent me instead. Here’s your supper.”

His tales are familiar to many around him. Jackson said, “I love people. I have never met a stranger. And I love to help.”

Another of Jackson’s tall tales goes like this, “I was down in Katrina country in Louisiana when I started having trouble with my ERV. I knew I would have to call back to headquarters and tell them to come get me but I had no idea what the town’s name was. I also had no idea how to pronounce it since it was probably in French or Cajun. So I pulled into a parking lot and asked this young man to come to the ERV. I told him to tell me real slow where I am. He looked up and then at me and said really slowly, ‘B-U-R-G-E-R  K-I-N-G’ .”

When asked where he had been, he simply replied, “I have been all over the United States, with hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, floods on the Eastern seaboard, mudslides in California, and tornadoes throughout the Midwest. I served at 9-11 feeding those who worked at Ground Zero and in Katrina too. I have even helped with the refugees from Kosovo and hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. I love people and when they need help…I’ll go!”

Community recognizes ERV drivers for dedication

September 7, 2007
Rex Thorpe on his first national relief mission with the Red Cross (Photo by Aaron Litwin)



Kevin Connell and Shoba Brown, ERV Volunteers, show off their plaques given to them by appreciative clients in Minnesota (Photo courtesy of Angie Springs, Midland Empire Chapter)



By Glenda Plunkett
American Red Cross

Rex Thorpe just finished his first national assignment on an ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) at the Minnesota-Wisconsin Flood. He didn’t know what he was getting into when he said he would ‘try ERV work’.

He climbed on board with two Red Cross veterans, Shoba Brown and Kevin Connell, both from the Midland Empire Chapter in St. Joe, MO. They took him under their wings to teach him the best tips for mass feeding and delivering meals to those affected. The route started first in Vernon County and then continued on to Money Creek, MN. There the last two days, the ERV team visited a campground where displaced people had gathered in tents.

Thorpe said, “The Red Cross volunteers were fantastic people and made a terrific team. They made my experience extremely positive. They knew the subtle things to do that mean so much and they graciously taught me. The way they connected with the clients was so special. They didn’t treat the people like clients but more like old friends. It didn’t take long for the clients to pick up on it too.”

Thorpe continued, “People in the neighborhood presented each of the ERV drivers with a plaque. It was a nice plaque with gold letters engraved on a black surface. It was a nice thing to do. These people lost everything. They lost their homes and for them to go out of their way like that, it showed how much they appreciated what these ERV volunteers did. These folks also gave Shoba and Kevin homemade pickles and hugs. They invited the Red Cross volunteers to come and attend a picnic a year from the date of the flood (August 19th). They told us the landscape would look differently by then. It would look like a neighborhood and not a disaster site.”

Thorpe summed it up by saying, “This was my first Red Cross disaster response but I would do it again. I hope people are never flooded out of their homes again. It would be nice to say that we will never have another disaster, but I know it will happen and I will want to help when it happens. I am glad my first disaster was not a huge hurricane like Katrina. This was a good experience. It amazes me how you take two strangers like Shoba and Kevin and in two weeks they are functioning as a very tight team. It is a very rewarding experience to a guy like me.” 

Tzu Chi Foundation Partners with American Red Cross to provide flood relief

September 7, 2007
By Stephanie Carter
American Red Cross 

The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, U.S.A. set-up shop in the Old TRW building in Rushford over the Labor Day weekend, complete with soothing music. 38 volunteers were on an emergency relief mission in Minnesota focusing on Winona and Rushford.

Residents were eligible to receive financial support; $500 for homes which were destroyed and $300 for homes with major damage. Disaster victims received referrals from the American Red Cross.

Tzu Chi, meaning compassion relief, is an international charitable organization based out of Taiwan with over 5 million supporters and 30,000 certified members. The foundation provides charitable and medical services, humanitarian aid, and offers the largest bone marrow registry in Asia.  According to their website,, their ultimate goal is for each person who receives relief, be inspired to give comfort and companionship to other disaster victims in turn.

Amy Chong, a Tzu Chi volunteer said, “I quit my job 10 years ago and have traveled to 14 countries. I just want to help people. My heart goes out to these people.”

They were packing up and heading out the door when one last person stopped by and asked for consideration. Without hesitation, a Tzu Chi volunteer sat down and said, “I’ll wait for you.”

Amy Eden, Red Cross Service Center Manager for Rushford, said, “Clients are receiving assistance from the Red Cross. To receive further assistance from the Tzu Chi Foundation is good. They connect with people one-on-one. All Tzu Chi volunteers pay their own way and take time off their jobs to help people in need. They are very friendly and dedicated.”


 Written by Stephanie Carter, a volunteer with the Rappahannock Chapter of the American Red Cross assisting with the Minnesota/Wisconsin floods.

Mayo pledges $100,000 to Red Cross

September 6, 2007


September 5, 2007, ROCHESTER, Minn. –Mayo Clinic announced on Friday, August 31, 2007, it will be making monetary donations to the agencies that have been heavily involved with the flood relief effort:


  • $100,000 to the Southeast Minnesota Chapter of the American Red Cross;
  • $100,000 to the Northern Division of the Salvation Army;
  • $100,000 to the United Way of Olmsted County;
  • And joining with other local organizations in making a contribution of $25,000 to the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s Business Recovery Fund, which will make grants available to local businesses to assist in their recovery.


Mayo Clinic officers, Glenn Forbes, M.D., Chief Executive Officer, and Jeff Korsmo, Chief Administrative Officer, were inspired by the overwhelming need in the affected communities and moved by the response of the employees and generous spirit of their willingness to help those affected by the floods.


The Mayo Clinic also delivered stethoscopes, insulin and blood pressure cuffs along with other supplies and services for the relief effort to the Red Cross shelter in Rushford. 


Melanie Tschida, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Southeast Minnesota Chapter said, “We are continually amazed by the generosity of the Mayo community.  They have been working with us side-by-side since day one of this disaster, and now they have also made a very generous financial gift to support our relief efforts.  We are proud to call them our partner and grateful for their support.”


To date, the American Red Cross has distributed 51,632 meals, 115,891 snacks, and 3,763 clean-up kits to the Minnesota and Wisconsin flood victims.

The fall and rise of Rushford

September 5, 2007


Rushford Mayor Les Ladewig speaks twice daily to
residents of the Minnesota town affected by the flood.
(Photo by Lynn Farrell/American Red Cross)


 By: Glenda Plunkett
American Red Cross

Rochester, MN, September 1, 2007; “Never Ever Give Up” is the battle cry for Rushford, MN severely affected by the flood. As a matter of fact they have printed signs that are in each storefront window to help boost morale. No one sings that more optimistically than Mayor Les Ladewig.

The nightmare for Rushford started in the early morning hours of August 19th when torrential rains combined with a dyke failure forced residents to flee their homes. Residents gathered at the Rushford High School and at the Good Shepard’s Nursing Home as flood waters rose. For much of that night Rushford Firemen rescued residents with boats as they battled more than twelve feet of flood water. “Not one life was lost thanks to their heroism, because of them we aren’t attending twenty funerals this week,” boasted the mayor.

The town was divided in half by a roaring river so two shelters, the Rushford High School and the Good Shepard Nursing Home, were initially established. As 4 more inches of rain were forecasted for the following day, the school fell threat to flooding. The nursing home held more than a hundred people in its activity area. This was impacting their normal activity. The mayor knew something needed to be done.

“Red Cross was here at first light. They graciously agreed to help and magic started to happen.  Red Cross brought with them over 300 cots to set up a shelter. Rodney Allen owner of RiverSide Electronics, and his General Manager, Gregg Reich, offered their newly acquisitioned TRW building to use in anyway we needed,” replied the mayor. At that point the TRW building became more than a shelter; it became the town community center where relief could be found. It was a grace from God type of thing that it was even available,” continued Ladewig. “You know now that I look back on it, TRW left town a year ago and we thought their departure was a real blow for our town. But if they had not, we would not have had that building open to do all the good it did.”

Meetings were held twice daily, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., at the TRW building and relief came to the town of Rushford in many ways…Red Cross, Salvation Army, FEMA, Small Business Administration, Americorp, Children’s Disaster Services to name a few. Each tidbit of information was relayed to the community by the mayor who always kept the community’s best interest at heart.

“It was a privilege to serve these folks. Someone asked me if I followed the Emergency Operations Plan and I said, ‘You bet for the first 15 minutes’ and then we had to re-tailor the plan.” Ladewig humbly continued, “But we couldn’t have done any of this without the Red Cross. There aren’t enough good things to say about the Red Cross. There haven’t been enough kind words printed in the dictionary to describe it. I hung around the client assistance tables and asked people how they were treated as they walked away from their sessions. Not one person has been disgruntled or upset. The Red Cross didn’t just make an impact here. They made a statement! I can’t express how grateful I am to have their services available.”

 Thinking back on a town split by a river and then reunited by resilience the Mayor smiled and said, “Without a doubt Rushford will be back. We intend to have a town-wide picnic next year to celebrate our rebirth and we will all be wearing t-shirts that say ‘What flood?’”