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.

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.” 

Red Cross, American Cadet Alliance proves fruitful

September 5, 2007



 By: Glenda Plunkett
American Red Cross


ROCHESTER, MN, September 2, 2007; It takes so many pieces to assemble any puzzle and which is akin to a disaster relief operation. Each piece does their job and when the pieces are totaled up they make a picture, except this picture is one of relief.

One of the pieces of the Minnesota – Wisconsin Flood Disaster Relief Operation is the help of the American Cadet Alliance. The cadets start at age 12 and go through 17 years old. “The cadets are in trained with a military preciseness and are at the disposal of the Red Cross,” said Sergeant Jason Albers.

The nation’s number two man in this program is Lieutenant Colonel Joseph M. Land, Sr., said, “It’s all about the mission for these dedicated youths. This program is about inspiring national pride to others. All people as citizens should step up at some point to help others. We all have an obligation to do something for our nation. When these youths put on that uniform they represent heroes. The decorum they present emulates those heroes.”

The cadets may be assigned to clean up in affected areas, security, traffic control, load or unload trucks, or perimeter containment to name a few. The cadets like the Red Cross are here to help people, communities, and their country. For the first few days in the aftermath of the flood it was their job to keep a tight perimeter for the town of Rushford. Without proper identification no one was allowed to enter the town of Rushford which received extensive damage from the flood.

“The cadets have brought security to the headquarters of the American Red Cross in Rochester, MN. They are mobile and can be plugged into the need as we see it arise. They also helped affected populations clean up their communities. To say that they are useful to us is an understatement,” said Pat Kraemer, Director of the Minnesota – Wisconsin Flood American Red Cross Disaster Relief Operation.

Eight cadets endured long hours, hot weather, mud, and debris to help. This group of cadets included: Sergeant Jason Albers, US Army Cadet Corps; Instructor Jack Rector, American Cadet Alliance; Private Jacob Recht, US Army Cadet Corps; Private Frist Class David Andrzejeski, Minnesota Army National Guard; Private Kazi Tyler Rashid, Minnesota Army National Guard. One of their own, Sgt. Jason Albers, said, “This gives youth an opportunity to decide whether a military life is for them. And as far this group of guys goes, they are a stellar group of people.”

 “I have been doing this for about 30 years. I started as a cadet myself. It’s an opportunity to become a part of something bigger than them,” Land said. “I think the partnership with the Red Cross on this mission has been a highly successful one and would like to see an agreement formalized. I would like to see the American Cadet Alliance working with the Red Cross become more of a norm. Hopefully, you will see more of us in the future.”


September 4, 2007

News Release Header 


Attention News Directors: Please air this announcement immediately through September 4, 2007


This is an IMPORTANT message from the American Red Cross for THOSE AFFECTED BY THE RECENT Minnesota/Wisconsin floods. The Red Cross will close its disaster relief Service Center IN soldiers grove (crawford county), WISCONSIN today at 3pm. and the service center in winona, minnesota will close on Tuesday, september 4th at 5pm. If you have been affected by the floods and STILL need assistance but have not been to a Red Cross Service Center, please do so as soon as possible. or call the Red Cross TOLL FREE at 1-866-GET-INFO.

The Red Cross: Making life easier

September 4, 2007
By Stephanie Carter
American Red Cross 

Driving through Rushford, Minnesota can leave quite an impression. Heirlooms, photos, and furniture are stacked along the roadside, mud-soaked and molding. Bobcats and dump trucks are clearing the debris. The stench is almost overpowering. People are working hard to clean up after the flood. And the Red Cross is present.


Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV) are driving up and down the neighborhood streets. Horns blaring announcing water and snacks available to anyone who needs it.

ERV driver Mike Welder is deployed from the Burleigh-Morton Chapter in Bismarck, North Dakota. He pulls over and knocks on Mr. and Mrs. Vier’s door. He knows this is an elderly couple who can not easily walk to the truck. He checks to make sure they are okay.


Red Cross volunteer and ERV passenger, Judy Welder hands Jerri Bellock snacks and cold water. Jerri is here for the Labor Day weekend helping her father clean the back side of his house. Her brother and sister also live in Rushford. Her brother lived in the trailer park located down the hill and lost everything. The front side of her sister’s home is severely damaged.


Judy encourages Bellock to keep the family talking about what happened, especially her elderly father, to help prevent depression.


The ERV continues on to the trailer park and meets up with Alfred Semerad. His trailer is a complete loss and before long, the city will require the residents to leave so demolition can begin. But until then, he visits his trailer four hours a day, recovering his “treasures.” He collects coins and arrowheads. “I dug the arrowheads out of the ground from all across the country. And now I’m digging them out of the muck from inside my trailer,” he said.


He’s wearing rubber boots which he received from the Red Cross. The boots are covered in mud. He says the smell is familiar because he “used to work in the barn barefoot.” Judy hands him several face masks.


Judy says, “We aren’t just fulfilling the need of these people but also a need within ourselves.”

At the time he was evacuated Alfred says, “I barely had time to grab my teeth. The water was knee deep and it was cold.”


He points to the water line on the side of another trailer – measuring about 8 feet.

Each day the Red Cross stops by. He says, “I’ve received some cash and food and high powered soaps and detergents. They’ve been really nice to me.”

 He has attend local long term recovery planning meetings held by various community and faith-based organizations. The Red Cross has been in attendance as well. 

Chet Blue is an AKAL security guard working for FEMA out of Rushford’s Old TRW building. The Red Cross Client Service Center is stationed in the same building. He has previously worked with the Red Cross as a medic and firefighter. He says, “This crew deserves the highest recommendation. They work 12-hour days and never complain. They make sure everyone is fed or has cold water.”


Chet continues, “Some nights, these guys are wrapping up and leaving for the night when someone will drive up and without hesitation they help them. I’m impressed by the compassion shown by all the Red Cross volunteers who are assigned to this disaster.”


He refers to Red Cross volunteer, Jim Bryan, also known as Santa. Chet relates, “On his only day off, Jim came over and picked up our uniforms and laundered them for us. He’s phenomenal.” Jim is only one of many volunteers he mentioned who “is making life easier.”


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

Saying Thanks

September 1, 2007


Red Cross workers from the Scenic Bluffs Chapter in LaCrosse, Wis., say thanks to officials and volunteers who have helped in flood relief efforts. (Photo by Tom Jacobson/American Red Cross)

Why we’re here

September 1, 2007


Flood waters covered numerous villages and towns throughout southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin, prompting the Red Cross to send hundreds of relief workers to lend a hand to affected residents. (Photo by Tom Jacobson/American Red Cross)