A Strong Base: At age 80, Loretta Johanson remains the silent force at Wright-Patt

In 1948, $300 was a significant amount of money. A loaf of bread, after all, was only 14 cents at the time. A gallon of gas was just 26 cents. So for 13-year-old Loretta Johanson, cobbling together $300 to fulfill her dream of becoming a registered nurse was simply a hurdle too high to overcome.

With nursing school out of the question but a desire to help others still burning within her, Johanson shifted to Plan B: She walked into Presbyterian Hospital in her native New York City and offered to become a Red Cross candy striper—a volunteer nurse’s aide.

That was 67 years ago. And with the exception of a nine-year gap when she got married and started a family, Johanson has been volunteering with the Red Cross ever since. She has performed a lot of different duties in a number of different places in that time. Today, at age 80, she oversees the Red Cross office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center in Dayton and manages roughly 40 volunteers who have donated a remarkable 9,942 hours so far this year—arguably the largest and most efficient department in the region.

Loretta2(In April, she was honored with the Dayton Chapter Carl Eshbaugh Lifetime Achievement Award.)

As anyone who has managed volunteers will tell you, keeping that many people engaged, trained and compliant with medical facility regulations is no easy task. But she gets it done. Take, for example, the annual flu shot. Medical facilities require all personnel have up-to-date vaccinations, and she ensures all of her volunteers have complied—a task that can require a lot of kind and gentle nagging.

But ask her volunteers and they will tell you: While she can be firm, she is also fair—and protective. When she represents the volunteers with base command, “If there’s an issue and the volunteers are right,” she says, “I will stand up for them.” When volunteers realized the information desk was not being managed after the Major in charge retired, she took their request to run the desk to Base command. They agreed, and now the Red Cross volunteers are the first point of contact to everyone who enters the hospital.

When the Veterans Administration dropped the Patient Escort and Transportation Service, which matches a patient or visitor with a volunteer to help guide them around the medical center, she stepped in and had it moved under the Red Cross. So as the Base has scaled down, she has scaled up the Red Cross’s presence.

It helps that Johanson knows both the Base and Air Force protocol, a gift she’s gained in her 46 years at Wright-Patt. She started at the Base in June 1969 as an ER volunteer. She then spent 11 years working in the dining hall at night. She’s also worked in physical therapy, and recently played a role helping that department expand its shadowing program, which allows medical students the opportunity to come to the medical center and observe for training.

UntitledD7dIn the 1990s, she helped launch the Red Cross’s role in the Welcoming Home Heroes program, which greets returning airmen. And at Thanksgiving, she and her volunteers support an initiative for non-married airmen, giving them cakes and cookies, and inviting their families to come to a special event. The Airman Cookie Drive involves the entire Base baking and gathering cookies.

One of the other things she’s learned in her years as a Red Cross volunteer is how difficult and dangerous life in the military can be. Before starting at Wright-Patt, she volunteered for a tour at Clark Air Base in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. At times the Base would be overrun with people; they would set up wards in the basement to handle the inflow of patients and stranded airmen. She would offer back and foot rubs, write letters, shop for the patients at the Base PX—whatever comfort care she could offer the wounded airmen.

“They guys never said much about what they went through,” she says. “So long as we could make them comfortable, we didn’t care.”

She also worked in the ER and staffed the casualty wards. She recalls the only casualty she attended to, a soldier who had thrown himself on a grenade to protect the men around him. He had been transferred to Clark where the doctors created a metal framework that allowed him to be covered with sheets, but not have the sheets actually contact his badly damaged body. A new medical technician came in and started to dismantle the device to gain access, and Johanson intervened, sternly forcing him to put it back together—correctly. The soldier began to improve so the doctors sent for his wife, but despite the good prognosis he died before she could get to his side.

The chaos of war was good training for the chaos of a disaster, so in addition to serving at Wright-Patt, Johanson also serves as a disaster volunteer through the Clark County Red Cross in Springfield, Ohio. She’s regularly deployed to DROs, and works on a Disaster Action Team and the Springfield FAST (first aid) team, as well as being an instructor.

150326-F-XX000-001Although at age 80 it is getting physically harder for her to keep up with active DAT duty—she is getting a knee replaced in mid-November and will be out of service for about a month, though she is dedicated to recovery before Christmas—she is not ruling out any activity or role in the Red Cross.

She maintains office hours at the Base on Monday and Thursday, but finds herself coming in for meetings and events on a regular basis, and it is not unusual to bring records home for data entry. She also attends most of the fairs and events on the Base, making sure the airmen are aware of the services available from the Red Cross.

Loretta has been married to husband Dave for one year longer than her continuous service with the Red Cross.

“That’s how I remember how long I have served with the Red Cross, I take my anniversary and subtract a year,” she says with a laugh. She has three children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is looking forward to meeting the youngest this Thanksgiving when the family is coming to Ohio from Massachusetts for the holiday.

After that, it’s back to the Base. There’s still work to be done, and Johanson has no intention of leaving her post.

“I’m going to keep working until they cart me out of here,” she says.

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Employee Q&A: Heather True

Q: A little background: How long have you been with the Red Cross; What is your job now and what other jobs have you had over the years, if any?
A: I have been with the Red Cross 28 years. My first position was the billing clerk for the finance department. I was promoted to accounting clerk and then accounting coordinator. After having my third child in 1991, I went part time in the health and safety department as a health educator instructor and an instructor trainer. In 1996, I accepted a second part-time position within finance as the accounting data entry clerk, doing dual roles for 11 years. I came back full time in 2007 working in finance as health and safety services administrative assistant. In June 2011, National took over the health and safety departments across the country, and I was moved into a temporary call center as an AP and LTP support representative. In June 2012, I accepted my current position as sales administrative coordinator for PHSS.

Q: I’m sure a lot has changed over the years. What has been the one of biggest changes you’ve seen at here at the Red Cross?
A: The biggest change is when National took over to make “One Red Cross.”

Q: What made you to want to work for the Red Cross in the first place?
A: I wanted to be involved in a nonprofit organization that gives back to the community. I believe in the mission of the American Red Cross and have truly been blessed working with such caring, wonderful people and organization.

Q: A little about you: What is your favorite season?
A: I love them all. If I have to pick a favorite, I have two: spring and then fall.

Q: What’s your take on the Starbucks cup?
A: It’s not bad. The old one was fine too.

Q: Where was your last vacation?
A: Austin, Texas, for my daughter’s wedding. (smile)

Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I love spending time with my family and being outside, gardening, landscaping, hiking, walking the dog. I also love getting together with friends or playing “Words with Friends.” Books are always good in the winter time.

Q: What’s the most exhilarating thing you’ve ever done?
A: Ziplining comes to mind.

Q: What is one word or short phrase you would use to describe the Red Cross?
A: A wonderful humanitarian organization.

Q: What’s your most memorable Red Cross moment?
A: There have been so many. To mention a few, meeting and working with so many wonderful, caring people, and making so many great friends that will last a lifetime. Working in the finance department, I saw how our community comes together in times of international and local disasters, from all the fantastic volunteers who help to the generosity of the community through their donations. As a health educator, it was very rewarding knowing that you are helping people save lives and working with so many lovely volunteers.


Red Cross instructor earns Certificate of Merit

In May, a 2-year-old boy was playing in his front yard on Banning Road in the Greater Cincinnati suburb of Colerain Township when he ran out into the street—and straight into the path of a car.

As he lay in the street lifeless, Angelika Nunn was a few blocks back, lamenting what she thought was a mistake. Nunn was catching a ride to her job at Light of Hope Services with her brother when he took a wrong turn onto Banning. Now, the two were stuck in the stopped traffic. When they asked a passerby what the holdup was, he told them about the boy.

In that one instant, everything changed. What Nunn thought was a wrong turn ended up being a turn of fate.

Nunn opened her door and ran past the long line of cars to where the boy was laying. A certified Red Cross CPR instructor, Nunn had taught dozens of people how to save lives, but this was the first time she had been called upon to utilize her skills in an emergency. She knelt down beside the boy, and her training kicked in. She began giving him CPR compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, utilizing the Red Cross safety face shield she carried on her keychain.

After an exhausting few moments, the boy came back to life. He was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where he fully recovered.

[Watch the news coverage of the event from WLWT, WCPO and Fox19.]

Each year, the American Red Cross teaches roughly 4 million people across the nation lifesaving skills, and when one of those people acts in a manner of heroism and utilizes those skills to save another human being, as Nunn did, the Red Cross likes to recognize their actions.

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, the American Red Cross honored Nunn for her “selfless and humane action in saving a life” by presenting her with the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit.

This is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to an individual who saves or sustains a life utilizing skills and knowledge learned from the Red Cross. The Certificate is signed by President Barack Obama, as well as American Red Cross Chairwoman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter.

Less than 100 people each year receive this award nationally.

As part of the Certificate, Nunn also received a citation for exemplifying “the highest degree of concern of one human being for another who is in distress,” as well as a medal with corresponding lapel pin and a document noting the history of the Certificate of Merit.

And, she was given two Red Cross mouth-to-mouth resuscitation safety face shields for her keyring to replace the one she used saving the boy, because even though no one ever knows when they might need to use it, in Nunn’s case, it’s certain it will be used.


Employee Q&A: Steve Moeggenberg

We posed 10 questions to Steve Moeggenberg, the regional Director of Administration who oversees the expense budget, the facilities and the automotive fleet. He’s the longest-tenured employee in the region, working on his 37th year with the Red Cross.

Q: A little background: How long have you been with the Red Cross; what is your job now and what other jobs have you had over the years?
A: I graduated from University of Cincinnati with a degree in Community Health Administration, and I started with the Red Cross in 1978. I was hired to primarily expand the CPR program—the Red Cross was just starting to train the lay public. I then became the Director of the Workplace Health Services Department. We conducted corporate health, safety and wellness program for businesses. We also produced Red Cross First Aid Kits and sold these to other chapters. I am currently the Director of Administration, working on the expense budget, facilities and automotive fleet.

Q: I’m sure a lot has changed over the years. What have been the two or three biggest changes you’ve seen?
A: A couple of things come to mind. One, when we moved from Seventh and Sycamore downtown to the new building. This is a great new building with great working conditions. Oh, and it has free parking. And the other big change is that recently the organization has become more “corporate,” which is not all bad. In the past, most chapters were more independent. Now we all operate under the National umbrella.

Q: What drew you to want to work for the Red Cross in the first place?
A: It seemed like a place you had a chance to give back.

Q: A little about you personally: Gold Star or Skyline?
A: Skyline. I like their chili better, but I could go either way with the cheese coneys.

Q: Car or motorcycle? 
A: Both. I have a couple of motorcycles, a 1973 Yamaha 650 and a 2005 Kawasaki Concours. I ride them every week during the summer, either out in the country or down to Lake Cumberland to visit family.

Q: Mountain cabin or house on the beach?
A: Mountain cabin.

Q: Where was your last vacation?
A: Homer, Alaska. It’s in the southwest corner of the state. A group of us went halibut and salmon fishing. We caught 280 pounds of fish.

Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I have some hobbies: fishing, golf, bike and, as I mentioned, motorcycle riding.

Q: What’s the most exhilarating thing you’ve ever done?
A: One would be whitewater rafting the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia. It was in the fall when they release water from the dam. It creates Class V rapids. I got tossed out of the boat a couple of times. It was fun, but I’m not sure I’ll be doing that again.

Q: What’s your most memorable Red Cross moment?
A: Responding to the 9/11 Flight 93 plane crash in Shanksville, Pa. There weren’t any planes flying, so we had to drive. We got there two days after the crash. It was a crime scene, so they had the perimeter all sectioned off. I was there for mass care, taking care of the rescue workers. I was there for 11 days.


Lucy Wolfe and life on the other side of 100

Lucy Wolfe comes strolling up to the Red Cross tent at the Great Darke County Fair, her stride slow but steady over the dirt and gravel pathway. A red, white and blue nylon jacket is folded crisply over her right arm. She smiles when she sees the familiar faces of the other volunteers.

“I’m back,” she says.

Lucy is a regular at Red Cross events, particularly the Fair, but the greeting she receives from those around the tent on this particular day is more the kind reserved for a celebrity than a friend or fellow volunteer. And, perhaps, for good reason. About three weeks earlier she celebrated her 100th birthday, and following an article in the Darke County Daily Advocate about the party that was thrown for her, she’s taken on a bit of a celebrity status. Over the course of the next hour and a half she will be as much of an attraction to the Red Cross tent as the stop, drop and roll lessons offered to kids or the Vials of Life handed out to the parents.

“Oh, I saw your story in the paper,” many say as they walk by and notice her sitting under the tent. “I just had to stop and say hi.”

She smiles and says Thank you and despite her quiet and humble nature secretly seems to enjoy the attention—although she admits to being less impressed by her “accomplishment” than those who stop by. Life on the other side of 100, she says, feels pretty much the same as it did before, and in both cases life feels good. She still drives, motoring around Greenville in a Buick LeSabre better than most teenagers. “Oh I have to drive,” she says. “I couldn’t do my volunteering if I didn’t drive.” She lives on her own, although she shares a duplex with her daughter Becky just for the peace of mind. Most days, if the weather is accommodating, she heads across the street to the Greenville City Park or the track around the high school football field for a walk.

“Everything works well except for one knee,” she says. “It likes to show off. I went to an orthopedic doctor and he said he wasn’t going to fix it. Once you get to a certain age, he said, you don’t heal well, so I put ice or heat on it to relieve the pain. That seems to work.”

DSCN0663The walks are a replacement for her long-preferred method of exercise—golf. Growing up, her family lived across from the Greenville Golf Course, and every evening when the golfers were done with their leagues her family would run over and squeeze in a round. “We would come home, eat and away we went,” she says. “That was our recreation.”

For years she was part of a golf league, and when she and husband Ed travelled for vacation, the golf clubs were always part of the luggage. “I took my clubs everywhere we went. And I kept the scorecards from when we played in other cities. I still have the whole stack out in the garage. I’ve been to every state. I was once in Costa Rica playing golf when I ran into a person from Dayton that I knew.”

She pauses and glances out into the distance as if remembering an old friend. “I don’t golf anymore,” she says solemnly before suddenly snapping back to attention. “But I refuse to sell my clubs.”

As she sits in a metal folding chair, the sun finally breaks through the clouds that have given the day a gloomy look and a chilly feel. She notices right away and looks up at the sky and smiles. “I like the warmth. It’s good for my bones.”

Nothing about Lucy Wolfe would indicate that she is a centenarian or that she’s really even that old except perhaps this: She’s a snowbird. Each year for the last 30 years, she and Becky have packed up the Buick on the day after Christmas and driven to Florida where Lucy waits out the winter, always returning on the day before Mother’s Day. Her niece owns a fleet of apartments near Orlando, so she always has a place to stay. But she always returns to Greenville. It’s home.

Lucy was born Aug. 6, 1915, on a farm near Bradford, Ohio, shortly before the family moved to Darke County and put down permanent roots. She graduated from Gettysburg High School in 1932, taking a job in a factory before finding her true calling as a nurse at the start of World War II. All of the nurses from the area were pulled into supporting the war effort, so she began volunteering with the Red Cross to fill in the gap. “I was a nurse’s aide,” she says. “I got off work at 3:00 p.m. and would call to see which hospital needed help, and would work until 11:00 p.m. I got to work at all three hospitals—Good Sam, Miami Valley and Grandview. We got to do everything, from emptying bed pans to assisting in the operating room.”lucy

She began taking courses and eventually earned her Licensed Practical Nurse degree. “We had a nun in charge, Sister Ann I believe her name was. She was hard boiled. She would say, ‘Do it this way or else.’ And we did.”

Through the years she worked in local pharmacies and Wagner’s Bakery and Jandy’s Toy Store in Dayton, but she never stopped volunteering with the Red Cross. In 2010 she earned her 70-year volunteer pin. Without the Red Cross, she says, she wouldn’t have become a nurse, and she hasn’t forgotten that. Plus she likes to help people, and the Red Cross assignments give her that chance. And she’s taken on some challenging assignments.

In 2010, at age 95, she worked in a shelter in Tennessee for victims of a tornado. “Where did Elvis live? Memphis, yes, that’s where it was.” In 2005, at age 90, she ran a shelter in Key West for victims of Hurricane Katrina. “We were in the dining room of a Presbyterian Church for three weeks,” she says. “Everything was washed out. Everything was under water. You had to wade through water to get anywhere. We had one man who was very wealthy who lost everything. But I got to meet some pretty nice people. They were grateful more than anything else.”

As the sun begins to warm up the day, she takes off her nylon jacket and absorbs the warmth. A loudspeaker attached to a nearby pole interrupts her thoughts with announcements about the upcoming horse show and suggestions to visit different rides or exhibitors.

By her best recollection, this is her 95th year at the fair, maybe her 96th. She looks down the paths and sees much that is the same, but much that has changed. There are more food vendors, she says, although many of them don’t appeal to her. “I wouldn’t take it if they offered it to me,” she says. “I don’t like sweets. Never have. I’m not sure why. I might have some ice cream or a peppermint stick once in a while, but I can do without sugar. Sugar is why so many people go to the doctor.”

What has mostly changed, she says, is the people. She pauses and becomes a bit melancholy. “My friends are all gone,” she says. “None of them are left.” Including—especially—her husband of 58 years, Ed, who died in 1996. They met in second grade. He sat behind her in class. They were married in 1938, a love affair that resulted in two children, five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

She perks up at the memories. “He was an original member of the Air Force band at Wright Patterson,” she says. “He played the saxophone and sousaphone.”

DSCN0665As she continues to greet people and soak up the sun in her white Red Cross polo shirt, she obliges to answer the one question that is asked of everyone who breaks the century mark: What’s the secret to a long life. She shrugs. She had a great-grandfather who lived to be 103. “He was from Virginia. They told me he hid in a wagon to come to Ohio during the Revolutionary War.” But the rest of her relatives were young when they died. Her mom died at age 67, so it’s probably not genetics. Maybe exercise, she says. Golf is good. Oh, and staying away from the sweets.

“See those snow cones over there,” she says. “Those things will kill you.”

She shrugs again and just smiles as she says hello to more people as they walk by. Perhaps there isn’t a secret to getting there, but one thing she does know and is willing to share: Life is good, even on the other side of 100.

Disaster Preparedness Kit: 30 items you should have ready to go

September is Preparedness Month. Since you never know when a disaster might occur, it’s important to be prepared. To help, we’ve created a list of 30 items you should have together and ready to go to survive for 72 hours—the length of time everyone should be self-sufficient during a large-scale disaster.

11 | Water: It’s the essence of life, and you’ll need plenty of it. The rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day, and enough for three days. For a family of four, that’s 12 gallons. It wouldn’t hurt to toss in some instant drink packets to add a little flavor. And if you really want to be safe, you could add a water purification pump to your kit in case you run out of bottled water since tap and well water often get contaminated during disasters.

2 2 | Food: In many disasters, gas and electric are often knocked out, meaning you can’t cook or refrigerate food, so plan on having a selection of canned and/or ready-to-eat foods on hand. A big jar of peanut butter is a popular start. Cans of veggies, beans, peanuts, soups and tuna also work. (Keep in mind that canned foods do expire, so rotate your stock once or twice a year.) Granola bars, protein bars and energy bars are good options. Or, you can purchase emergency food rations, which aren’t gourmet, but provide you with the needed nutrients and have a shelf life of five years. Eating food helps improve your mood.

33 | First aid kit / medical supplies: This is vital. Disasters are an injury waiting to happen and a breeding ground for germs. The Red Cross offers everything from basic kits to the extreme.

4 | Flashlight: When the electricity’s out and the sun goes down, it gets dark. Very dark. That means without a flashlight you’re a stubbed toe just waiting to4 happen. With the invention of LED lighting, flashlights are now small and powerful, so get one. Or two. You might also want to consider a flashlight that stands up and transforms into a lantern for general room lighting, or a headlamp that you can wear to free up your hands or to read in bed. The Red Cross Store offers a wide variety of lights, including lights that are powered by a hand crank and even lights that are activated by water.

55 | Radio: When a disaster strikes, keeping abreast of the latest news and weather is a must. Also, cranking up the occasional tunes helps battle the stress. But radios don’t work without electricity and can gobble up batteries, so make it a radio with a hand crank that generates its own power. The Red Cross Store has a variety of options, including ones that doubles as a flashlight and cell phone charger.

66 | Batteries: During a disaster, when the electricity is out, batteries are power—in many ways. So stock up on extras. And not just flashlight batteries, but some for cell phones, radios, two-way radios and whatever else needs power. Leaving the extra batteries in their original packaging, by the way, is a good way to help keep them fresh.

77 | Medications: A week’s worth of prescription medications are, of course, a must since these are usually vital to good health or maybe survival. But don’t skimp on other basic medicines. Getting through a disaster is tough, and having a headache or upset stomach is only going to make it tougher, so create a mini medicine cabinet with anything you typically need for a headache, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, diarrhea and whatever ails you.

88 | Cleaning supplies, part one: Disasters are dirty, so having something to clean up with is a huge help. A container of Clorox wipes is great to wipe down surfaces and kill germs—which spread like wildfire during disasters. Household bleach and rags also work well.

99 | Cleaning supplies, part two: Disasters are dirty, so having something to clean yourself with is next to godliness. Soap and a washcloth are ideal, if you can find a shower or running water. If not, baby wipes are a great alternative. They do a great job of getting rid of the grime and usually leave you smelling fresh as a daisy. Keeping a bottle of hand santizer handy is also a wise idea—getting sick isn’t a great way to deal with a disaster.

1010 | Sanitation and personal hygiene kit: Think of your bathroom and all that’s in it. A roll of toilet paper is a must. Toothbrush and toothpaste, razor, deodorant, shampoo and body wash. Travel-sized toiletries are just right. For women, don’t forget three days worth of tampons or pads.

1111 | Towels: Towels aren’t quite duct tape when it comes to multiple utilitarian functions, but they can serve many purposes other than drying off after a sponge bath or getting caught out in the rain. You can roll them up and use them as pillows, wrap them around you to help keep you warm, sit on them as an extra layer of padding or while pretending you’re at the beach, mop up spills or wipe off sweat.

1212 | Copies of personal documents: If your home or car is damaged, you’ll want copies of insurance policies in hand. It’s also helpful to have extra copies of bank records and Social Security card to reestablish accounts. Also consider credit card numbers to cancel the cards if they’re lost or destroyed, birth certificates, passports, driver’s license, car registration. Don’t pack the originals, though, just copies. And keep them in a waterproof container.

13 | Maps of the area: It’s old-school, true, but you’ll be glad you have them when your smartphone dies. Just for the record, Google maps aren’t available in paper. Try your local bookstore.

1414 | Duct tape: It’s the universal tool, or as comedian Red Green calls it, the handyman’s secret weapon. You can hang strips from the ceiling to serve as flypaper and keep the pests away; make a bandage in a pinch; hold together just about anything; spin it and make a clothesline; reseal food packages; repair shoes or broken eyeglasses; write a note on it; the list goes on.

1515 | Cash: ATMs don’t work without electricity, so forget that quick trip to the money machine up the street. Credit card machines also don’t work without electricity either, so you’ll quickly Discover your MasterCard got a Visa and has left town on the American Express. The only currency that works during a disaster is cash. Pack away about $150, which should be enough to get you through a few days, although make sure it’s a collection of small bills since the one convenient store that’s open probably isn’t going to be able to make change for a $50.

1616 | Bedding: Unless the disasters happen during the dog days of summer, chances are it will get anywhere from nippy to bone-chilling cold at some point, so make sure you have something that is going to keep you warm and dry at night, like blankets or sleeping bags. Emergency space blankets are also a nice alternative, as they are light and pack small but are made of materials that keep in body heat so you stay warm.  A good night’s sleep is the best way to deal with a tough situation.

1717 | Clothing: There’s nothing quite like living and sleeping in the same clothes for several days—for you or the people around you. To make everyone happy, pack a complete change of clothing. Pick shirts with long sleeves. (You can roll up long sleeves in hot weather, but you can’t pull down short sleeves in cold weather.) Also consider adding a hat and rain gear. And make sure you have sturdy shoes since the most common injuries during disasters are foot cuts.

1818 | Mess kits: One of the most important pieces in surviving a disaster is eating. Food improves your mood. And while your food selection during a disaster may not be gourmet, that doesn’t mean it has to be uncivilized. You can still eat off of plates using knives and forks and spoons. OK, the plates may be paper and the utensils plastic, but it’s better than eating out of a can. Don’t forget paper towels. And insulated mugs also work well since you can use them for hot soup or cold drinks.

1919 | Family and emergency contact information: For most people these days, this is kept in their cell phones. Don’t risk your phone dying. Keep names and phone numbers of family members, doctors, pharmacies, insurance agents, anyone who you may need to contact in a notebook. It’s old-school, yes, but in a disaster when the power is out you often have to resort back to how things were done in the 1970s–before there were smart phones, the Internet and quite possibly fire.

2020 | Entertainment: TVs, the Xbox, DVD players—none of these things work when the electricity’s out, so unless you’re a musician or stand-up comedian, the kids are going to need something to keep them entertained. Crayons, pencils and paper work with smaller kids. Card games and puzzle books might work for older kids. Don’t forget to bring reading material for yourself.

21 | Miscellaneous items: Safety pins, Velcro strips, bobby pins, rubber bands, super glue, carabiners. It’s amazing how often you need these things. Just toss some in a small bag or container and you’ll be good to go.23

22 | Sharpies: They’ll write on anything. Label plates and cups so the kids don’t argue over which one is theirs. Write on a piece of duct tape and you can leave a note anywhere. Put your name on your disaster kit and anything (and everything) else.

23 | Storage: Ziploc baggies can hold leftovers as well as keep papers or cell phones dry. Garbage bags not only provide a place for trash, but they can double as ponchos if it’s raining, an extra layer to keep you warm or a tarp if you’re sitting on wet ground. Storage containers can hold items when you’re preparing your disaster kit, and then be used as bowls to eat out of or a place to store leftovers. Plastic grocery bags are great to hold wet clothes or washcloths, or you can use the handles and string them up with some rope for out-of-the-way storage space.

2424 | Snacks: A little snack is a welcome relief during a disaster. Hard candy such as butterscotch candies and peppermints are ideal for disaster kits, since they won’t melt and taste good.25

25 | Two-way radios: During many disasters, cell phone service tends to go out along with the electricity, so a great way to keep in contact with family members is to share a couple of two-way radios. They’re small, relatively inexpensive and have a range of up to 50 miles.

2626 | Work gloves: Most disasters leave behind a mess, meaning you may have to move dirty or dangerous debris. Gloves can also double as hand warmers on cold days, pot holders if you’re cooking on a camp stove, even fly swatters if you have good hand-eye coordination.

27 | An extra set of car and house keys: When a disaster hits, you may not have time to grab your keys, so keep an extra set in your bag.

10543627_10202384639359181_6743445317021780746_n28 | Pet supplies: Don’t forget the dog and cat. Plan for three days of pet food and supplies, as well as extra water for your pets. A toy or two also helps. If you have a cat, aluminum roasting pans are inexpensive and make great makeshift litter boxes. For dogs, pack an extra leash and clean-up bags. If you can’t grab a crate, make sure you have a blanket for your pets to sleep on. It also helps to have photos of your pets in case you become separated. Medical records also help.

2929 | Baby supplies: Going through a disaster is tough. Going through a disaster with an upset baby is a double disaster. Many parents already keep a baby bag, but if not make sure you have enough diapers and food to make it through three days, along with baby powder, wipes, pacifiers and whatever else your baby needs.

3030 | A multi-purpose tool: These amazing little devices go beyond the basic pocket knife by including such handy tools as a can opener, scissors, a saw, pliers, screwdrivers, tweezers and files. You’ll find yourself using this more than you think.

Top Ten Reasons to Become a Red Cross Volunteer!

Thinking of becoming a volunteer? See a list of reasons that will help you make up your mind (*content courtesy of UC San Diego).

#10: It’s good for you.
Volunteering provides physical and mental rewards. It:
Reduces stress: Experts report that when you focus on someone other than yourself, it interrupts usual tension-producing patterns.
Makes you healthier: Moods and emotions, like optimism, joy, and control over one’s fate, strengthen the immune system.

#9: It saves resources.
Volunteering provides valuable community services so more money can be spent on local improvements.
The estimated value of a volunteer’s time is $15.39 per hour.

#8: Volunteers gain professional experience.
You can test out a career.

#7: It brings people together.
As a volunteer you assist in:
Uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal
Building camaraderie and teamwork

#6: It promotes personal growth and self esteem.
Understanding community needs helps foster empathy and self-efficacy.

#5: Volunteering strengthens your community.

#4: You learn a lot.
Volunteers learn things like these:
Self: Volunteers discover hidden talents that may change your view on your self worth.
Community: Volunteers gain knowledge of local resources available to solve community needs.

#3: You get a chance to give back.
People like to support community resources that they use themselves or that benefit people they care about.

#2: Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.
Community service and volunteerism are an investment in our community and the people who live in it.

#1: You make a difference.
Every person counts!

Begin making a difference in your community today! Visit http://www.redcross.org to explore volunteer opportunities.