Introducing Mary Roche, Disaster Action Team Member

“It’s so fun to be in the field working…I just love the diversity of American Red Cross people!!!  We come from all walks and stations of life to help people in need,” shares Mary.

However, I’m the “Staff Services” person who gets disaster workers ‘deployed’ when national disasters are happening. In August, we are typically busy deploying people to hurricane areas but without a tropical storm in site, I was able to ‘deploy’ for a local fire! I worked two shelter shifts with many of the members I frequently call for national assignments. Many times, I’m just a ‘voice’ but now they know me by face! The Tamarack Apartment fire displaced 11 people for an extended time.

Barb Huber and I from the Dodge County Disaster Action Team drove to Milwaukee for our first shift on Monday. The clients (what we call people displaced by disasters) and Red Cross staff were in one large room with a few privacy partitions. A week later, I returned to a different shelter site for what was the final day of this shelter operation. This shelter had multiple rooms and clients had more private rooms. Most of the clients, all disabled, remembered me! Bobbie’s hair, a big concern at the first shelter, had been styled and looked great. Henry spent much of the morning calling his insurance provider to obtain renter’s insurance. He was successful and very pleased with coverage provided. The first payment was made from the shelter. The clients had a 1:00p.m. meeting with the Tamarack Apartment managers and we attended too as their next steps to recovery were set in motion. The apartment managers thanked all of us Red Cross workers! They truly appreciated our keeping their residents safe and secure while they developed a more permanent residential plan until the apartments are restored.

Overall, our Red Cross community came together to staff three different shelters for ten days. The Staff Services ‘call-down team’ consists of Nancy Johnson, Jane Lazarevic, Melinda Wall-Piraino and me. With multiple fires and growing number of people needing help, Nancy took the lead on watching National Deployments opportunities i.e. flooding in Detroit. So locally, Jane was the Lead Recruiter and I was her co-worker. Our main task was to find trained shelter workers; a Supervisor and two Service Associates for three shifts. Other Group Leaders worked the phones to staff the Feeding, Mental Health, Health Services, Logistics, Public Affairs and more. It takes many skills to fill the needs of our community.



It was such a good feeling to see how our Red Cross team works together as a unit to serve clients. Disasters are awful for anyone but this was a very special group and we came together big time! My best take away is that I placed faces to all those names I call. And, will call again.

If you would like start volunteering for the American Red Cross start your journey here!

A Real Life Saver!

This year marks 100 years that the American Red Cross has been teaching water safety, swim lessons and lifeguard training to people of all ages.  Today, Red Cross water safety classes include a multi-part Learn to Swim Course, Parent and Child Aquatics, Safety Training for Swim Coaches and more—plus a 2-year certification in lifeguarding that includes first aid, CPR and AED training as well. Red Cross water safety courses help save lives! To learn more visit

Sometimes in life, experiences in our childhood have a direct and profound effect on our life. This is the case for Curtis Momsen, our statewide Aquatic Specialist. Growing-up on Nagawicka Lake, in Hartland, Wisconsin he learned the joys and heartbreak water can provide.  He was on top of the world as a competitive water skier – earning statewide and national acclaim – and as a lifeguard. His fondness for the water was driven by the fun and excitement it can provide. As a career, he is also driven by a painful experience when his neighbor drowned and he helped the dive team recover the body.  For the past several years, he was the Senior Aquatic/Facility Operations Director at the Milwaukee YMCA as well as being a certified Lifeguard Training Instructor.  With his new role in the American Red Cross, and providing support to the entire State of Wisconsin, he is working with community pools, Parks & Recreation Department and YMCA’s to name a few. Where there is water, he has an interest in ensuring the best aquatic programs are taught!

WTMJ Mike Jacobs.Curtis.barbara.Meekins

When he’s not at work, he is teaching his kids how to swim & he leads the USA Triathlon life-guarding team so sprint & Olympic athletes remain safe!

Click here to check out Curtis’ USA Triathlon life-guarding team!

Near Tragedy Strengthens Cross Family

For the Cross family, a few hours at the Riverside High School Pool each week provides water safety skills for sisters Taylor (12) and Arlena (11) Cross. While mother Tasha Cross sat on the stadium benches, she shared how important swimming lessons are. “I don’t want my girls to miss out on life – from pool parties, to trips to a lake. I want them to be safe. Safe, like I’ve never felt!” she explained.

While living in North Carolina a few years earlier, the backyard pool should have been relaxing and peaceful. But instead, she notes, “I was afraid of the water; we wore life-jackets all the time, even when it was 100°.”

In 2010, while in a Florida resorts’ extremely large pool, the girls were swimming, splashing and having fun, while drifting in to the deep end. All the while they were getting farther and farther away and one went under the water and did not surface. When trying to help, the second girl was pulled under by the first. A swimmer close-by pulled them up. They were so scared! Yet didn’t tell any adults what happened! At the annual school physical a week later, they complained of ear aches. The doctor explained their type of injury is from rapid submersion. The girls broke down crying. It was then — their near-drowning experience — was heard.

“We were so close to a terrible ending and I don’t want them to be afraid of the water like their mother,” she concluded. So each week, they travel to the Riverside High School pool for lessons. Throughout the 8-session course, the girls are growing more confident in the water, swim strokes are turning their slender bodies into water machines and their initial fear is growing into love of water.



Every day an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning – with 20 percent of them 14 years old or younger, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children and sixth for people of all ages. In addition, for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

Red Cross swimming lessons help people develop skills and water safety behaviors that help people be more comfortable and safe when they are in, on and around the water. The Red Cross encourages all household members to enroll in age-appropriate water orientation and Learn-to-Swim programs. To find classes for your family, contact your local aquatic facility and ask for American Red Cross swimming and water safety programs.

Story written by Barbara Behling

Emotional Health After A Disaster

By: Courtney McIntosh, Communications Intern

Many things need to be addressed and taken care of after a disaster has stricken you and/or your loved ones.  American Red Cross teams go into the community after a disaster and asses the immediate needs in the community such as: shelter, food, and clothing.  In addition, the teams asses the need for emotional coping and the state of emotional health. The Red Cross Mental Health Teams Help People Cope During Disaster.




A disaster can and very well may bring on significant stress. There are stages of dealing with and handling the stress and emotions that come with disaster. The feelings you may be experiencing immediately after an event:

  • the feeling of being physically and emotional drained
  • difficultly making decisions
  • maintaing focus
  • become frustrated easily or become irritated more frequently
  • arguing more than normal with family and friends
  • feeling tired, sad, numb, lonely or anxious
  • changes in appetite and/or sleep patterns

Although most of these reactions are temporary, they are still something to take notice of and acknowledge.

After acknowledging these emotions, take these steps to get yourself and your life back on track:

  • safety: this not only involves your mental health but also your physical health. seek medical attention if required
  • eat: it is important to maintain a healthy intake of water and food when stress is at an all time high
  • rest: with all of the stress and things to worry about, it may be hard to find time for proper rest but it is incredibly important to give your brain and body a break
  • stay connected: receiving support from friends and family is one of the most important and rewarding things you can give yourself during a time that is incredibly stressful
  • be patient with yourself and others: acknowledge the fact that everyone will handle a disaster differently, each person will go at their own speed in putting their thoughts and emotions in order
  • set priorities: tackle tasks in small steps; do not overwhelm yourself
  • gather information: assistance and resources are available for you regarding your disaster-related needs
  • stay positive: recognize that you went through a difficult event and that you can and will get through this. Reach out to family, friends, or to professionals if needed

Typically, people that experience a stressful life event eventually feel better within two weeks or so. However, if you find yourself or a loved one still experiencing any of the following feelings or reactions after a few weeks, it may be time to seek further assistance:

  • crying spells
  • outbursts of anger
  • difficulty sleeping/eating
  • loss in interest to things that were previously enjoyed
  • increase in physically pain such as headaches and/or stomach aches
  • fatigue
  • feeling irritable or anxious
  • the feeling of guilt, helplessness, or hopelessness
  • avoiding friends and family

The good news is that you are not alone with these feelings or reactions; Many people have experienced and are successfully coping with stressful and traumatic events.

If you are need of help or assistance, The Red Cross is there for you. Please visit for more information and resources.


If you or someone you know is feeling that their life is not worth living or if thoughts of harming yourself or others are occurring please seek immediate help. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or

Wishful thinking, Riskful Swimming

Megan Ball, Communications Intern

Drowning rates have decreased between 2005 and 2009. Great news! However, nearly 4,000 people still die from unintentional drowning every year and on average ten people a day die from unintentional drowning. So, who is at risk? Everyone!

  • Males have a significantly higher drowning rate than females
  • Children are at the greatest risk for unintentional drowning
  • Drowning in natural water settings (lakes, ponds, and oceans) increase with age, while children are at greatest risk while swimming in pools
  • Consuming alcohol while in water increase your risks. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) close to 70% of adult drowning deaths were associated with alcohol.

Although, we associate drowning with death, it is important to remember there is non-fatal drowning. Drowning is the suffocation resulting from filling of the lungs with water or other fluids. Non-fatal drowning can result in brain damage, disabilities, memory problems, learning disabilities, or loss of basic functions according to the CDC.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones?

  • Stay alert. Keep distractions to a minimum and know which swimmers are weaker and need the extra attention.
  • Sign up for Swim lessons.
  • Have a plan. Make sure you educate everyone on water safety devices and their location along with the plan in case of emergency.
  • Swim where you are comfortable. Make sure others do the same! If you feel uneasy, move to a different area or take a break from the waves and catch some rays on the shore for a bit! Your gut is giving you a sign!

Download our Swim App!  Text “SWIM” to 90999 or search “Red Cross Swim” in your app store


Before you wish for your next opportunity to jump into the backyard pool or the lake up north, know your risks!

Double Delight, Double de-life

By: Megan Ball, Communications Intern

Joe and Jess have been donating blood through the American Red Cross together since 2008. It all started at a lunch, in which Joe walked-up to Jess and informed her they were donating blood together.   Jess shrugged at him and it was really that simple. Since 2008 they both donate blood four to five times a year, always planning their donations around the blood drive at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Joe donates “doubles” or more formally known as double red cell donation. It takes a little bit longer than a normal blood donation, but it provides double the red cell donation. Red Blood cells are most frequently needed component of blood for transfusions. In a “doubles” donation, the blood is filtered and two units of red blood cells are removed for donation and the plasma and platelets are returned to the donor. Although requirements are a little stricter for donating doubles, you may actually feel better after donating doubles! In addition to the fact that you were able to give a little more, you have also received portions of your blood back, and therefore may not feel slightly more hydrated after donation!

No matter the donation, blood donation, or doubles, you are making a difference. A big shout-out to Joe and Jess who have been making a difference for six years! And it hasn’t gone unnoticed!   I was drawn to Joe and Jess because when they walked in, it seemed as if everyone was delighted to see them! Many of the volunteers turned and waved. The conversation they held with the nurses was about what they had been up to since their last donation, and of course, how cool to walk in to a blood drive and have so many people know your name, and want to be the one to draw your blood?!

We asked Joe and Jess why they have decided to donate regularly, and again came the shrug that started it all. Joe shrugged, grinned, and replied, “To be good humans.” Well, Joe and Jess, we think you are more than good humans! Thank you for being continuous generous donors, and thanks for making a difference in so many people’s lives!


rco_blog_img_Joe & Jess Blood donors (241x181)


Find your buddy to donate with and then visit to find the next Blood Drive near you!
You can make an appointment, or just drop in. Either way, we will be delighted to see you!

DAT: Disaster Action Team

By: Courtney McIntosh, Communications Intern

The American Red Cross helps all kinds of people and situations. One of the groups within the Red Cross is the DAT: Disaster Action Team. This team specializes in deploying volunteers to local residential emergencies and disasters.


I recently was able to take the Diaster Action Team orientation at the Racine, WI office. This orienation briefed the volunteers about how a DAT operates and what they do for victims of disaters such a tornadoes, fires, and floods. A DAT member is trained to administer basic need of victims; These needs might include:

  • temporary emergency shelter
  • financial assistance
    • food, clothing replacement, medication replacement
  • emotional support 

The DAT team is a direct help to the community that offers instant relief in several different ways for the victim. This team unites and helps our neighbors in the time of disaster and crisis.

Volunteers are always needed and welcome! If interested in volunteering with the Red Cross, please visit


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,203 other followers

%d bloggers like this: