Idaho volunteer moved by act of ‘puppy love’ during deployment

Diana Ochsner has deployed many times with the Red Cross through the years, from Colorado to Kentucky, North Carolina to Louisiana. But one story from a deployment to Sugar Land, Texas, last fall following Hurricane Harvey has stuck with her more than most.

It’s a story of kindness, serendipity and a little puppy love.

Ochsner, of Jerome, and fellow Red Cross volunteer Julie Fox, of Rochester, N.Y., were at a kitchen operation in Sugar Land when a car pulled up. A woman got out, puppy in hand. She was a Hurricane Harvey survivor who was leaving the state, and she dropped the puppy in Fox’s lap and quickly drove away.

Ochsner and Fox got the little guy some water and then went to a store to buy him food. Ochsner called the local shelter to see if they could take the animal, but they were so overwhelmed following the hurricane it took them several days to call back.

So Fox stepped in, caring for the abandoned pup.

A shelter eventually took the dog, assuring Fox she could visit him anytime, which she did as often as possible. They had become quite attached, and both cried each time it came time for Fox to leave.

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September 7, 2017. Sugar Land, Texas. Red Cross volunteers Julie Fox, left and Diana Ochsner reacts to Julie going to adopt the dog that a Hurricane Harvey victim had to leave behind. Photo by Chuck Haupt for the American Red Cross

A few days later, the shelter called to see if Fox wanted to adopt the Catahoula. Fox agreed.

“All of us were crying,” said Ochsner, who has volunteered with the Red Cross of Greater Idaho since 2012. “We all got attached to the orphaned puppy very quickly, but Julie and the puppy bonded immediately. The deployment was a very difficult one so when this event happened, it was a little sunshine in the middle of a bad storm.”

Hurricane Harvey 2017

An American Red Cross media team happened to be in Sugar Land at the time and photographed the whole thing.

A week later, the pup was bound for his new home in Rochester, riding in a crate donated by the shelter.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

For Fox, this new friendship had special meaning, a friendship born from the ashes. The year before, Fox lost her cat and dog to a home fire.

She gave her little hurricane survivor a fitting name – Harvey.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Fox said. “This puppy was meant for me to take back home.

“He has been a ray of sunshine.  My hope is the past owners know what an unselfish act they bestowed on him given their situation. And they can rest easy knowing he is well taken care of.”

By Matt Ochsner

 

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Blue Cross of Idaho donates $50,000 to Red Cross

Shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Blue Cross of Idaho donated $50,000 to the American Red Cross.

“We are extremely humbled and gratified by the outpouring of support Idahoans have shown,” said Ann Callanan, Red Cross regional philanthropy officer. “The generous gift from Blue Cross will provide hope and help to persons in need throughout the Houston area.”

Within two months of Harvey making landfall, the American Red Cross authorized $229 million in financial assistance to 573,000 households, provided 435,000 overnight shelter stays and served 4.5 million meals.

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Time and again, Idaho volunteers answer disasters’ call

By MATT OCHSNER

Five weeks after Hurricane Harvey clobbered Texas, more than 600 residents remained at Red Cross shelters in Houston. For many of these clients, the hurricane was just another blow in a lifetime of struggle. Many were homeless, had criminal histories or were coping with addiction. Finding permanent placement for them was no easy task.

That’s where Red Cross volunteers David and Claudia Warner came in. During their Houston deployment, the Idaho Falls couple served as case workers, meeting with clients and working with partners to secure necessities like mental health support, food and money for rent.

“I was working with one guy who had committed a crime 30 years ago that was still following him around,” David said. “We were able to find him housing, a coat and some money for food. When they took him out the door he had tears in his eyes. If anyone was able to turn it around and use a second chance for the positive I think he was probably the one.”

“These people were grateful for the opportunity to have a new start to their lives,” Claudia said.

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The Warners were just two of more than 35 volunteers from Idaho deployed in 2017 during an unprecedented time of disaster. Besides delivering hurricane relief in places like Texas, Florida and the Virgin Islands, Idaho volunteers also provided support to those in the path of California’s deadly wildfires.

To volunteer with Red Cross, visit http://www.redcross.org/idaho or call 800-272-6668.

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Hometown Hero donates kidney to man she met just once

By MATT OCHSNER

Emily Shaw had no idea one simple question would dramatically change her life and the life of a man she had met only once.

One day while at a birthday party, Emily asked a friend how her father was doing. She was told the man was in need of a kidney. With hardly any hesitation, Emily offered to donate one of hers.

“There really wasn’t much thought. I knew he had been sick for a while, but it really hadn’t dawned on me to donate my kidney until then,” Emily said. “I asked my husband about it and he said ‘it’s your kidney. Do what you feel is right.’”

If you know someone you would like to nominate for a Hometown Hero award, visit http://www.redcross.org/news/event/local/idaho/Red-Cross-Idaho-Hometown-Heroes.

That began an intense 10-month process of exams, blood tests, X-rays and extensive education about the long-term effects of organ donation.

After she was eventually given the go-ahead by doctors, Emily’s kidney was removed in July. She woke up to learn her recipient had made it out of recovery and was doing well.

Emily’s selfless act proves that not all heroes wear capes, and that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when the need arises. Now a family that Emily doesn’t even know that well can spend more time together because of her kindness and generosity.

Earlier this year, Emily and more than 20 others were presented a Hometown Hero Award at a ceremony in Boise.

If you know someone you would like to nominate for a Hometown Hero award, visit http://www.redcross.org/news/event/local/idaho/Red-Cross-Idaho-Hometown-Heroes.

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Deployments never easy but always rewarding

By MATT OCHSNER

Disaster mental health services volunteer Terry Tippery calls Boise home, but his American Red Cross work has taken him across the country and the world.

Since becoming a volunteer in 2001, Tippery’s deployments include time in Palm Beach following Hurricane Jeanne in 2004, work in in Long Island after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and a mission to Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands following Typhoon Souledor in 2015. He also drove more than 2,000 miles in 10 days to help Montana wildfire victims.

“If you have the spirit of adventure and can take the time, it’s rewarding on a personal level.”

But it was Tippery’s very first deployment that has stuck with him perhaps more than any other. In 2001, Tippery worked in a service center two blocks from Ground Zero for 14 days, providing mental health support to those impacted by the terrorist attacks.

“We spent 12 to 14 hours a day, processing 300 people a day, wandering the room working with caseworkers and clients,” said Tippery, the director of the Boise Vet Center. “We just let people tell their stories and do some defusing. Those were a series of long days.”

A lot closer to home, Tippery provides mental health services to those impacted by house fires and leads Service to Armed Forces reconnection workshops for those returning from military deployments. He’s also helped debrief those who were deployed to disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Tippery’s volunteer experiences are rarely easy, but he appreciates the opportunity.

“If you have the spirit of adventure and can take the time, it’s rewarding on a personal level,” he said.

To become a Red Cross volunteer, visit www.redcross.org.

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Volunteer intake team wins Red Cross Presidential Award!

by Danielle Pozernick

In April 2016, the National Volunteer Services department launched a pilot project that changed the way volunteer applications were processed throughout the nation. The Idaho and Montana Region was one of several regions selected to run the pilot, and to help fine tune the volunteer application process to make it more efficient.

The Volunteer Intake Processing Center pilot was a huge success. Technological systems can be challenging enough when working properly, but a team of our dedicated volunteers had to test out a brand new system with many bugs. The team worked hard with changes constantly coming at them; sometimes within the same week.  The project could not have been successful without Lynn Tyler, Judy Brownfield, and Gay Winkler of the Idaho and Montana volunteer intake team. In April, 2017, our volunteer intake team was recognized for their hard work with the national American Red Cross’s Presidential Award. This award is given to staff and volunteers who demonstrate above and beyond job performance.

When asked why she joined the American Red Cross, Lynn Tyler, our Regional Volunteer Intake Team Lead, replied, “I joined the Red Cross because someone talked me into it.”  The president of Lynn’s homeowner’s association invited Lynn to a DAT meeting, and the rest was history. Lynn started volunteering with us in October 2011. Her favorite part about volunteering here is seeing the grateful faces of the individuals whose lives she impacts.

Another critical team member who received the Presidential Award is Judy Brownfield.  In March 2012, at the suggestion of a friend, Judy applied for a volunteer position with the American Red Cross. At first, she started as a Jill of all trades in the office and also helped clean CPR training tools. After a short time, Judy joined the volunteer intake team where she began processing volunteer applications. Judy’s favorite part about volunteering is interacting with staff and volunteers. She also donates blood as often as she can, and has donated 2+ gallons so far!

Last but not least, Gay Winkler also won a Presidential Award for her significant contributions to the Red Cross. Gay started with the American Red Cross to acquire field experience for her degree in Human Services. Even though her volunteer work started as a requirement, Gay fell in love with the Red Cross staff and volunteers. “At the American Red Cross, you’re not just a number. You’re a valued member of the team,” Gay says. Fun fact: Gay has entered her baked goods into the county fair for many years and won a Best in Show ribbon and 1st place for her sweet potato cookies, which are amazing!

Thank you, Lynn, Judy, and Gay for all the work you do! We are so proud of you!