Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Local Disaster Mental Health Volunteers Recognized by Mental Health Assoc. of Southeast FL

By Nelda Figueiredo

Ron and Marti Ellis, long time Red Crossers, have had an incredible impact on the South Florida community through their tireless volunteer work with the organization.

The Ellises have always wanted to make a difference in the community and felt the need to act and join the Red Cross in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“We wanted to step up and to be a part of something; 9-11 gave us that extra push to begin,” said Ron and Marti, who work throughout the South Florida Region and are a fixture in the Broward office.

Ron and Marti have since played a pivotal role on the Disaster Mental Health Team. The duties of American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Workers (DMHW) include easing the emotional distress of people who have survived a disaster. Over the years, Ron and Marti also have trained other volunteers to be disaster mental health workers.

The hard work of these two devoted Red Crossers does not go unnoticed.

Ron and Marti are due to be recognized on May 15 by The Mental Health Association of Southeast Florida at its 17th Annual EPIC luncheon and awards ceremony for Exceptional People Impacting the Community (EPIC).

The EPIC Awards are given to those who have devoted their time to the public good and have contributed to the behavioral health of people within their community. The EPIC Award has honored public officials, advocates, journalists, celebrities and service providers for the past 17 years. 

Ron and Marti have developed many teams and have trained them to help families cope with the stress and anxiety that occurs after being affected by a disaster. “It is a group effort; Ron and I could not do this all on our own,” Marti said.

The couple work alongside caring volunteers who assist individuals and their families in the most difficult of times.

“They are extremely valuable, and they are true leaders,” said Sylvia Taylor, who oversees Direct Services in South Florida, the department Ron and Marti report to.

“They have developed and brought focus to the team,” she said of the dynamic duo. “They keep everyone engaged, which at times can be a challenge.”

The couple’s passion also sees them continually sharing their Red Cross stories with the community in an effort to encourage others to sign up and give back.

“It feels good to volunteer and it feels like we keep getting much more than we give,” Ron said. “It shows humanity and compassion in the making.”

Young SFL Red Crosser Earns President's Volunteer Service Award

Congratulations are in order for one of our youngest and most active volunteers, Keegan Rose!

Keegan, a 6th-grader at Herbert A. Ammons Middle School, in West Kendall, has accumulated so many volunteer hours with the American Red Cross South Florida Region that The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards recently recognized him with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, presented on behalf of President Barack Obama.

The award recognizes young people who have volunteered a significant amount of time to serve their communities and their country.

Keegan, 11, began volunteering with the Red Cross in February 2011 and has served in a variety of roles throughout the region, including working as an instructor’s aide and responding to local disaster and house fire scenes.

So far, he has an estimated 200 volunteer hours with the organization.

Keegan’s mother, Steffany Lee, also is a very active local Red Cross volunteer.

Way to go , Keegan!

Monday, February 13, 2012

From Red Cross Volunteer to Bride: A Love Story

After 55 years of marriage, Dick and Sara Nooe still appreciate that the
American Red Cross brought them together.

by Barbara Behling, American Red Cross

Monday, February 13, 2012 — U.S. Marine Dick Nooe was shot multiple times in the leg and the face, three days before the end of the Korean War. Blinded by the shots, Dick felt his life—as he knew it—was over.

Evacuated by helicopter to the nearest Mash Unit, he ultimately made his way to the Blind Rehabilitation Ward at the Hines Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. He remained there from February through July 1954. While there he healed, with the help of one very special American Red Cross volunteer—a Gray Lady named Sara Scotchell.

Sara, a young professional, signed up with several gals in her office to become Red Cross Gray Ladies, named for the grey uniforms the volunteers wore. Gray Ladies read and wrote letters, talked and provided non-medical support to sick, injured and disabled veterans.

Dick and Sara Nooe fell in love more than 50 years ago when she was a Red Cross Gray Lady in a VA Hospital. Photo Credit: Barbara Behling

Every Thursday, Sara’s team, assigned to support the blind unit, would host a social, providing snacks, beverages and music. “We were there to help the veteran’s become more active,” she commented. “Dick was standing in the corner, looking a bit pathetic, so I asked him to dance.”

That dance was the first of many in their 55 years of wedded bliss. “We weren’t supposed to go out with any of them, but we did start to smooch a bit,” she blushes. Dick adds. “The boys told me she was good looking and if we went outside I could see a muffled outline of her face and body. While never truly seeing her, I know she is beautiful.”

After Dick was discharged from the hospital, he returned to Oregon to pursue a Social Work degree. The two kept in touch by letter and an occasional phone call. Sara would tape a love letter on a recording device and send it to him; he would listen to it on a Dictaphone belt. She traveled to Oregon during one summer break. The long-distance engagement was official in 1956. Soon after, Dick earned his graduate degree and they started a family.

Today, the Nooes live in Neenah, Wisconsin. At 80, Dick is still counseling part-time and is still giving back by working with local veterans. A year ago, they returned to Hines Veterans Administration Hospital to visit with other blind veterans. Dick always delivers a message of hope. “Look at us, together we have enjoyed a wonderful life,” he says, “We are blessed with two children and six grandchildren. We love to travel to Europe, Hawaii and across the United States.”

Each summer, they attend their military reunions—even though each year fewer and fewer veterans are there. Sara’s Gray Lady dress and hat have been safely stored through the decades. Her Red Cross volunteer pin is placed in the family keepsake box. It’s right next to Dick’s military ribbons of valor, including the Purple Heart.

Today, Dick and Sara continue to support the American Red Cross across the country and around the globe. “I give in my wife’s honor,” he said. “Just imagine if I had not had this young Red Cross volunteer in my life?”

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Join the Red Cross Team

Want to join the Red Cross Team at the 3nd Annual Tour de Broward Bike-Run-Walk on 2/26/12? Click on and select Team Red Cross. (There's a registration fee).

There will be family fun for the you and your friends including a Kid Zone, live entertainment, raffles, food and more!

Got questions? Call 954-797-3807

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hope in the Shape of a Teddy Bear

Even though the holidays are long gone, this story still resonates for many Red Cross volunteers and staffers.

On December 24th, the person at dispatch received a call regarding a fire at a ranch-style house in Homestead. The house belonged to a small business owner who makes a living selling affordable cars to farm laborers in the area. When the Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers arrived they found the home totally destroyed. Only the father was there, the mother and daughter had gone out to run last minute errands before their Christmas dinner and weren't back yet.

In preparation for the holidays they had decorated a big tree with lights and had even installed a life-sized dancing Santa. The fire started when the outlet where everything was plugged in overheated. The father was in the yard mowing his lawn when he heard his dog barking desperately. He turned to see his house on fire and sprung into action. He had just enough time to go inside to retrieve the family dog. For us, at the Red Cross, it is unfortunately a story we have heard before around this time the holiday season.

The DAT leader assessed the damage and because the family has no relatives in the area, gave them a hotel voucher for three nights and a card with money for food and clothes. As the Red Cross volunteer was leaving, he pulled out a teddy bear from his car and gave it to the father to give to his twelve-year-old daughter.

It was at this point that the man started to cry. He thanked the Red Cross volunteer and explained that he was heart broken he had to tell his little girl that she had lost her teddy bear collection in the fire. But thanks to the American Red Cross and its donors, Roberto the volunteer was able to give one little girl who had just lost all her belongings the first teddy bear for her new collection.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Red Cross Volunteer Recognized as Unsung Hero

Longtime American Red Cross volunteer Dr. Margaret Blair, of Islamorada, will be recognized at the Unsung Hero Awards on Friday! Dr. Blair has volunteered for the Red Cross in three states, leads our fundraising team in the Keys and in 2010 helped us create the local Clara Barton Society, paying tribute to the Red Cross founder.

The awards luncheon is sponsored by the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and will be held at the Casa Marina Resort in Key West.

Congratulations to Dr. Blair! We're very lucky to have her.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Two Years After Haiti Earthquake, American Red Cross Remains Very Active in Recovery Efforts

Two years after the Haiti earthquake, the American Red Cross continues to help people rebuild their home and lives, with hundreds of millions of dollars committed to the ongoing recovery effort.

In a two-year update, the American Red Cross highlighted its emergency work after the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, as well as its recovery efforts over the past year.

“People in South Florida and across the country responded to help Haiti, and their donations are making a difference with recovery and rebuilding,” said Sam Tidwell, CEO of the South Florida Red Cross. “The money provided life-saving relief to millions of Haitians after the earthquake and is now being used for longer-term housing, health, safe water and other recovery programs.”

Other highlights of the past year include:
  • Providing clean water and sanitation services to more than 369,000 people
  • Providing health services and hygiene education to more than 2.4 million people
  • Reaching more than 3 million people with cholera treatment and prevention
  • Teaching more than 436,000 people how to better prepare for disasters
  • Providing livelihoods assistance – grants, jobs and other help – to 114,000 people
The American Red Cross received about $486 million in donations following the earthquake, and has spent and signed agreements to spent $330 million on Haiti earthquake relief and recovery efforts in the first two years. The largest portion of spending has gone to food and emergency services, followed by housing, water and sanitation, health, livelihoods, disaster preparedness, and response to the cholera outbreak.

The two-year report on Red Cross relief and recovery efforts in Haiti can be found at

March is Red Cross Month