Wednesday, April 17, 2024

140+ years in the making: WNY'er delivering help & hope to U.S. military overseas

The mission of the American Red Cross was born on the battlefield, with founder Clara Barton delivering care and supplies to Civil War soldiers in need. Now, more than 140 years later, selfless individuals like Darla Roote are carrying on her mission.

“SAF was the first line of service in the American Red Cross. We are what started the Red Cross. The Red Cross was formed to help the military and service members in any way we can.”

Darla has served as a Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Program Specialist for the Western New York region since 2023, conducting outreach to service members, veterans and their families, putting together resource guides, attending and representing SAF at events across the region’s 27 counties, all while helping to manage casework and delivering messages for the Red Cross’ Hero Care Network worldwide.

“Hero Care Network is for family members who have an emergency at home and need to contact their service member,” she explained. “It’s been going on for 100 years. The other day, there was one for a service member in Abu Dhabi, or it could be for a unit at Fort Drum. It all depends on where that soldier or sailor or marine is stationed. It’s very important. I’ve used it myself when my father passed away so that I would be able to get emergency leave. So that’s me this year.”

This year, she takes on another facet of her role as Regional Program Specialist – a 6-month deployment to Poland.

“I’m excited, I can’t wait! I’ve been deployed a lot. I’ve been gone for 6 months at a time quite a bit. I mean with the COVID pandemic, I was gone for two years.”

Darla’s multiple deployments come with a lengthy career of military service going back 40 years. Out of high school, Darla was active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps stationed at Officer Candidate School in Quantico, VA.

“The one thing I like to say about that time frame is that was before women were allowed to shoot rifles!”

After four years of service, Darla left to start her family but not long after her daughter’s birth she would join the service again with the U.S. Navy Reserves where she would spend 18 years before spending another 16 years with the Air National Guard. She retired as a Senior Master Sergeant in August 2022.

“I love it. This job with SAF is almost the same thing. I still get to deploy; I still get to be on base with a bunch of military members and participating in that culture and so it makes being retired easier,” she laughed.

In her capacity with the Red Cross, Darla will be helping to support U.S. service members on three bases within Poland, while continuing to promote the work of the Hero Care Network.

“We do command briefings, telling the service members about the Hero Care Network and we do morale events. We partner with USO and MWR to do different events, we put together comfort kit items that we give out as needed.”

Now on the other side of military life, Darla says she’s looking forward to helping to serve the men and women who serve this country and providing some of the comforts of home that made her own service a little easier.

“They just got a kitchen where I’m going, so we may be able to do some birthday parties, pizza nights and barbecues. I just hope I can make their life easier while they’re there. I remember on some of my deployments being able to do a Fun-Run or having a barbecue – just things that broke up the week or month, something to look forward to. I’m hoping to provide something different every once in a while, even if it’s just sitting at a table with a puzzle on it. Just something to take their minds off where they are and what they’re doing.”

Written by: Meg Rossman, Regional Communications Manager, American Red Cross of WNY

Monday, January 15, 2024

"Take it from someone who has been there": Local blood drive host shares full circle moment

“Please give blood, you never know when you or one of yours will need it”. I’ve written those words many times over the past couple years in an effort to have people sign up for our Red Cross blood drive at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Cohocton, NY. My time came on November 9, 2023 when I had a heart attack that required bypass surgery. One of the last things I had to do prior to going into surgery was to be tested and to sign off on accepting blood transfusion if needed. It was at this point I was so glad that the American Red Cross does those drives.

If you’re lucky enough to have crossed paths with Carl Drum, it’s likely you received the message above late last week. Despite a lifechanging heart attack last fall, the president of the congregation at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church has been hard at work hoping to encourage others to roll up a sleeve in the midst of an ongoing blood shortage nationwide.

“I’ve always said on Facebook and anywhere that I contact people, ‘you never know when it might be you.’ And then all of a sudden, that happened. It was me. One of the last things I did in the pre-op room was sign papers saying that if I needed blood that I was willing to take your blood – actually, my blood!”

It was a full circle moment for Drum, who worked with the American Red Cross of Western New York to begin hosting regular blood drives at St. Paul’s two years ago.

“We’ve had some successful drives and we’ve had some that weren’t quite so successful,” Drum explained. “I’d previously given as frequently as I can until now. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I needed blood or not during surgery, and I don’t care. I sincerely believe now more than ever, the life you might be saving through blood donation may be your own.”

Currently, the American Red Cross is facing an emergency blood shortage as the nation faces the lowest number of people giving blood in 20 years. As a result, the number of people donating blood to the Red Cross has fallen by more than 40 percent due to challenges like winter weather, seasonal illnesses and the COVID-19 pandemic which made it difficult to reach blood donors with community drives like those hosted by St. Paul’s.

Up until November, Drum was a steady donor and received his One Gallon Donor pin this past summer. He is recovering well from the surgery and looking forward to celebrating another year of life on January 15, while encouraging others to share theirs.   

“Take it from someone who has been there. Never in a million years did I think I would be in a circumstance where it would be my turn. Well, it was my turn. You just never know.”

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is scheduled to hold its next regularly scheduled blood drive on January 23. You can find a list of upcoming blood drives in your area by visiting, calling 1-800 RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor app on your smartphone.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Winter Wonderland or Winter Disaster? Be Prepared with the Red Cross


Winter Wonderland or Winter Disaster? 

Fluffy white snow sparkling in the bright sunshine is perfect for the long-awaited outdoor adventures in the Northeastern winter. However, that much-anticipated adventure might turn into a dangerous situation with the combination of strong winds and snow flurries. If you have ever lost power, you know how “inconvenient” it can be for just an hour or two. However, if that power loss continues for 12 or 24 hours or even days - would you be prepared?

Immediate Precautions

If you hear the news broadcasting Winter Storm Warning or Blizzard Warning, take immediate precautions.  

Defining Weather Situations

When in Doubt, Don’t Go Out. The American Red Cross has defined the severity of weather systems:

·        Outlook:   Winter storm conditions may be in the 2–5-day forecast

·        Advisory:  Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconvenience and may be hazardous. Using caution should avoid life-threatening situations.

·        Watch:     Winter storm conditions are possible within 36-48 hours. Review winter storm plans.

·        Warning:  Life-threatening severe winter conditions have begun or will begin in the next 24 hours. Take precautions immediately.

·        Wind Chill Temperature: This is how cold humans and animals feel when outside. Frostbite can occur rapidly.

Prepare for Emergencies

Preparedness kits will provide peace of mind during adverse weather emergencies.  The kits you put together for yourself would include water, food, medications, and other necessities for a 3-day supply per person. A kit for your car is important as well.  You can find more suggestions of supplies to include in your kits and additional tips here

Plans Before Emergencies

As winter approaches, a plan for emergencies will hopefully prevent any unfortunate events from occurring. Plans to care for not only yourself, but also, your family, pets, or neighbors who may need assistance. Include plans to ensure that your home is safe: flashlights, blankets, and water are available. Also, a plan is advised to evacuate to a safe location if your home is not safe during the storm. The Red Cross may set up emergency shelters.

The American Red Cross also has a FREE Emergency App that can
be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play which features weather alerts, more helpful tips like these and shelter locations in the event of a storm.

Written by: Ginny Scott, American Red Cross of WNY Communications Volunteer

Friday, November 17, 2023

Help prevent home fires this Thanksgiving

Did you know that Thanksgiving and the day before are the top two days for the chance of a cooking fire to happen in someone's home in the U.S.? 

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, home fire injuries and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths. If you're helping to prep this year's Thanksgiving feast, help make sure you and your loved ones stay safe with these safety tips from the American Red Cross of Western New York.


·       Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.

·       Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.

·       Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.

·       Keep kids and pets at least three feet away from cooking areas.

·       Keep anything that can catch on fire — potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains — away from your stove top and oven or any other appliance that generates heat.

·       Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.

·       Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen.

·       Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to make sure all stoves, ovens and small appliances are turned off.


Follow these safety tips and visit for more information, including a fire escape plan to practice with your household.

Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year. 

If you cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, the Red Cross may be able to help. Visit or contact your local Red Cross for more information. 

Since October 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, working with community installation partners, has saved 53 lives in the Western New York region and at least 1,928 lives across the country by educating families about fire safety, helping them create escape plans and installing free smoke alarms in high-risk areas across the country.