Cheryl Bremer is the Regional Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross of West Michigan, which serves 23 counties in Michigan as far north as Traverse City and south as the Michigan-Indiana border.
Imagine it’s the middle of the day. You’re at work when suddenly your phone rings. The person on the other end frantically explains that your home is burning down. It’s a story that’s all too familiar to Rachel Rhoades and her family.
By the time Rachel got to her Grand Rapids home that day, it was destroyed. Rachel and her husband were completely in shock, overwhelmed by the loss and unsure how to pick up the pieces to their lives.
But, the American Red Cross was there to help. Two disaster volunteers stayed with them long after the home was boarded up and the fire crews left.
"They were so supportive and allowed me to just sit there and cry and talk to them and cry some more, and talk to them and cry again," Rachel said. "They held my hand, gave me a hug, listened to me. They were like angels who quietly walked up and took my hand and said ‘We’re here to help.'"
The American Red Cross and its dedicated volunteers are able to help during house fires, flooding, tornadoes and other disasters thanks, in part, to generous donors, like Meijer, who are part of the Annual Donor Giving Program (ADGP) and contribute $500,000 to Red Cross disaster relief.
Meijer is also a great community partner, supporting the Red Cross of West Michigan for several years through warehouse space, bulk items, and even Meijer gift card donations, which Rachel and her family benefitted from when their home burned down.
"The Red Cross gave us gift cards that enabled us to go to Meijer and get toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks, underwear, pajamas, and other things we’d need for that night," Rachel said. "I have Crohn's Disease. It allowed me to replace my prescriptions and supplies that were lost in the fire. I had so many other things going through my head, but as I was walking through Meijer I knew we were going to be OK."
When disaster strikes, time makes all the difference. Time means preparation. By giving before an emergency, like Meijer and other generous community partners like Steelcase and Wolverine World Wide, the Red Cross is able to help families like Rachel’s cope during a disaster and recover more quickly. Donations allow the Red Cross to purchase supplies in advance, making them more readily accessible during urgent situations.
Those supplies are purchased with donor gifts and funds benefitting our ADGP. When generous companies and foundations contribute to this program, they’re enabling us to be prepared. They’re helping us train volunteers. They’re helping purchase basic necessities like shampoo and deodorant. And they’re helping fill the gas tanks of our emergency response vehicles so our volunteers don’t need to waste precious time when a need arises.
We cannot thank our community partners enough for the generosity, support of our mission, and their complete understanding of just how crucial it is to give in advance of disaster striking.
Giving is a culture shared by many companies in Grand Rapids, which is recognized as the second-most philanthropic community nationwide. As the Regional CEO of the American Red Cross of West Michigan, I can say with pride and certainty that the local nonprofit community is so fortunate to have the support of so many businesses within West Michigan.
Photos courtesy of The American Red Cross of West Michigan.
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