During their years with the Red Cross, Ada County volunteers Sandy and Terry Tippery have helped many families following a home fire, but an early-morning response in April was their first during the age of COVID-19 and social distancing.
And it was far from business as usual.
After talking with the woman over the phone to determine what she and her family needed, the couple asked her to meet them in the parking lot of an all-night Boise restaurant. They told her to pull up alongside their vehicle and place an ID on the hood of their car and then get back in. The Tipperys then got out, checked the ID and placed an envelope with a client card assistance card on the hood before getting back in their vehicle.
When it was all said and done, the Tipperys had given the woman and her family the resources they needed to begin getting back on their feet without putting her or themselves at risk.
A few days later, a man who had also been displaced by that same fire called, and they repeated the process with him.
“We didn’t even share any airspace,” said Sandy, who has volunteered with the organization for about a decade. “I think it’s safer than going to the grocery store.”
“It was pretty spartan,” Terry said. “But it worked.”
While the Red Cross approach has changed during the coronavirus outbreak, the organization continues to provide the same level of comfort and care to families following disaster. In March alone, the Red Cross responded to 25 home fires across Idaho and Montana, helping 28 families meet their most immediate needs.
“Just because we’re experiencing a pandemic right now doesn’t mean other disasters stop,” said Ted Koenig, regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Idaho and Montana. “We can’t thank our volunteers enough for continuing to answer the call when our friends and neighbors need us most.”
Besides disaster response, Red Cross volunteers also continue to offer support to Idaho and Montana military families. Since March 1, Service to the Armed Forces volunteers have helped 372 military families, including providing communications to service members during family emergencies or the birth of a child. Much of this work can be done remotely.
Terry Tippery wears multiple hats, as a Red Cross disaster responder and a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer.
A veteran himself with 38 years of professional experience as a therapist working with veterans, Terry is a Red Cross resiliency instructor who helps families cope with the stresses of deployments and helps service members make the transition when they return home.
“I like working with veterans. I speak their language,” said the Red Cross volunteer of 20 years.
“I’ve met some really good people doing it, and I’ve been able to help direct them to some ongoing services and discuss what they have in their communities. It’s been very rewarding.”
Last month, Terry filmed a mindfulness video providing fellow Idaho and Montana Red Crossers ideas for coping with the stress of these uncertain times -- tips and techniques that will come in useful as the organization continues to respond and recalibrate during the age of COVID-19.
“We know exactly what is going on in the world, and we’ve adapted and are still responding to clients’ needs,” Sandy Tippery said.
“We’re still open for business,” Terry added.
Providing lifesaving blood
Although social distancing and business closures have led to thousands of canceled blood drives nationwide, Red Cross and its donors continue to meet demand and provide lifesaving blood to hospitals across Idaho and Montana. The organization has put several measures in place to keep donors and staff safe including screening anyone entering a blood drive, providing masks to staff and donors, keeping donation beds as far apart as possible and routinely disinfecting surfaces and equipment.
In coordination with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Red Cross is seeking people who are fully recovered from the new coronavirus to sign up to donate plasma to help current COVID-19 patients.
Those who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus, and this convalescent plasma is being evaluated as treatment for patients with serious COVID-19 infections.
Visit redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/plasma-donations-from-recovered-covid-19-patients to learn more.
Find out how you can help the Red Cross respond to disasters and provide services to military members and their families by visiting redcross.org or calling 800-RED-CROSS. To make an appointment to donate lifesaving blood, visit redcrossblood.org or call the number above.