Red Cross Club donates over 120 care packages

Katharine Blackford, Reporter

The Red Cross Club has donated over 120 care packages filled with different essential items to veterans at the Louis Stokes VA Medical Hospital.

The club collected the 1,500 donated items in a school-wide fundraiser from October 12th to November 6th, then sorted them into care packages by club volunteers as part of the Red Cross Club’s first mission project this year. Bonnie Simonelli, the club’s supervisor, oversaw the operation.

“The items include socks, hand sanitizers, personal hygiene items, candy, and letters of gratitude from the elementary students to the Veterans,” Simonelli said.
Lisa Arfons, a parent volunteer, then delivered the care packages to the hospital. The club donated some items, such as baby wipes and canned food, which were not a part of the care packages, to a pantry at the VA Hospital separately.

The wake of the COVID-19 pandemic led to restrictions on large gatherings, so the Red Cross Club decided to help veterans in a different way by donating the care packages.

“[We] wanted to make sure we honored our local Veterans, as due to COVID, we cannot hold our annual Veterans Day Assembly,” Simonelli said.

Club members, who on average spent three to five hours volunteering for the fundraiser, depending on how many meetings they attended, sorted the items. At each meeting, they focused on the drive. Isha Bansal, a junior and the club’s president, organized the event and preceding meetings, which were about 30 minutes long each.

“We would sort and count the items. The last day of the drive we had a longer meeting where we packaged the items,” Bansal said.

Boxes where students could donate items were placed around the school, then stored in Simonelli’s office until they were sorted.

“[The reception] exceeded our expectations, we did not expect to receive so many donations,” Bansal said.

Club volunteers took on the sorting process, who organized the donations and assembled the care packages.

“[They] took it upon themselves to assign themselves a role such as folding socks, writing messages, [and] making and inspecting the care packages,” Bansal said.
This was the club’s first large fundraiser, providing a point of reference for later fundraisers and mission projects.

“Although we could have had a better [organizational] system, sorting and packaging the items was the best part. It was rewarding to see members come together and work hard to make the drive successful. [We will] have better communication with teachers and spread out the donation sites. In the future we should have pre-designated roles [for volunteers] to make the process more efficient,” Bansal said.

Sophomore Wesley Leong, the club’s vice president, also feels confident in the club’s ability to organize.

“Making all the packages and seeing the end result come together was so rewarding to see everyone working together and making something so big possible,” Leong said.
The club delivered the donation on Monday, November 9th, to the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System, where Navarro Gerardo is the chief of volunteers.

“The goodwill of benefactors, like what the students of Revere Local School District [did], enhances the quality of life of our Veterans by providing essential life services and programs that aren’t directly related to our Veterans’ health care,” said Gerardo.

At the VA Hospital, COVID-19 has put many restrictions in place regarding donations, but they are still accepted.

“Those looking to help Veterans through donations of goods and money can still do so. . . monetary donations are welcome and can be earmarked for specific programs or clinical areas,” Gerardo said.

Non-cash donations, such as the one the Red Cross Club provided, also help the patients during their stay.

“Items which are accepted include coffee and cookies, telephone cards, personal hygiene items, grocery gift cards, sewing kits, craft supplies, denture items, new DVDs, new winter coats & non-skid slippers,” Gerardo said.
All donations to the VA Hospital need to be coordinated with their Voluntary Service beforehand.

“Our healthcare system is grateful for all donations no matter how small or large. Call 216-791-3800, ext. 65090, to make arrangements for a day and time to drop off donations,” Gerardo said.

Currently, the VA Hospital is most in need of winter coats and garments. Those interested in providing a donation to the VA Hospital can visit https://www.cleveland.va.gov/giving/E_Donate.asp for more information.