Pillowcase Project prepares kids to cope with emergencies

A pillowcase is decorated to show children ideas for being prepared for an emergency. Photo by Carolyn Stern, American Red Cross of North Carolina

A pillowcase is decorated to show children ideas for being prepared for an emergency. Photo by Carolyn Stern, American Red Cross of North Carolina

Children are safer by the thousands in Missouri thanks to the Pillowcase Project and volunteers of the American Red Cross.

“Since August of 2013 we’ve reached nearly 2,000 school kids, and we’re expected to teach another thousand during April and May,” said Mindy Boggs, Western Missouri Regional Pillowcase Project Training Lead, in Springfield.

AmeriCorps logoThe project teaches children in 3rd through 5th grades. Partnering with The Disney Co., the Red Cross program helps kids learn about emergencies. They acquire basic coping skills including designing their own “go bags” by decorating a pillowcase. Then the pillowcase can be filled with such things as a first aid kit, change of clothing, water, blanket, a flashlight, radio, tooth brush and a stuffed animal.

The Pillowcase Project was originally inspired by a Red Cross chapter in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It led to an art therapy program that converted the decorated pillowcases into personal emergency kits.

Today, the project is part of a nationwide Home Fire Campaign by the Red Cross to reduce injuries and deaths from house fires through education and promoting smoke alarm installations.

“We’ve learned by talking with the Pillowcase kids that many didn’t have smoke alarms in their homes,” Boggs said. “Volunteers have learned and shared.”

As AmeriCorps executive director of the Southern Missouri area, she teaches the course for volunteers doing the Pillowcase Project – and she needs volunteers.

A volunteer can start by attending a class to explain and talk about the Pillowcase Project that is being held in April on the 8th in Joplin and the 16th in Springfield. A volunteer can then take a basic instructor’s course online and an extended in-person class teaching the fundamentals.

Volunteers can sign on to watch and assist at, for example, Ava on May 11 when 300 school kids will go home with their own decorated pillowcases prepared for emergencies – and a work book.

“I love it. It’s great. The little faces looking at you are awesome,” Boggs said.

To help prepare these children, contact Melinda.boggs@redcross.org or call (417) 832-9500 ext. 3140. You can also go to redcross.org.

–Don Underwood, Public Affairs volunteer

If someone would like to support the Red Cross mission and help those in need, they can visit http://www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to the local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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