Friday, July 7, 2017

Jewish Community Center Makes Great Partners

At about 4am the morning of Monday, June 26, the Buffalo Fire Department was called to a fire at an apartment complex on Elmwood Avenue.  Red Cross volunteers responded right away, and provided immediate emergency assistance including shelter and food for the families in the three unites that were directly affected. Later, the Western New York Chapter received a call regarding a gas leak that was preventing the entire apartment from having any hot water. After speaking with the management of the Elmwood apartment complex, it was determined that all residents needed access to hot showers as soon as possible.

Our Disaster Department reached out to the Jewish Community Center. The JCC was there when we called for help, offering residents of the Elmwood apartment use of their shower facilities from 5:30 am-8 pm for nearly a week.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo
on Delaware Avenue
“It has been a pleasure and a great experience working with Red Cross on this, and we were happy to help,” said Rick Zakalik, the Executive Director at the JCC of Greater Buffalo.   

Zakalik said that this isn’t the first time he and his team have teamed up with the Red Cross. Aside from generally being “friendly neighbors”, as he puts it (the Red Cross and JCC buildings are directly across from each other on Delaware Avenue), the JCC and Red Cross have teamed up before to help with emergencies in the Buffalo area.

“They (the JCC) have been great, accommodating and very welcoming” says Alexis Willard, Disaster Program Specialist for the Western New York Chapter. “There have been no issues from them”.

We are extremely grateful for the partnership we have developed with the JCC. A community disaster takes a community response, and there is no single agency that can meet all the needs of a community. Without partners like the JCC, the Red Cross would be unable to alone provide relief and comfort to our neighbors in need. Partners are a huge part of our back bone and play a huge role in how we are able to fulfill our mission. Thank you to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo for being the answer to our call and the solution we needed to help the people who needed us. If you'd like to learn more about how to support the Red Cross, as a partner, donor or volunteer, please visit

~Lily Kaufman
Communications Intern, WNY Chapter

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Volunteering for the Red Cross has made me realize how lucky I am"

"I feel rewarded when I am able to teach people about fire safety," said David Roma as he told me why he became a Red Cross volunteer.

In the November 2014 Buffalo snow storm, David was out helping shoveling driveways for his neighbors. From this, he wished he could help people regularly. His daughter, Nicole, was a volunteer coordinator for the Western New York Chapter. So David went to her, and she helped set him up to be a Red Cross volunteer.

David Roma with fellow volunteer Shirley
Carnall during a Home Fire Campaign event
in the City of Buffalo
David remembers a specific time installing fire alarms for an elderly woman as part of the Home Fire Campaign. He and one other volunteer arrived at the house and found it was very run down. Windows were broken, there was no stove, barely any furniture, and no doors on rooms.  The elderly woman that called them to install fire alarms was the head of the house she housed her daughters and sons and their children, and David knew they simply installing smoke alarms made this family a little safer.

"When I see people like this it makes me realize how lucky I really am", said David.

If you're like David and enjoy helping people, you too can become an American Red Cross volunteer. Our volunteers have a range of opportunities when it comes to deciding what kind of volunteer you would want to be. It ranges from disaster relief to being a desk receptionist. Whatever kind of volunteer you want to be, you'll be helping the Red Cross to do their job to help provide comfort and hope to our neighbors in need.

~Emma Reeve, Communications Intern

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Day Experiencing The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign

As a communications intern with the American Red Cross, I have been able to experience this organization in ways that I could not have guessed when originally applying for the position. If you had asked me last year what the American Red Cross does for the community, my answer would have been limited and honestly wrong. Through this experience I have been able to understand the vast array of services that the organization has to offer. One of them being the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.

Chairman Andy March assisting board member
Luke Fagan with the installation of
their first fire alarm of the day.
The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign is the American  Red Cross’ way of trying to install fire alarms into every home that does not already have them. It has been proven that, from the time that the fire ignites, you only have about two minutes to get out of the house before someone gets injured or worse. While in training for this program, I learned that nationally, 19 percent of homes do not have working smoke alarms and four percent do not have them at all. However, out of all the fire fatalities, 37 percent happen in homes that have no alarm and 23 percent happen in homes without a working alarm. These numbers are sobering when you think of how many people could have been saved by having working smoke alarms. This is why it is so important to have an alarm that gives you the most time to make your escape.

This campaign really touched me as fire related incidents was a big part of my growing up. My grandmother, whom I was named after, passed away when my mother was very young in a house fire. While I never got to meet her, she has influenced my life in many ways. My mother has always been very proactive when it came to fire preparedness, and yet, I still did not know half of the information that this campaign has to offer.

Not only does this campaign install potential lifesaving alarms that alert you when there is a fire, it is our mission to also educate you on what to do when a fire happens and how to be fully prepared in a time of crisis. While one of our members installs up to three free fire alarms, another member educates the resident in what to do in case of an emergency. To me this is the most important part of the program.

Our educator goes through not only how to use the fire alarm and how to maintain it, but they also teach you about how to create a family fire plan in order to best be prepared if something does happen. This includes things like coming up with a meeting place so you can know if everyone is out of the house, and other lifesaving tips that are more than necessary. While these plans do not take a long time to come up with, they are so crucial to the well-being of your family.

Board member Renae Rokicki educating the home owner
on how to create a fire plan for her family.
They also teach you important lessons on ways to prevent a fire, like their catchy saying “Three feet from the heat” informing you that if you have any space heaters in the colder months, that there should be absolutely nothing within three feet of the it. Another tip I saw being talked about is to avoid using more than one extension cord to gain access to electric in a part of the house that does not have any. These tips are crucial and potentially lifesaving.

On March 25, 2017 I was given the opportunity to be a part of this campaign, and help install fire alarms in homes in the Central New York area.

I worked alongside Chairman of the Board, Andy March and board members Luke Fagan and Renae Rokicki. The first house we went to was an elderly woman who lived alone. While she was funny and quick as a whip, unfortunately without a fire alarm, if something were to happen it would be very hard to get out of her house that contains many steps. The fire alarms would give her more time to make her escape to safety. It was so nice talking to her and realizing how important the work we are doing is.

Going around installing fire alarms into homes that needed them, really helped to open my eyes to the importance of home fire preparedness. Not only was I able to learn a lot myself, but I also was able to be a small part in an organization that does so much for the community. I was able to be a small part in helping people to realize the severity of a house fire and hopefully not only help them in a time of crisis, but also prevent these issues in the first place. Overall, this was an experience that I would have never expected, and that I am forever grateful for.

If you are currently living in a home that does not have working fire alarms, or just think you could use a few extra in order to keep your family safe, please visit the Home Fire Preparedness Campaigns website to schedule an appointment to install alarms in your place of residence. 

-Gayle Landry, Communications Intern
M.A. Public Relations at Syracuse University 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Extraordinary Personal Action Saves a Life

"I saw an elderly lady hunched over and I knew it didn't look right," Caitlin McKinnon said as she recounted her actions.

Greater Rochester Chapter
Executive Director  James Love 
Presents the 
Certificate of  Extraordinary Personal Action
to Caitlin McKinnon
Caitlin was shopping at Trader Joe's in Pittsford, NY, when she heard a woman yelling, "Mom, Mom! Someone help!!" Caitlin saw an elderly lady clutching onto a cart. Caitlin, a registered nurse, carefully brought the woman to the floor and felt for a pulse. The woman did not have a pulse, so Caitlin asked the woman's daughter if she could give her mom CPR. Caitlin immediately began CPR, and within about 30 seconds, the woman woman took a breath. When the ambulance arrived, the elderly had a pulse and was able to speak.

"Caitlin in my mind has always been a hero because of the career she is in," said her sister, Lindsay. "But during an ordinary day at the grocery store, she continues to help others when in need."

Last month at the Greater Rochester Chapter, the Red Cross was proud to present Caitlin the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action. This certificate is awarded to individuals who save or sustain a life by action that exemplifies the mission of American Red Cross Preparedness, Health and Safety Services. 

Due to Caitlin's quick thinking, she was able to revive this woman and help save her life. Emergencies can strike anytime, anywhere, and every second counts. Having the skills to be able to save or help a life is very important, and we encourage everyone learn and get CPR/AED/First Aid certification from us here at the American Red Cross.

~Emma Reeve, Communications Intern