Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Taste of Home

When I worked in the media, we always joked that no matter what the story, there was ALWAYS a Western New York connection. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that this was the first thing I saw when heading out to a bulk distribution site on Brooklyn's Brighton Beach:
Yep, that's our Emergency Response Vehicle from Niagara Falls getting ready to serve a hot meal to  residents still devastated almost three weeks after the storm, one of over 300 Red Cross vehicles working on the Sandy response. The volunteers inside weren't WNYers, at least not this time, but it's yet another example of The City (or should that be region?) of Good Neighbors coming through for those in need.

Brighton Beach is one of 15 fixed sites across New York City where the Red Cross is serving meals and water and distributing comfort and clean up kits with things like blankets, flashlights, mops and buckets this weekend. As of Friday, over 2.1 million relief items had been distributed and over 6.1 million meals and snacks have been served, and those numbers are going to continue to jump. In addition to Brighton Beach, I also visited a site at Red Hook, and was struck by the size of the line.

It's pretty clear that this response is going to last a long time. If you want to help, please visit, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to charge a $10 donation to your phone bill. The people here still need your help.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

An Extra Special Visitor

On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of volunteers and staff working at the Greater NY regional headquarters were called from our fourth floor operations center to a meeting with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern. But long before either of the featured speakers arrived at 520 W 49th Street in New York City, someone else stole the show. 
Cinza Iverson tells her Sandy story to Jay Bonafede

Cinza Iverson simply wanted to say thank you. Her Far Rockaway home was flooded by Hurricane Sandy, and then was part of a 50 home fire. Cinza ended up at the Red Cross shelter at Nassau Community College.
“When I walked in the shelter, I didn’t have anything. I was soaking wet,” Cinza said. “As soon as I walked in, I got nothing but smiles and encouragement. Everyone made me feel very comfortable. After two days, I started volunteer there myself.”
Following 12 days at the shelter, Cinza is flying to Iowa on a ticket purchased with help from the Red Cross and partner agencies. “I didn’t want to be near any water!”
“I just came to the Red Cross to drop off my forms to volunteer,” Cinza continued, “and to say thanks.” She left to a standing ovation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

So THAT'S what they mean by staff shelter!

For two years now, I've been sharing the stories from our amazing volunteers as they've deployed in the field to assist folks who have been affected by disaster across the country. Well, now I'm going to be able to tell my own. That's right, I flew out yesterday to volunteer with the Sandy relief efforts of the Red Cross.

So far, I have met many people from across the country: including a woman from Louisiana nervous about her first deployment; a Chapter employee from the Erie, PA area who's done this many times; and our own deployment veteran, Lou Colca! Lou and I filled out our deployment paperwork together Monday morning, then took different flights but ended up at the same place: the staff shelter in White Plains, NY:
Yep, that was home last night. Dozens of volunteers sleeping on cots on the floor of the YMCA. Some of those volunteers have been there for days!

This morning, it was off to the operations center in White Plains for orientation and to receive our assignments. I have been sent to the Greater NY Chapter building on W 49th St, where the headquarters have been set up and much of my work will be done. At some point soon, I'll join the majority of the 5,700 Red Cross workers who are on the ground in the affected areas. But in the meantime, I can say hi to Lou--he's here, too, awaiting his assignment.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

SWNY Chapter opens shelter to help explosion victims

At approximately 9:30pm Sunday, November 11, 2012 volunteers from the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York volunteers opened a shelter at Alfred State College following an apartment explosion in Alfred, NY at the request of emergency managers from Alleghany County. The shelter will remain open through the night to accommodate residents of the Rose Apartment Building. The Red Cross will continue to provide the victims with temporary shelter, food and clothing, and will work with the families to provide support during their recovery process. 

All disaster assistance offered by the American Red Cross is complementary and made possible by generous contributions from the American people and residents of Allegany County. The United Way organization of Allegany County also provides financial support to the local Red Cross mission.

Also, the WNY Region continues to deploy volunteers to assist in the Sandy relief efforts. 37 local volunteers have been or will be deployed, with 28 still out serving in the response. Recent deployments include:
  • PearlieMae Hargro of Buffalo to North Brunswick, NJ for Client Casework
  • David Erickson of Lakewood, NY to Middletown, CT for Client Casework
  • Patricia Coate of Allegany, NY to Middletown, CT for Client Casework
  • Mary Walker of Dunkirk, NY to North Brunswick, NJ for Client Casework
  • Jay Bonafede of Tonawanda, NY to White Plains, NY for Public Affairs