Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ryan Fitzpatrick, United Way and Red Cross Team Up to Help Local Disaster Victims This Holiday

Bills QB urges others to “Give Something that Means Something” this season

Photo courtesy
BUFFALO, NY, December 21, 2012 – For a second consecutive year, Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is helping two area families that are attempting to rebuild after losing everything in separate fires this year feel at home for the holidays. Thanks to a generous donation through the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, Fitzpatrick and his family have provided toys for the children, computers for school, furniture and much more to help these families on the road to recovery. The Fitzpatrick family had the opportunity to meet the recipients of their generosity and personally deliver some of the gifts during a private meeting Friday evening at the Administrative Headquarters of the American Red Cross, Serving Erie & Niagara Counties. Due to concerns regarding client confidentiality, the recipients of these gifts will remain anonymous.

“These families have been through so much this year, losing everything in the blink of an eye,” Fitzpatrick said. “We hope these gifts help to lift their spirits, especially during this holiday season.”

The families have been receiving assistance from the American Red Cross since their respective disasters.  “A fire or other life-changing disaster can happen to anyone at anytime,” Fitzpatrick said. “If everyone who watches me play on Sundays joined my family in helping our neighbors in need by giving a gift to the Red Cross this holiday, it would make a huge difference for our neighbors in need throughout Western New York.”

Last year, 1,046 people in Erie and Niagara Counties received food, clothing, shelter and support from the Red Cross following a fire or other disaster. All assistance is free, and the Red Cross relies on the generosity of the American public to provide these vital services in the community.

The American Red Cross joins the Fitzpatrick family in encouraging Western New Yorkers to “Give Something That Means Something” this holiday season. The 2012 Holiday Giving Catalog includes a variety of symbolic gifts that support Red Cross programs. Donors can help vaccinate an entire village in a third world country, provide food and shelter to a disaster victim, help purchase items like phone cards and supplies for members of the Armed Forces or help supply basic necessities to families in desperate need across the world. Catalog purchases also come with greeting cards than can be sent to your friends and family when you make a donation in lieu of a gift and to show others your Red Cross support during the holidays. The purchase of each gift item is a tax-deductible contribution and provides support to the mission of the Red Cross.  Please visit  to order your gift today.

“We are so thankful that Ryan Fitzpatrick and his family have chosen to help these families that were touched by disaster this year,” said Nancy Blaschak, Executive Director of the American Red Cross, Serving Erie & Niagara Counties.  “The Red Cross helps people in need everywhere and every day, and financial donations are critical to allowing us to serve the Western New York community throughout the year.”

Friday, December 21, 2012

WNY Couple to Spend Holiday Together In NYC Working with Sandy Relief Efforts

Bob and Beth Shook two of nearly 50 WNY volunteers deployed so far

Bob Shook
BUFFALO, NY, December 21, 2012 – Robert Shook of Cuba, NY will be deploying to New York City on Saturday to assist in the Superstorm Sandy relief efforts of the American Red Cross. Shook will be working on an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), helping deliver food, water and relief items including clean-up supplies and cold weather items such as blankets directly to people in the areas hardest hit by Sandy.

When he arrives in New York City, Shook will reunite with his wife, Beth, who has been deployed as part of the relief efforts since Sandy hit in late October. Beth Shook has already spent Thanksgiving away from her husband, and Bob took a long-planned vacation to visit their children and grandchildren alone while Beth worked on the Sandy relief operation in Staff Services.

Beth Shook
The Shook’s have been volunteering with the Red Cross since 1972, after Hurricane Agnes flooded their apartment and they received shelter, food and cleaning equipment from the organization. They currently serve as Disaster Action Team (DAT) Captains and Disaster Training Instructors. Beth has responded to disasters in over 40 states, Guam and Puerto Rico, and Bob is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York.

“I can think of no better way to celebrate Christmas than helping those who need it,” Bob Shook said. “Some folks are still without electricity and I will be delivering food and supplies to them.”

Communications Coordinator Jay Bonafede
enjoys a "Cubicle Thanksgiving" with
great friends at the Greater NY Chapter
in Manhattan 
Robert and Beth Shook are just two of the nearly 50 staff and volunteers from Western New York that have deployed to assist in the Sandy relief efforts of the Red Cross since the storm hit. Several of these dedicated volunteers sacrificed spending Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and/or New Year’s with loved ones at home to help our downstate neighbors who have been devastated by Superstorm Sandy, including Steven Schwartz of Buffalo and Peter Swales of Springville, who each returned to Manhattan this week for a second deployment.

Thanks to the public’s generous support, the American Red Cross has provided food, shelter, relief supplies and comfort to thousands of people impacted by Sandy. More than 1,400 Red Cross workers are still on the ground supporting survivors through our relief work even as we begin our longer-term recovery efforts. The Red Cross is working with government and community partners as part of a comprehensive response to help survivors recover. For more on the Red Cross response to Sandy, please click here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Look for the helpers"

Photo courtesy
In the aftermath of an event like this weekend's unthinkable tragedy in Newtown, CT, we often find ourselves looking for answers. Sometimes, simple advice from our childhood is the most helpful. This has been circulating since Friday (I first saw it on the Facebook page of a good friend, a Red Cross colleague I met while while deployed to assist in the Sandy relief efforts), so you may have already seen this old story about none other than Mr. Rogers:

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: "My mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers-so many caring people in this world."

Tara Hughes speaking at White House panel
entitled "Building Resilient Communities by Empowering
Individuals to Take Action and Strengthen Community
Capacity" in September
One of those helpers in this case is from right here in Western New York. Volunteer Tara Hughes got in her car Friday afternoon and drove to Newtown to help lead the Red Cross response to this tragedy. Tara is our NYS Disaster Mental Health chief, and recently returned from leading the emotional response to Hurricane Sandy downstate. She is an expert in childhood trauma who helped run the Family Assistance Center here following the crash of Flight 3407, and Tara's skill and expertise will hopefully help bring comfort to members of this suffering community.

Of course, events such as this can affect us even if we're hundreds of miles away. Click here for some tips on dealing with violence and traumatic events. 

The Red Cross joins all in keeping the families and community in our thoughts. We currently have what we need to support our efforts, but if you want to make a donation to support the affected families, the United Way of Western Connecticut has created a Sandy Hook School Support Fund.