Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Make Preparedness Your Holiday Gift and Resolution!

Coming off a large-scale disaster like Western New York's recent #WinterStormKnife, this may be hard to believe. But the Red Cross responded to more house fires this year than any other type of disaster. Combined.

In the past week, the Central New York Chapter has provided assistance to 46 people who have been displaced from theirhomes by fires. In the past 24 hours, the Greater Rochester Chapter has responded to three separate fires, helping ten people. Yesterday afternoon, I joined Disaster Action Team volunteer Dennis as we assisted two people after a fire in Buffalo. While there was no media coverage like we saw during "Snowvember", all you had to do was look up at the sky where their roof was before the fire to realize this was truly a disaster for these people, especially coming so close to the holidays.

Between January 1 and December 1, 2014, the Red Cross provided food, clothing, shelter, comfort and hope to 3,381 people in Western and Central New York who had nowhere else to turn after a house fire. Tragically, we have also had 34 fire-related deaths in 2014. 

Disaster Action Team volunteer Dennis at a fire on
Bissell in Buffalo December 22
The Red Cross has launched a campaign to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries nationwide by 25 percent over the next five years. We are asking every household to take two simple steps: check your existing smoke alarms, and practice fire drills at home.

Don't have a smoke alarm? Part of the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign is to work with fire departments and community groups nationwide to install smoke alarms. Call (585) 241-4405 for more information about how you could have a free smoke alarm installed in your home!

As we prepared to flip the calendar to 2015, why not resolve to make your family better prepared for emergencies, including house fires? The Red Cross has also partnered with New York State to offer the Citizen Preparedness Corps program. In just 15 minutes, this online course will give you the knowledge and tools to prepare for disasters (just make sure you choose "Red Cross" from the referral dropdown menu!). You can also schedule a free, in-person Prepare, Respond, Recover: What to do When Disaster Strikes presentation at your school, business or organization. A trained representative will present the one-hour program, providing a comprehensive overview on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural and man-made disasters.

As if making your loved ones safer isn't enough of a holiday gift, all Western & Central NY Region in-person Citizen Preparedness Corps class registrants before March 31 will be entered to win one of two FREE generators! For more information on the Home Fire Preparedness campaign, Citizen Preparedness Corps, and how you could get a free smoke alarm or win a free generator, contact Individual and Community Preparedness Specialist Veronica Chiesi Brown at (585) 241-4405.

Let's work together to make 2015 Western and Central New York's safest year yet. That would truly be a gift that keeps on giving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Red Cross to Distribute Clean-Up Kits in Storm Affected Areas

The American Red Cross will be distributing free clean-up kits and other materials to help residents as they begin to recover from last week’s devastating lake effect snowstorm. Clean-up kits-including brooms, buckets, work and rubber gloves, bleach, tarps, shovels and more- will be available while supplies last, along with information on what to do after a flood and specially-trained Disaster Mental Health volunteers to help area residents deal with the emotional impact of this storm.

WHAT:          Red Cross clean-up materials distribution

WHEN:         Wednesday, November 26, 2pm-5pm
                        Friday, November 28, 11am-2pm

WHERE:      Iroquois Middle School, 2111 Girdle Road, Elma
                        St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran, 3512 Clinton Street, West Seneca                   

The Salvation Army will be providing hot meals at both locations on both Wednesday and Friday as they continue to support the relief efforts. The Salvation Army has provided over 2,000 meals since the relief efforts began last week. Volunteers from the Southern Baptists will also be supporting the distribution, joining some of the 114 Red Cross staff and volunteers currently working on the relief efforts.

The Red Cross continues to operate a shelter at Iroquois Middle School, where six people spent Monday night. Four Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) have been bringing food, water and additional support directly into the hardest hit areas, and Disaster Assessment teams have been assessing the damage and helping guide the response efforts.

The Red Cross continues to work with emergency officials at the state, county and local level to monitor developments and ensure that community needs are being met as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Digging out, then helping out

"I'm sore!" That's what Red Cross volunteer Mike Koscielny told me when I asked him how he was doing today. Why, you ask?

Mike joined the lake effect snow relief operation on Saturday after digging himself out of his Lancaster home.

"We had almost five feet," Mike said. "Shoveled for seven hours on Tuesday, then just tried to stay on top of it."

The backyard at Mike Koscielny's Lancaster home
Mike also helped neighbors shovel and fix their snow blowers as they broke down trying to move this unprecedented snowfall. ("Mine is being held together with tape and glue."). Furnaces were also an issue, icing up because of the amount of snow.

"Even walking was ridiculous," he says. "You were sinking down to your waist, like a quicksand of snow."

Despite it all, Mike said his neighbors have kept an optimistic attitude. For the most part.

"A couple said, 'that's it. I'm moving!' But your house will still be there when the snow melts. After a hurricane, it might not be."

After putting in all this effort to dig himself and his neighbors, you might think Mike would want to take a rest. But after his street was just plowed yesterday, Mike was here at our Clement Mansion headquarters first thing this morning, on the job working Disaster Services Technology and Staffing.

"Have to help everybody else," he says. "I'm done helping family and friends, everyone is safe. Now it's time to move on to helping other people."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

You Saved My Life!

“I haven’t had sleep in 24 hours!”
Jeanette Jay with Winging It TV's Matt Snyder at
Iroquois Middle School shelter

Jeanette Jay had been evacuated from her home in the French Quarter Mobile Park in West Seneca

Thursday evening when of the snow from the lake effect storm threatened to collapse her roof.

“There was 12 feet of snow in my driveway,” Jay said. “I left my pets behind, I had to make a decision. I’m lucky to be here.”

The emergency officials that rescued Jay bused her and almost 30 of her neighbors to the Red Cross shelter at Iroquois Middle School in Elma.

“The treatment has been out of this world,” Jay said of the volunteers who provided hot meals, a place to rest, and emotional support at the shelter. “The facilities are the best they could’ve taken people to.”
This picture gives you an idea of how much snow has
piled up on people's roofs

Jay actually came to Western New York after her Pennsylvania home was destroyed by fire years ago. However, she hadn’t needed Red Cross services until this storm, and she is grateful for all the help she's received.

“You saved my life,” she said.

65 people spent Friday night in Red Cross shelters at the Iroquois Middle School, 211 Girdle Road in Elma, and Goodell Hall, 12847 Erie Street in Irving. Volunteers continue to operate those shelters as preparations are being made for potential flooding in the next few days. Please take some time to prepare yourself and your family for possible flooding, and download the FREE Red Cross Flood App for real-time alerts and additional safety tips.

Friday, November 21, 2014

"It's My Little Adventure"

Joy Lawrence of Brampton, ONT
"I'm really enjoying this. I call it my little adventure!"

That's not exactly what you'd expect to hear from a trucker stranded by an unprecedented lake effect snowstorm. Joy Lawrence was trying to get his rig back to Brampton, Ontario, Canada Tuesday when the snow started falling.

"Almost made it," Lawrence said Thursday from the Red Cross shelter at Iroquois Middle School in Elma. "Got stuck at 2:30, slept in my truck. I'd never gotten stranded, never seen snow like this before."

After getting some help digging out his rig, two police officers led Lawrence to the Jamison Road fire hall. The next day, he and others were transferred to the larger shelter at Iroquois Middle, where volunteers were able to provide them with additional services including showers.

"Wow, Red Cross, you guys are awesome," Lawrence said. Really helpful, really kind, really understanding. They're willing to help you in every way. Food, shelter, nursing. Sometimes it's hard for me to explain. I'm 100% satisfied with your services.
The snow continued to fall outside our shelter at
Iroquois Middle School in Elma Thursday afternoon

Despite being stranded in a foreign country, Joy's spirit throughout his ordeal really lived up to his first name.

"I've met some really lovely people," he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Joy was one of 35 Canadians staying in Red Cross shelters in WNY. There were also 22 people from China, 3 from Brazil, and one each from Australia, India and the Philippines, making this a truly international operation.

"The American Red Cross is one of the best in the world," said Lawrence before returning home.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Red Cross Response to Lake Effect Snow Continues

The American Red Cross continues to operate and support multiple shelters across Western New York in response to the ongoing lake effect snow event. Over 200 people spent Tuesday evening in shelters, and volunteers are currently providing food, water, blankets and additional support at the following locations:

·         Alexander Fireman’s Recreation Hall
10708 Alexander Road, Alexander
·         Amherst Community Center
4255 Harlem Road, Amherst
·         Buffalo Fire Department
(supporting with 50 cots, blankets and comfort kits)
·         Cheektowaga Senior Center (supporting with blankets only)
3349 Broadway, Cheektowaga
·         Depew Senior Center
85 Manitou Street, Depew
·         Lackawanna Senior Center (limited access-attempting to support)
234 Martin Road, Lackawanna
·         Lancaster Fire Department (supporting with food)
525 Pavement Road, Lancaster
·         Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corp
(supporting with 30 cots and 40 blankets)
·         Orchard Park Presbyterian Church
4369 South Buffalo Street, Orchard Park
·         Ripley Fire Hall
11 South State Street, Ripley

In addition to thanking our volunteers who continue to donate their time and talents, the Red Cross wishes to thank Domino’s Pizza, Panera Bread, Tim Hortons and Wegmans for their generous donations to support these shelters, as well as Tops Markets for their support.

With additional lake effect snow warnings in effect for much of the area, Red Cross staff and volunteers remain in contact with emergency officials from across Western New York and are ready to respond as needed.

The Red Cross urges everyone to heed travel warnings and stay off the roads if possible. Residents should ensure that furnace vents are clear of snow in order to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Should residents lose power, don’t use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices in any enclosed area. Locate units away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Additional winter storm safety tips are available at www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Red Cross Opening or Supporting Additional Storm Shelters Across WNY

The American Red Cross is opening or supporting partner shelters across Western New York in response to the ongoing lake effect snow event. Volunteers will have food, water, blankets, cots and additional support available at the following locations:

·         Alexander Fireman’s Recreation Hall
10708 Alexander Road, Alexander
·         Cheektowaga Senior Center (providing blankets only)
3349 Broadway, Cheektowaga
·         Depew Senior Center
85 Manitou Street, Depew
·         Fredonia High School
425 East Main Road, Fredonia
·         Lackawanna Senior Center
234 Martin Road, Lackawanna
·         Lancaster Fire Department (providing food only)
525 Pavement Road, Lancaster
·         Orchard Park Fire District
30 School Street, Orchard Park

·         Ripley Fire Hall
11 South State Street, Ripley

As this lake event snow event continues, Red Cross staff and volunteers remain in contact with emergency officials from across Western New York and are ready to respond as needed. 

The Red Cross urges everyone to heed travel warnings and stay off the roads if possible. Additional winter storm safety tips are available at www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm

Volunteers also responded to two separate fires in Monroe County on Monday, November 17, providing immediate emergency assistance to four people. Our Disaster Action Team volunteers provided lodging for one survivor after a fire on Creekview Drive in Chili. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy, the 30th fire-related death in the 17-county Western New York/Finger Lakes Region in 2014. Our volunteers also provided food and lodging for two adults and a child after a fire on Boughton Hill Road in Mendon.

The American Red Cross, Western New York Chapter provides an average of just over $1,000 in direct financial assistance when responding to a single family house fire affecting a family of four. Anyone wishing to help people affected by fires, winter storms or other disasters is asked to consider donating to the Disaster Relief Fund by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, visiting www.redcross.org, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to charge a $10 donation to their cell phone bill.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's baack!!

So this is the view outside my office window right now:

I know what you're thinking. It's Western New York, in a few months we'll be longing to see that much green. That may be true, but the reality is, this is the first we've seen of the white stuff this season, with lake snow advisories in effect for parts of the area. So while the amount of snow you see on the ground today isn't enough to even slow down a true Western New Yorker, it's time to brush up on your winter safety tips, since we know this is only the beginning.

And while, of course, the best advice is to stay off the roads during blizzard conditions, that's not always possible. So here's a few winter driving tips to get you ready for the coming months:
• Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter with safe tires filled to proper pressure, a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications, blankets and important documents or information you may need.
• Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
• Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
• If you can, avoid driving in sleet, freezing rain, snow or dense fog. If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
• Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
• Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Accentuate the Positive

You may have seen and heard some negative stories surrounding the two-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy's landfall. The American Red Cross has responded to the reporting done by ProPublica and NPR (some of those responses can be found here, here and here), but it is still very difficult for those of us who were there not to take these stories personally. As my friend and volunteer Pete Swales, who spent 39 days working on the Sandy response, told me, "What ProPublica and NPR claim hurts terribly, and brings back all the ruination we witnessed and the amazing gratitude of the New Yorkers, even those that were not affected!"

What was left Michael O'Hanlon's Breezy Point home
after Superstorm Sandy
The last part of that sentence is what I want to focus on, the incredible work that I personally witnessed during my two weeks in NYC in November 2012. I think back to Miss Cynthia in the Rockaways, who was so grateful for the efforts of the nearly 17,000 volunteers who worked on the Sandy response that she told my colleague Katie and I, "You shouldn't be called the Red Cross. You should all be called angels." Or being interrupted while speaking to a union meeting by Michael O'Hanlon, who said, "The Red Cross is awesome!" He later showed my colleague Julie and I the pictures of what remained of his Breezy Point home, explaining that we had provided the only hot meals his family had eaten since swimming out of their home three weeks earlier. I am so proud to have been just one of the hundreds of Western and Central New Yorkers who have their own stories of traveling to help our downstate neighbors in need, and each of those incredible volunteers should remember the millions of people who were so grateful they were there to help them.

You may have also heard that the Red Cross is currently undergoing a transition in order to meet the growing demand for our services. While this will allow us to help even more people because we are operating more efficiently, changes such as these are never easy. But thanks to our amazing volunteers and supporters, the great work of the Red Cross continues in our communities each and every day. Last Tuesday, for example, two hours after arriving on the scene of an early-morning apartment fire in Niagara Falls, our volunteers had opened a shelter for the dozens of displaced families, without ever having stepped foot in the Niagara Falls office.

An Emergency Response Vehicle distributes supplies and
information to areas around Penn Yan hard-hit by flooding
in May
We know this new structure can work because it has already. In September 2013, the Yates County Chapter in Penn Yan was closed. Less than a year later, that area was affected by massive flooding. "We weren't happy when the office closed," Yates County Deputy EMO Diane Cabes told me. "But you were there when you needed to be, providing very beneficial services that were very appreciated." Those services included opening a shelter at the Penn Yan Academy in the initial hours after the storm's impact, then providing a total of 34 overnight shelter stays, serving serving over 600 meals and snacks, distributing 238 clean-up kits and providing emotional support and referrals to help the community get back on its feet in the weeks that followed.

"Disasters don't always happen where offices and staff are," said volunteer Donna Davis, who was among the first to respond in Penn Yan while water was still running through the streets. "Staff and volunteers know what to do. Regardless of where a disaster happens, if there's a need, the volunteers will be there."

That's the message that I hope everyone remembers moving forward. The Red Cross has the most incredible volunteers and supporters, and thanks to them, each of our communities will be able to count on us to provide these vital services tomorrow and for years to come.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Binghamton Family's Story on Today Show Highlights Importance of Fire Prevention Week

Smoke detector detecting smoke
This week marks Fire Prevention Week in the United States. Many organizations, including the American Red Cross, use this week to remind people of what they should be doing every day of the year.  One such story that highlights this is out of Binghamton. The Aissa family shared their heartbreaking story on the Today Show Tuesday. It highlights the importance of being prepared in case of a fire so you know what to do if one does happen in your home. 

Research shows fire departments respond to about 366,600 home fires a year across the United States. In those fires, more than 2,500 people die every year and about 13,000 others are hurt. The most common cause of these home fires is cooking.  
In our region, we have had a number of fires during the past few weeks. Some of these fires could have been prevented, while others may have not been. Accidents do happen, but you can take steps to drastically reduce the chance of a fire in your home.  Included in these steps is having a working smoke detector. Smoke detectors save lives and are available through the Red Cross and/or local fire departments as well as retail stores.   You can find more safety tips here:  http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/home-fire

Now that you have read the safety tips, just how fire safety savvy are you? Take the quiz to find out! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Preparedness doesn't end with September

As we get ready to turn flip the calender from September to October, we also prepare to close the book on another National Preparedness Month. That doesn't mean our focus on preparing our families for emergencies should be closed with it, however.

Just look at what happened last weekend. Disaster Action Team volunteers responded to 16 fires across our 17-county Region between Thursday and Tuesday. None of those families knew ahead of time that an emergency was about to turn their lives upside-down. But of course, we do know what happens as we continue to flip calendar pages towards the winter months. You may not want to think about "Polar Vortexes" when the sun is shining and temperatures are in the 70s, but now is the time to prepare for the inevitable winter weather.

The American Red Cross has partnered with New York State to offer the Citizen Preparedness Corps training, a free one-hour session that provides a comprehensive overview on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from both natural and man-made disasters. A number of sessions have already been scheduled across the region, including next Saturday, October 4, during the North Tonawanda Fall Festival and Craft Show. Thanks to the support of the East Hill Foundation, every family that attends either the 1pm or 3pm session will receive a free fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector!

If you can't make it to North Tonawanda, a full list of Citizen Preparedness Corps trainings will soon be available on our website. You can also schedule a free, one-hour training at your business, school or organization by contacting Justin Pitts or calling (716) 878-2238. You may not get some of the freebies at the other sessions, but you will receive information that could save your family's life, and isn't that reason enough?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Importance of Being Prepared

Unfortunately, between fires, drownings and even a possible tornado, we've had several recent incidents across the Western New York/Finger Lakes Region that remind us that disaster can strike anywhere, anytime. These tragedies are why we preach emergency preparedness and encourage everyone to take steps now to keep their family safe.

The most recent incident occurred late Tuesday evening, when a storm tore the roof off at least one home and knocked out power for hundreds in the Chemung County town of Baldwin. As the National Weather Service investigates to see if the damage was caused by a possible tornado, (UPDATE: The National Weather Service has since confirmed that a tornado did touch down in Baldwin) Red Cross Disaster Assessment volunteers are also on the ground, gathering the information we'll need to help the community recover from this storm.

Unfortunately, Upstate New York is become all too familiar with tornadoes this summer, and one way to prepare is to download the FREE Red Cross Tornado App. In addition to severe weather alerts that will let your family know when to take cover, the app also provides safety tips so you're family will know what to do if a storm rolls into your area.

The long holiday weekend also provided a tragic reminder of the importance of water safety after three drownings in Erie County. The summer may be coming to a close, but pools are still open, and natural bodies of water never close. Please, do whatever you can to help prevent these unthinkable tragedies. Make sure that you and your family learn to swim and take the proper safety precautions. Take a CPR/First Aid class and download the free First Aid app to help help you respond if an emergency does occur.

And the Labor Day weekend provided no break for our volunteers, who have responded to eight fires in Erie, Niagara and Orleans Counties alone since Saturday, providing food, clothing, comfort and support for 32 people, including four Tuesday evening in Lyndonville.

The American Red Cross is currently partnering with New York State to offer Governor Andrew Cuomo's Citizen Preparedness Corps training program, "Prepare, Respond, Recover: What to do When Disaster Strikes." The program provides residents with the tools and knowledge to prepare for emergencies and disasters, respond accordingly and recover to pre-disaster conditions as quickly as possible. If you'd like to help your community stay safe by scheduling a Citizen Preparedness Corps training at your school, business or other organization, please email Justin Pitts or call (716) 878-2238.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dansville to Celebrate Clara Barton

Dansville will celebrate the live and work of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton on Saturday the 23rd.   The Chamber of Commerce event will begin at 10am at the Dansville Lutheran Church on Clara Barton Street and run until 2pm. There will be food, music and activities as well as a showcase of area organizations including the Clara Barton Chapter of the American Red Cross. Event Information
Clara Barton
Clara Barton’s passion to alleviate human suffering began during the Civil War. She pleaded with the government and earned passes to enter battlefields to attend to wounded soldiers. This is where she earned the nickname the “Angel of the Battlefield”. Her time tending to these soldiers lead her desire to help others even after the war ended. It was years later in 1881, she founded the American Red Cross, in Dansville. Clara's History

She was a remarkable woman whose passion continues today here in our region and throughout the United States through the work of our extraordinary volunteers and generous donors. We thank all of you who have been a part and continue to be a part of one of the nation’s premier humanitarian organizations.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Elizabeth Cady Stanton students help Penn Yan Children

Mrs. Pucino’s third grade classroom at Elizabeth Cady Stanton Elementary School in Seneca Falls participated in one final act of kindness prior to the start of the summer vacation.  The children followed the local news in their classroom about the flooding in Penn Yan in May.  Many homes and businesses suffered significant damage and families lost many personal belongings.

With the help and encouragement of their teacher Mrs. Pucino, the students collected stuffed animals and toys for the boys and girls in Penn Yan so they would have something to call their own.  One of the students and an American Red Cross volunteer then delivered those items to the boys and girls. For their act of kindness and selflessness, the students along with Mrs. Pucino received a certificate from the American Red Cross on the final day of school, thanking them for “making a difference”.

Mrs. Pucino retired from the Seneca Falls School District this past June after 40 years of service.  During that time she shared the importance of always using both your head and your heart.  Her classroom did just that!  They used their head to find a project which met a need and their hearts to make sure the project was a success for those counting on them.  These students followed the example and the mission of the Red Cross of alleviating human suffering by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. We thank them and look forward to them becoming future Red Cross volunteers!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Baseball, apple pie and American heroes

There's nothing more American than baseball, and we owe the freedom to enjoy the national pastime to the sacrifices of our military men and women. So, what better way to recognize our Veterans than by taking them out to the ballgame?

Last night, the American Red Cross hosted veterans from the Batavia Veterans Administration Hospital at the Batavia Muckdogs game at Dywer Stadium. The tickets for the game were donated to the American Red Cross by Dr. Paul C. Stomper of East Amherst, and the Red Cross also provided the meals for the Veterans in attendance (no word on if apple pie was on the menu). A picture-perfect night was made even better when the hometown Muckdogs beat the Staten Island Yankees, 5-3.

The Red Cross would like to thank Dr. Stomper and the Batavia Muckdogs for their generosity and support of our veterans, and our own Suzanne Falise for making the necessary arrangements. 

The American Red Cross serves and supports members of the military, veterans and their families by providing needed comfort and care in military and veterans hospitals, support for military families with vital social services and emergency communications to keep families connected when they need it most. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Red Cross Always Responds

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the American Red Cross is always there. It may be because we don’t necessarily hear about it every day and like most things when you don’t hear about it you forget.


In the midst of weeks of unsettled weather and the busyness of summer, volunteers were hard at work in the Finger Lakes and Wayne County. Below is a list of incidents our volunteers responded to and provided help to those in need.


July 29th:

·         Volunteers assisted two adults with food and housing after a single family home collapsed on West River Road in Waterloo, Seneca County

·         Volunteers assisted two families (two adults and six children) with food, clothing and transportation after an apartment building hazmat incident on West Bayard Street in Seneca Falls, Seneca County.

July 31st:

·         Volunteers assisted two adults and one child with food following an apartment fire on West Main Street in Palmyra, Wayne County

August 2nd:

·          Volunteers assisted two adults and one child with food and housing after a tree fell onto a home on West Maple Street in Newark during a thunderstorm.

August 3rd:

·         Volunteers assisted two adults, six children and one infant with food, clothing and housing after their home flooded on Seybolt Road in Seneca Falls, Seneca County.

·         Volunteers assisted two adults and one child with food and housing after their home flooded on East Elisha Street in Waterloo, Seneca County.

Incidents from house fires to floods happen often and the Red Cross is always there. It is not a question of if they respond, it is when. As long as the need is there, volunteers will be there too. The good work these people do is made possible through and only through the generosity of donors. Please consider being a volunteer or making a donation to the Red Cross to help people like these who need help when the unexpected happens.

How You Can Help


-Veronica R. Chiesi Brown
Communications Specialist
American Red Cross WNY/Finger Lakes Region


Friday, August 1, 2014

Twilight Run Races to Success!

Who knew so many people love to run? Hundreds of people turned out to support the Red Cross Thursday night for the annual Twilight run. This year’s event featured two changes from previous years:  Sonnenberg Gardens played host for the first time, and organizers added a 10k for those long distance-loving runners in addition to the traditional 5k.

The race and post-race party turned out to be a roaring success. It included several different vendors, a live band, food the Red Cross kitchen staff provided and drinks generously donated for the event. All of this happened on the historic grounds of Sonnenberg.

I myself did participate in the 5k. The route was well laid out and it took us through Sonnenberg to the VA hospital grounds (which are very beautiful as well) and some of the gorgeous neighborhoods in the City of Canandaigua.  The weather was almost perfect, even if it was a touch humid, and although earlier in the day some dark clouds loomed, Mother Nature even appeared to smile down on the event. 

The people who attended seemed to have lots of fun from, the very small to the very tall. Friendly faces and happy people abound in a place which holds its own kind of heavenly appeal. So many came out to not only run in support of the American Red Cross, but also came to celebrate the runners at the after party.  All of these people-from the attendees to the numerous volunteers to the staff-helped raise more than $15,000 for disaster relief. 

Thank you to all who attended the event and congratulations to the winners in the various categories. We couldn’t have done it without you and as always appreciate your support for this fun and family-friendly event!

-Veronica R. Chiesi Brown
Communications Specialist
Western New York/Finger Lakes Region

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another unfortunate first

Every time I respond to a disaster, be it a single-family house fire here in Western New York or a massive response like Hurricane Sandy, chances are I'll see or experience something completely new. That's the nature of disasters: no two are completely alike, and yesterday was no exception.

Monday afternoon, fellow Disaster Action Team member Julie and I drove to the scene of a fire in Hamburg, Erie County. The fire department had already done its job, so we were looking at house numbers to find the correct location. As we pulled up, I said to Julie, "Oh man, it's the one with the 'sold' sign in front." As we began talking with the current resident, we found out he had just moved in and was still in the process of closing on the home. Thankfully, he and his son were not injured, but he was understandably devastated as the "perfect" home he had searched long and hard for was suddenly uninhabitable.

Thanks to your support, we were able to provide this man and his son with food and lodging so they could take a couple days to catch their breath, and the Red Cross will continue to provide support and referrals as they figure out the next steps in their recovery. As always, I am so proud to be a part of an organization that provides a glimmer of hope to people in their darkest hours.

This situation also proves that disasters are never convenient. They can happen anytime, anywhere, so please take the time to prepare now and keep your loved ones as safe as possible.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tornado App "interruptions" can be life-saving

I was having a nice, leisurely Sunday dinner with the family yesterday afternoon when our meal was interrupted by a phone going off. Normally, I would be embarrassed to admit it was my phone that ruined the conversation, but not in this case. You see, it wasn't just a text or an email I was getting, it was a tornado warning alert from my Red Cross Tornado App, and it could have been a life-saver.

Because of my role with the Western New York/Finger Lakes Region, I have set my app to monitor all 17 counties that we cover. This alert did not affect Wayne County, where my family was enjoying dinner with my folks, so no action was needed on our part. However, had we been in Schuyler or Chemung Counties, we would've known it was time to take immediate action and head to the basement until the danger had passed.

This morning, the National Weather Service has confirmed that an EF-1 Tornado did touch down in Schuyler County on Sunday. Thankfully, the Red Cross has only been asked to help one family whose home was severely damaged in the Town of Reading, but this storm comes just a week our Central New York neighbors were devastated by a tornado that unfortunately claimed four lives in Smithfield.

Clearly, the danger of tornadoes is real for those of us in Western New York and the Finger Lakes, and the time to prepare is now. Please download the FREE Tornado App for your iPhone or Android device today and get real-time severe weather alerts and information wherever you currently are. Once you have the App, follow the preparedness tips it provides, things like putting together an emergency kit and creating a household plan. Then, should the tornado warning alert where you are--and trust me, no one will be upset about that interruption--you'll be prepared to keep your family safe.

Monday, July 7, 2014

"Waking up the Dead" by Restoring Family Links

One of the perhaps lesser-known services of the American Red Cross is reconnecting families separated internationally. Like most of our services, this is done largely through the efforts of our incredible volunteers such as Mohamed Kissma. Prior to arriving in the United States nearly a year ago, Mohamed worked for the Red Cross Society in his native Sierra Leone. Now an International Services volunteer living in Rochester, Mohamed shared this uniquely personal account of helping a teen now living in Liberia reconnect with his native village:

There is hardly anything more painful than finding oneself in the midst of unfamiliar faces after having been separated from loved ones as a result a nerve-breaking circumstance. Some people could go on an empty stomach for hours or even days because of the grinding pain caused by having no immediate relatives, and in the worst cases no familiar face to turn to. This pain was a common experience Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees and displaced persons went through during and after years of internal armed conflict. 

Warranted by this situation, the International Red Cross Movement stepped up to its international responsibility by facilitating restoration of family links (RFL) between separated families.

As an RFL caseworker, I completed my notes and proposed actions on each case planned for the following week on a Thursday afternoon and set off for Katanga village to deliver Red Cross Messages (RCMs). A five-year-old boy (now 17) left behind by his parents during a brutal invasion could remember his father’s nick-name and his birth village. The Red Cross registered and kept track of his movement for six months until he could finally put together the pieces of a heart-trembling experience 12 years ago. 

His father was killed during one of the attacks on the village. During this attack his elder brother and sister, ages 10 and 12 at that time, were conscripted by one of the fighting forces. They were later reported dead. The only surviving member of the family was the mother. She lived in a state of despondency in a one-bedroom mud hut on the outskirts of the village since she got back from hiding.

Like most villages in that region, it was the tradition of Katanga to perform sacrifice for the ‘departed’. In observance of this tradition, the community decided to perform a ceremony for her family on a Friday.

I got to this village the same day. On arrival, I went to the chief to observe the usual courtesies. He halted me a few minutes into the briefing. ‘Stop! Stop!’ he said. ‘This is meant for the ears of the entire village’, he jumped out of his seat.

This got me nervous and uneasy! It sent shock waves down my spine. The chief and his men marshaled me to a large gathering a few yards from his house, where the ceremony was taking place. In a split second we were surrounded by almost the entire village.

In a few more seconds a woman in her early fifties emerged from the middle of the crowd. In no time she became the center of attention. It became obvious at that point she was the reason for my visit. It was apparent from the tears raining down her cheek that she already knew about the boy's message.

The chief requested I deliver the message to the woman publicly, against the normal practice. Everyone present burst into tears. Tears of joy, I believe.

A few yards away from where I stood, I overheard an old man say, ‘Red Cross de gi life to die man’ meaning, ‘the Red Cross raises the dead’. No one imagined this could have happened because everyone believed the boy was dead. Receiving a message from him was like waking the dead from the grave.

Food was served and prayers offered for the late father, brother and sister. I collected the reply and took some pictures to deliver to the boy in a refugee camp in Liberia.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Living the American Dream

by: Veronica R. Chiesi Brown

I have always considered myself very patriotic. My father served in the Navy during Vietnam, my grandfathers served during WWII and my great uncle also served in WWII and was killed in action. Because of this we always had a flag flying in some capacity, we always knew to put our hand over our hearts for the pledge and we took our hats off for the pledge and or anthem. Our parents and their parents taught us to have pride and respect for our country. We realized as much as we could even at a young age the cost of freedom and how lucky we were.

One of those people today who has respect and appreciation for this country is Mustafa Almansur. Mustafa was born in Basra, Iraq. He served in the Iraqi military and later became a prisoner of war for 3 years. After that time he came to the United States, joined the U.S. Army and eventually made his way to Rochester where he owns his own convenience store. The Red Cross helped Mustafa obtain a Certificate of Detention which is the first step for him to receive reparations for the years he was a prisoner of war. He is among many Iraq refugees in the United States who have already received certificates. I met Mustafa and he is genuinely grateful for all the United States and the organizations within it have done for him. He understands how fortunate he is to live in a country such as this. He knows that he is in the best place possible. He knows he is home. (for more on his story: Red Cross - Greater Rochester Chapter or TWC News Mustafa Story.

We should all be more like Mustafa. I’m not saying our country is perfect because it isn’t. I am saying that it is OUR country and we should take pride in that. We should remember that the freedom we have is because so many before us believed so completely in this great country they died to protect it. 

So when you are having your picnic (please remember not to burn yourself with the grill – aka common sense) or swimming (remember all your swim safety rules) or watching fireworks (remember they are illegal in New York BUT just in case: July 4th Safety Tips) and or you hear the National Anthem,  God Bless America or another patriotic song, I hope you get the goose bumps as I do when I think about the great United States of America and how blessed we really are to live here.