Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sorry, Jimmy Griffin!

Volunteers Pete Peterson and Mary Walker at a shelter
in Southwestern New York
During the Blizzard of 1985, former Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin said, "Stay inside, grab a six-pack and watch a good football game." Unfortunately, during the "Polar Vortex" of 2014, our staff and volunteers from across the Western New York and Finger Lakes Regions haven't exactly had time to do that.

In Rochester, we opened nine shelters as part of the City's "Heat Sweep" program. Working in the 50 Prince Street office, it was amazing to see how quickly the volunteers came together to honor this request from City Hall to help our neighbors in need. On the western end of our region, staff and volunteers opened shelters in Ripley and Irving to help travelers stranded by Thruway and other road closures come in out of the cold. Over 70 people spend Monday night at Red Cross shelters, and warming stations were also opened in Wellsville and Cuba.

Of course, our response to this winter weather didn't end with sheltering. In Rochester, a reporter called me about an international family stranded at the airport by flight diversions and cancellations until Friday. Our emergency services team worked with the airline to ensure this story had a happy ending.

Coffee and water ready for residents at Gantt Center shelter
in Rochester (courtesy of Wegmans)
And much like the post office, neither snow nor bitter cold can stop our volunteers from helping those in need after a fire. We provided assistance including Disaster Mental Health services to three survivors of a fire in Niagara Falls, helped 11 people after an Orchard Park apartment fire, and 11 people--including some who were apparently part of a heroic rescue effort by first responders--in Middleport. Whether or not our bitter cold weather was a factor in these incidents, the Western New York and Finger Lakes Regions have responded to 10 fires since Monday, helping over 50 people who lost everything in the blink of an eye.

We are only able to provide this vital service to the community because of your support, so THANK YOU to all or our supporters, and of course the volunteers who braved the elements to help our neighbors in need this week. And don't worry, we're still ready to respond if necessary after the upcoming flood watch as well!

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