I grew up in a small town similar to Penn Yan. It is the type of place that some people may have never heard of and few may have visited until now. I myself knew where it was but had never been there until after the flooding.
Driving down to Penn Yan, it was hard to tell that there was a flood. It wasn’t until you got right into the center of the village you saw what everyone was talking about. Cars were at an angle mixed in with uprooted pavement in a parking lot. A building collapsed and mud was all over the place. It really did look like something out of a movie. At one point water was gushing down a residential street and crews were trying to get sandbags out fast enough to protect homes with the water well above their knees.
The day before I actually got to Penn Yan, people said creeks and streams flowed rapidly over and onto roads and parking lots pushing large rocks like they were tiny pebbles. I saw the creek they were talking about when I got there. It looked like white water rapids and not a little narrow body of water that usually is so peaceful. I saw the aftermath of mud all over the street, parking lot and tennis courts.
It is through a situation like this that you see humanity in action. Webster’s Dictionary defines humanity as “the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals” It is one of the principles of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross is there whenever disaster strikes to, as the organization’s mission states, “alleviate human suffering”. Volunteers deploy to these areas in need of help bring a glimmer of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
That brings me to probably the most awe inspiring FACT about this disaster. The American Red Cross was EVERYWHERE. Volunteers from Niagara Falls to Rochester to Schuyler County to Elmira and everywhere in between mobilized in Penn Yan. They volunteered for 12 hour to sometimes 24 hour shifts at the shelter at Penn Yan Academy. Still others volunteered in the Penn Yan and surrounding communities delivering clean up kits and offering advice on what was next for those who suffered losses in the flood.
While volunteers were in Yates County dealing with flooding other volunteers were dispatched to Monroe County in Fairport to provide relief for those impacted after flooding along the Erie Canal. Still other volunteers in Wayne County helped a family who had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in their home while their colleagues were still assisting with flooding.
So next time you ask yourself about the American Red Cross and what they do, think of this week in May of 2014. Volunteers (whom make up more than 90 percent of the Red Cross) and staff were spread throughout the Region providing assistance to those in need because that is what the Red Cross does. The Red Cross is always there and will always be there when the dust, mud, wind, snow and rain settle. How can they be everywhere? Through the generosity of donors like you they can be. With your generosity, the Red Cross is able to be the light at the end of the tunnel. Isn’t it comforting to know that if you ever have to deal with a disaster, there are people just waiting there to help you – The American Red Cross.
-Veronica R. Chiesi Brown