Friday, October 23, 2015

FDNY Heeds the Call in South Carolina

Editors note: Chief Communications Officer Jay Bonafede is one of 22 Western and Central New York Region volunteers who have been have been part of the flood relief efforts in South Carolina:

FDNY DART team members assess the flood damage outside
a home on Jackson Bluff Road in Conway, S.C, where the
roadway is still partially flooded weeks after the storm. 
“Tell us what you need, we’ll get it done.”

Doug Bainton and the other members of the New York City Fire Department’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) have been getting it done as Red Cross partners for 25 years. Currently, 13 active duty and retired FDNY members are in South Carolina, where they’ve been providing relief and comfort to people after this month’s historic flooding since they arrived on October 12.

“This is kind of what we do,” Bainton says. “We help people for a living. This is just another way of doing it.”

This unique partnership began during Hurricane Hugo in 1989, when the Red Cross made a request for Spanish-speaking volunteers. Some FDNY members were able to help, and a year and a half later, they formed a response team made up entirely of firemen. Over the past 25 years, Bainton says the DART team has helped the Red Cross respond to disasters in every state in the union.

“It’s a way to give back,” Bainton said. “9/11 was obviously a big deal for us, something that will never go away. Half the world has already forgotten what happened here in South Carolina. We understand what that’s like.”

FDNY DART team members leave Red Cross relief supplies
outside a home in the Lee’s Landing neighborhood of
 Conway, S.C., where yards remain underwater weeks
 after flood waters reached their highest points.
The DART team members--who donate their FDNY vacation time to deploy to these disaster sites--have done everything from driving Emergency Response Vehicles to running warehouses during their 25 years as Red Cross response partners. On Thursday, the DART team did disaster assessment and brought clean-up supplies to residents in Lee’s Landing and other Conway, S.C. neighborhoods that remain so water-logged, one of the team’s vehicles became temporarily stuck in the mud.

“We’re often the first agencies to bring help to these people. That’s important,” Bainton said of the DART team and the Red Cross. “We get a lot of hugs. Grown men will sometimes start crying, and then you start crying. All they need is that minute, and then they’re fine. And they’re so grateful someone is helping them. That’s why we come back.” 

They’re #SCStrong, but Browns Ferry, S.C. Still Needs Help

Editors note: Chief Communications Officer Jay Bonafede is one of 22 Western and Central NY Volunteers who have been a part of the flood relief efforts in South Carolina. 

All of Robert Linnen’s furniture and carpeting are now sitting destroyed on his front lawn in Browns Ferry, Georgetown County, S.C.. You can see the water line on the end table. 

Linnen shows how high the flood waters rose on
 his Browns Ferry front porch. At one point, there was
 over a foot and a half of water inside his home.
The storm took place three weeks ago, but in the Browns Ferry neighborhood of Georgetown County, South Carolina, evidence of the historic flooding earlier this month remains readily apparent.

“We lost everything,” said Robert Linnen from his front porch on Mae Place. In the front yard lay all of his carpeting and furniture, destroyed by water from the crested Black River.

“There was a foot and a half inside the house,” he says. “Every day, it got higher and higher.”

“Never thought this could happen,” said Linnen’s neighbor, Cliff Ford. “We heard the warnings, but thought, ‘we’ll be okay’.”

Ford’s home was unaffected by the flooding, and Linnen’s family has been staying with his mother-in-law, whose home also stayed dry. However, the entire Browns Ferry neighborhood was cut off by the floods. For weeks, area residents only access to food and water was emergency supplies distributed at a local church. The area is just now becoming accessible, and Red Cross disaster assessment teams and caseworkers are beginning to go door to door to meet with the families and help them begin the long road to recovery.

District 2 Job Director Rick Schou meets with Browns Ferry
resident Robert Linnen to do disaster assessment of
his flooded home. Schou will send caseworkers to meet
with Linnen and his neighbors to help them begin the
recovery process. 
“It means a whole lot,” said Cliff. “Sometimes, people forget that we’re here. But we need help, and it’s just a blessing to have you people here and caring for us.”

My Red Cross Story, by Madolyn DeVelder

When I was about seven years old my house burned down. It was a house fire in Churchville, NY. I remember being so very afraid and wondering what we were going to do. All it took was my dad knocking over the kerosene heater. The automatic shut off on the heater was broken, so it instantly started.

Luckily, we were all downstairs in the living room because it was so cold with no heat in the rest of the house. I was laying on the carpet in front of the television reading my books. My dad yelled, "Get out of the house now!", and we all ran out. My mom grabbed my sister and we went to the van. We had a lot of stuff in a storage unit at that point in time, but we still had clothing and other essentials in the house. My grandmother lived down the road so we went there.

The American Red Cross showed up and gave my family some blankets and warm clothes to put on. They helped make us feel safe when we had lost a lot. The American Red Cross actually replaced some of my books that I lost in the fire. I was so grateful because my books were and still are my life. I actually still have the books they replaced, and I have every intention of letting my children know about the amazing group that gave them to me and why.

The Red Cross gave my family hope and brought smiles to our faces when all we wanted to do was cry. They brought my sister and I some Barbie dolls to play with and gave my brothers some footballs. We were given something incredible by a group of strangers, and that was hope. Hope that there were still good people in the world and hope that these people would continue to help others.

I am so proud to be a part of their work, and I am so very happy that I get to help and give that hope to others. The American Red Cross is truly a place that gives hope. This is why I chose to volunteer my time to help out. I hope my story inspires others and shows them that we are here to help. There are still people out there that will help. Never forget that sometimes things have to go wrong in order to go right.

Madolyn DeVelder, American Red Cross Intern

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Three Regional Volunteers Deploying to Support South Carolina Flood Relief

22 Western and Central NY volunteers have been part of relief efforts
Sunday, October 18, 2015As people in South Carolina continue to clean up after the recent devastating flooding, the American Red Cross is working alongside community partners to provide help and support throughout the affected communities.
Three additional Western and Central New York volunteers have or will be deploying to South Carolina this weekend, making a total of 22 Regional volunteers who are supporting the relief efforts. James Segerson of Rochester deployed on Saturday, while Lucille Frisicano of Webster traveled on Sunday. Both Frisicano and Segerson will be working in Health Services.
Jay Bonafede, a Tonawanda resident and Marion, NY native, will be deploying to South Carolina on Monday to volunteer in Public Affairs. 

More than 800 Red Cross workers and 45 response vehicles have been deployed to South Carolina to help. Many residents have been able to return home, but as many as 190 people spent Thursday night in four Red Cross and community shelters in South Carolina. The Red Cross is working with community partners to distribute meals and relief supplies both at central distribution sites and throughout affected communities. Items include comfort kits containing personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies such as tarps, flashlights, trash bags, shovels, rakes, bleach and work gloves, as well as hot meals. Since the flooding began, the Red Cross has distributed thousands of relief items and more than 100,000 meals and snacks.

Red Cross caseworkers are meeting one-on-one with people to create recovery plans, navigate paperwork and connect them with resources. In some situations, the Red Cross is providing direct financial support to people who need extra help. The Red Cross is also providing health and mental health services, offering comfort and helping to replace lost eyeglasses and medications. Recovering from a disaster takes time and the Red Cross will be on the ground helping residents in the weeks and months ahead as they get back on their feet.

The Red Cross relies on financial contributions to provide help and comfort to disaster victims anywhere, anytime. You can help people affected by disasters like floods, home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.