Friday, December 23, 2016

Resolve to Prepare!

The New Year is coming and many are making their New Year's resolutions. We're asking everyone to add getting prepared for emergencies to their list for 2017.

Families need to plan as to what they should do if a disaster occurs. People can make a difference in your community by knowing what to do when disaster strikes. It’s just a few short steps away:

1. Get a kit. If you’ve ever fumbled to find a flashlight during a blackout, you know what it feels like to be unprepared. Use a downloadable checklist  available on to make it easy to get your emergency preparedness kit ready. You should include:
  • Three-day supply of non-perishable food and water—one gallon per person, per day for drinking and hygiene purposes
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit, medications and medical items
  • Copies of all important documents (proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Extra cash
  • Choose a contact person from out of the area and make sure all household members have this person’s phone number and email address. It may be easier to call long distance or text if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service.
  • Tell everyone in the household where emergency information and supplies are kept.
  • Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on a map in case main roads are impassable.
  • Don’t forget your pets. If you must evacuate, make arrangements for your animals. Keep a phone list of “pet friendly” motels/hotels and animal shelters that are along your evacuation routes.
  • If you live or travel often to areas near a fault line, learn how to prepare and what to do during an earthquake. If summer brings to mind not just beaches and picnics but also tropical storms and hurricanes, arm yourself with information about what to do in case one occurs. Remember that emergencies like fires and blackouts can happen anywhere, so everyone should be prepared for them.
  • Find out how you would receive information from local officials in the event of an emergency.
  • Learn First Aid and CPR/AED so that you have the skills to respond in an emergency before help arrives, especially during a disaster when emergency responders maybe delayed. Visit for online and in-class offerings and to register.

2. Make a plan. Talk with household members about what you would do during emergencies. Plan what to do in case you are separated, and choose two places to meet - one right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire, and another outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate. 

3. Be informed. Know the risks where you live, work, learn and play.

The Red Cross Emergency App provides real-time emergency alerts and information about what to do in case of emergencies, as well as locations of open Red Cross shelters. It is a single ‘go-to’ source for 14 different types of emergencies and disasters and allows users to notify loved ones who are in an affected area. The Monster Guard App gives 7- to 11-year-olds a free, fun, gaming environment to learn how to prevent emergencies, like home fires, and how to stay safe if severe weather or natural disasters occur. You can download the apps for free in your app stores or at

The Red Cross has also partnered with New York State to offer free Citizen Preparedness Corps training. Available online or in person, the training provides information about common types of natural and man-made disasters and teaches effective ways to prepare for, respond to and recover from them as an individual, family and community. 

Most of all, on behalf of all of us at the Western and Central New York Region, best wishes for a very happy--and safe!!!--2017.

Friday, November 11, 2016

"It's a blessing to be with people that care"

"It was really bad. The first thing that came to mind was 9/11, and that's exactly what it looked like."

Rose Blattenbeger had no idea that 90%
of the American Red Cross workforce are
volunteers until she came to the shelter
at Lackawanna High School
Rose Blattenberger lives in Bethlehem Park in Lackawanna, and says the massive fire that broke out at the former Bethlehem Steel plant on Wednesday, November 9 was terrifying.

"We were so lucky that the wind went to the opposite side, otherwise all those houses would've gotten on fire, and everything would've gone down like dominoes," she said. Unfortunately, the winds shifted the next day, and the thick, black smoke forced Rose and her neighbors to evacuate. She was one of 13 people who spent Thursday night at a Red Cross shelter at Lackawanna High School.

April Brough said it's a "blessing" to have
Red Cross volunteers taking care of her
and her family
"It's not home, but it's a blessing to be with people that care," Rose said of the Red Cross volunteers. "They provide us with food, beverages, and I'm lucky to be with my neighbors. It's just a blessing to be here instead of being at home, breathing that smoke."

"They go above and beyond the call of duty to be of assistance to someone who might be in a difficult situation," added April Brough, who was staying at the shelter along with her husband and three young children. April also encouraged any of her neighbors trying to stick it out to listen to the evacuation warnings: "Don't be stubborn, all that they're doing is looking is looking out for our safety. Especially seeing how well you guys have taken care of my family."

"Being here, you are with people that care. And that's the best thing that one can have is people that care, and they're nice," added Rose. "I just heard about the Red Cross, that they're all volunteers, and they don't get paid for that, and I was not aware of that. I would recommend the Red Cross sky high from now on."

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Message from our Greater Rochester Chapter Board Chair

As both the Chair of the American Red Cross, Greater Rochester Chapter Board of Directors, and a Red Cross volunteer, I would like to address some of the facts reported in the Democrat and Chronicle on Sunday, September 4.

The American Red Cross is proud of its heritage here in Greater Rochester. Clara Barton founded the first Chapter of the American Red Cross in Dansville in 1881. Our current location on Elizabeth Street in Dansville serves not only as meeting and storage space for our Livingston County staff and volunteers, but also as a museum to the rich history of the Red Cross. During Dansville’s Clara Barton Day celebration last month, our staff led walking tours for the community and opened our home for the public to see and enjoy the many historic artifacts preserved there. If you missed that opportunity, you can schedule a tour and learn more about this important piece of our community’s history by calling 585-335-3500.

The Red Cross is also proud to be a long-standing United Way partner. There is no single organization that can meet all the needs of a community. The collectively negotiated annual allocation we receive from the United Way—agreed upon prior to the “Vision 2017” national reorganization of the Red Cross referenced in the article--helps the Red Cross fill our role of helping this community prevent, prepare for and respond to disaster, while the United Way also continues to support other deserving organizations that serve different needs across our community.

It is also important to note that the “Vision 2017” national reorganization was actually completed in the fall of 2014, following discussions during the Great Recession as to how to best serve our communities in a different economic climate. Although our brick and mortar presence has changed, our physical presence in terms of our volunteer outreach has not. In the past year alone, Red Cross volunteers in Livingston, Monroe and Ontario Counties: provided food, clothing, shelter and support for over 1,000 of our neighbors in need after home fires and other disasters; installed 760 free smoke alarms to help families reduce the risk of fire-related death and injury; trained over 18,400 people in life-saving CPR/AED, First Aid and other Health & Safety programs; collected over 41,400 units of blood--each of which can help save up to three lives-- at over 2,100 blood drives; and opened 314 cases to help our military members and their families, while distributing nearly 3,000 Military Resource Guides as well as over 520 cold weather and comfort kits to Veterans and Homeless Veteran Partner Agencies. These incredible services that occur each and every day are a direct result of the reorganization completed two years ago to meet the growing demand for our services while making the best use of donor dollars. In fact, an average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends goes directly to these humanitarian programs.

The American Red Cross is not brick and mortar buildings; it’s neighbors helping neighbors. While most of us were sleeping early Tuesday morning, Red Cross volunteers Melissa Miller and Herb Wolfe were on the scene of a fire that destroyed three homes on Myrtle Street in Rochester. As our over 1,000 volunteers do each and every day, Melissa and Herb not only provided 13 of our neighbors with a safe place to stay, food, clothing and support, they also gave these families something else: Hope. You can help families with nowhere else to turn know that their community will help pick them up in their darkest hours by supporting the Red Cross, either as a donor or a volunteer. You can learn more by visiting or calling 585-241-4400. The American Red Cross has been in Greater Rochester for 135 years, and thanks to your support, we will continue to be a vital part of this amazing community for many years to come.

Diana Clarkson
Board Chair 
American Red Cross, Greater Rochester Chapter

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Mayor of River Center

Story and photos by: Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross

“It’s the Mayor of River Center!”

That’s how shelter manager Bill Slotter greeted River Center shelter resident Cornell Legarde when starting his overnight shift at the Louisiana flood shelter in Baton Rouge. When talking to Cornell, it doesn’t take long to figure out where his nickname came from.

“You gotta keep a smile, no matter what you’re going through,” Cornell says he tells his fellow shelter residents. “At the other end of the rainbow, you’re gonna smile again anyway.”

It would be easy for Cornell to complain. The storm initially hit another area, and he thought he would be safe. When the water started rising at his home, he had to evacuate quickly, and has been staying at the River Center for nearly two weeks. Despite the dark times, Cornell’s sunny attitude is contagious among not only his fellow residents, but the volunteers working at the shelter as well.

“You see people working together as a team,” he says. “A non-denominational church came in on Sunday. They told us this was like a small church, everyone needs to come together. That’s kind of what the Red Cross provides, and that’s why I love it.”

Red Cross shelter manager Bill Slotter (right), a volunteer from Philadelphia, calls resident Cornell Legarde “The Mayor of River Center”. Cornell spreads a positive attitude throughout the Baton Rouge shelter for people evacuated after massive flooding affected much of Louisiana. “You gotta keep a smile, no matter what,” he says.

Miss Becky and her “Angels”

Story and photo by: Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross

Johnnie B. Walker and her family were forced from their Denham Springs home when much of Louisiana was affected by massive flooding in mid-August. They initially evacuated to a store parking lot, but were trapped there by the rising waters overnight, until military trucks brought them to a makeshift shelter set up at the Satsuma Community Center.

“That’s when Miss Becky and her angels showed up,” she says of shelter manager Becky Bowie and the Red Cross volunteers who worked to turn the makeshift shelter into something more pleasant for everyone. When Becky arrived, she met a single father with six kids who had been sleeping on the floor.

“When I set up the cots, he just started crying, hugged me and said, ‘Thank you, God,’” Becky said. Since then, the shelter moved to the North Park Recreation Center, but the volunteers and residents remain a tight-knit group.

“Anything we needed, they made it happen, and they’re still making it happen,” said Johnnie. “They treat everyone like family.”

“We practically live together, laugh and cry with each other,” Becky says. “The hard part is yet to come. Leaving, leaving them.”

“We know the volunteers have to go back to their families, but we’re all gonna cry,” says Johnnie, or “Mama J” as Becky calls her. “You’ve got to look out for each other in times like this. They treat us awesome.” 

North Park Recreation Center shelter manager Becky Bowie (L) calls resident Johnnie B. Walker “Mama J”. The two have been together since massive flooding ravaged much of Louisiana nearly two weeks ago. “Something good’s got to come out of this,” Walker says. “They treat us like family. When they leave, we’re going to cry.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

Spending Summer Break Helping

Brittney Valdez (l) and Sarah Ayala came to the #LockportFire
shelter at North park Junior High School looking to volunteer
Most college students are spending these last few days of summer break getting ready to return to school. Cornell University sophomore-to-be Brittney Valdez decided she wanted to spend her Thursday a little differently.

"If someone is in a crisis and I can offer comfort, that would be really awesome," said Valdez, a Lockport resident. Valdez and her friend Sarah Ayala came to the Red Cross shelter at North Park Junior High School, looking for ways to help those affected when a large tire fire forced eight surrounding blocks to evacuate.

"This is a small community," Valdez said. "It's devastating."

"I'm travelling from Texas," said Ayala, who met Valdez about six years ago when she also lived in the Lone Star State. "Maybe I was meant to help out. I can't explain it."

Sarah Ayala (l) and Brittney Valdez help Red Cross volunteers
inventory comfort kits at North Park Junior High School shelter
for #LockportFire evacuees
Ayala and Valdez started by helping volunteers inventory the comfort kits at the shelter. Those comfort kits were surrounded by other examples of the Lockport and Western New York community coming together to help their neighbors in need: Cases of water donated by Wegmans, Wal-Mart, Tops and Lockport residents.

"I think it's a test of character, the type of person who would volunteer," Ayala says. "No matter how bad my day has been, I still have a chance to help other people."

Red Cross volunteers will continue to support displaced residents and the firefighters and other first responders Friday, providing water, food and comfort. To learn more about how you can help people after fires and other disasters, please visit

Friday, July 29, 2016

"Thank You from the Bottom of our Hearts"

Photo courtesy:
On Monday, July 25, Geraldine Baylor and her family awoke as the back of their home caught on fire. Disasters never come at convenient times, and for Geraldine Baylor and her family, this was more than accurate. A few hours before, they received news that a family member passed from cancer. The family gathered together at Geraldine Baylor’s home to make the necessary preparations for memorial services. Geraldine’s home was filled with mourning family members and beloved animals that Geraldine fosters for. No one expected that things could get worse.

In a home fire, you have an average of approximately two minutes to escape safely. However, Geraldine needed more than just two minutes. Geraldine has a prosthetic leg, and often times she relies on a wheelchair. Thankfully, with the help of the fire department, Geraldine, as well as the rest of the family and animals, were able to exit the house safely.

American Red Cross volunteers, Suzanne Kowalcyk and Jim McMoil, were called at two in the morning to meet with the family at a local restaurant. Both volunteers reported that the family was in good spirits, despite their situation.

“They even tried to pay for our coffee,” Jim said as he recalled how appreciative the family was for the help the Red Cross was providing.  

The volunteers booked a hotel room for the family to stay in as they wait for their home repaired. Geraldine noted that the volunteers are still in contact with the family and continue to be a significant help.

“You guys are just amazing, and have been so generous and caring,” Geraldine stated. “My family and I would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.” 

The Red Cross provides numerous educational programs on how to stay safe during a disaster. A main cause of death and injuries due to home fires is lack of smoke detectors. Thus, as part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross offers free smoke alarms to ensure community safety. To schedule a free smoke alarm installation, please email or call 716-878-2353.

During a house fire, the Red Cross provides a number of services to ensure that people are safe, protected, and are on the road to recovery. If you are interest in being a part of the recovery process for those affected by a disaster, apply online to become a volunteer at

-Grace Carnall, Communications Intern

American Red Cross, WNY Chapter

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"We will always remember the help the American Red Cross gave us"

On Saturday, June 11, at approximately three in the morning, Debra Howard was awakened by ominous crackling noises. As she peered outside her window, she saw her neighbor’s home ablaze. In seconds, the fire quickly spread to the Howard's home. With a dose of adrenaline, Debra and her husband, James Howard, ran out of their mobile home on Carefree Lane. Unfortunately, by the time the Cheektowaga Fire Department arrived, their belongings were consumed by the burning flames.

Debra, a scrapbook-enthusiast, relied on her creations to reflect on wonderful memories she shared with her loved ones. In the fire, Debra’s scrapbook collection turned into ashes, which included pictures from her wedding, vacations, and much more. With the exception of a few items, their home and memorabilia could not be recovered. Thankfully, the Howards were cared for by compassionate neighbors and the American Red Cross.

“We were working with nothing, but the American Red Cross was here to help along the way,” Debra said. Red Cross Disaster Services volunteers Betsy Crocker and Bill Miles assisted the family to find recovery and peace during their hardship by providing a hotel for the couple to stay in, as well as funding for food and clothing.

The Howards faced an incredible loss. Nevertheless, they felt it was their duty to return the favor to the Red Cross. To do so, Debra and James Howard wrote a sincere thank you card to the Red Cross enclosed with a check “to assist other Western New Yorkers in need of disaster assistance.” The severity of home fires can be devastating; therefore, the Howards felt responsible to help others who may have to undergo the tragedies of home fires.

Debra reiterated the importance of fire safety, especially in a community where the houses are close together. Home fires can be avoided by being aware of the proper safety precautions. A main cause of deaths and injuries due to home fires is lack of smoke detectors. Thus, as part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross offers free smoke alarms to ensure community safety. To schedule a free smoke alarm installation, please email or call 716-878-2353.

“We will always remember the help the American Red Cross gave us,” the thank you card reads. During a house fire, the Red Cross provides a number of services to ensure that people are safe, protected, and are on the road to recovery. If you are interest in being a part of the recovery process for those affected by a disaster, apply online to become a volunteer at

-Grace Carnall, Communications Intern
American Red Cross, WNY Chapter

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Charlene Hanson Provides Heath Services to West Virginia

                           11 Regional Red Cross volunteers deployed to assist in flooding relief 
Thursday, June 30- After hearing about the severe flooding in West Virginia, Charlene Hanson of Niagara Falls jumped on the opportunity to help those in desperate need. With almost no time to prepare, she scheduled her two-week journey to West Virginia without hesitation. Out of the 11 regional volunteers currently deployed to West Virginia, Charlene’s expertise is in Health Services. As a registered nurse for about 50 years and an active Red Cross volunteer, Charlene has a passion for helping others. So much so that this is one of Charlene’s many deployments, including assisting residents affected by Hurricane Sandy, 9/11, and several other disasters across the United States. 

Charlene explained, “Every disaster is different and unique in its own way.” She anticipates that West Virginia’s distinction is that there has already been over 20 reported fatalities. That being said, her Health Services expertise will highlight spiritual and mental well-being. Charlene continued, “Everyone lost something, some lost a loved one, some lost a home. People are going to be extremely sad and angry.”  

During Charlene’s two-week deployment, she plans to work 12 hour days in one of the many shelters. Together, Charlene and a team of volunteers will dedicate each day to aiding West Virginia residents back to health, whether it be physically or mentally. As each volunteer brings their own "piece of knowledge," the team will be able to effectively work together to provide hope during such a tragic time. 

As Charlene stated, “A little support goes a long way.” Those who would like to help the Red Cross support people affected by disasters can make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations allow the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

-Grace Carnall, Communications Intern

American Red Cross, WNY Chapter

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Daniel Lopez's Red Cross Journey

Money does not equate to happiness. Although said often, not many of us take the risk to test this theory. Daniel Lopez took that risk. With Buffalo, New York as the destination, Daniel left Puerto Rico to seek out new beginnings with only seven dollars in his pocket.

However, not too long before, Daniel had much more than just seven dollars. Daniel lived a luxurious life making a living as an accountant. He had the opportunity to increase his salary by accepting a managerial position at his father’s accounting firm. Daniel denied. Instead, he decided that, at age 50, it was time to make change and leave Puerto Rico with absolutely no assistance from his family.

In January 2016, Daniel began his journey to Buffalo. During the commute, Daniel befriended a man who was struggling with a substance abuse problem. Himself 11 years sober, Daniel’s kind and open heart sympathized with the man. A few seats a way, a woman sat listening intently to Daniel’s attempts to coax the man to remain sober. Inspired, she made it her duty to establish Daniel in his new life.
Daniel Lopez talking to a homeowner
about the Home Fire Campaign during
the City of Buffalo's Clean Sweep

Once he arrived in Buffalo, that woman directed Lopez to a rescue mission that provided him with meals. To show his gratitude, he volunteered to serve breakfast every morning. Afterwards, he would teach young children English at the library, without charge. Daniel had a revelation- he had a passion for helping people. Fortunately, this led to Daniel’s introduction to the American Red Cross, and more importantly to the community.

On average, seven people die in a house fire every day across the country. With this appalling statistic, the Red Cross needs volunteers like Daniel Lopez to educate the public on the severity of house fires with the Home Fire Campaign.

Part of the Home Fire Campaign includes Major Byron Brown’s Clean Sweep, a weekly outreach program that targets an at-risk neighborhood in the City of Buffalo. Many companies and organizations partner together to provide resources and services to those in need. A Red Cross volunteer advises residents on the precautionary measures one should take to lessen the likelihood of being a victim of a house fire. This includes informing them that the Red Cross offers free smoke alarms that are installed personally by an Red Cross volunteer. Daniel explained, “Maybe they don’t need smoke alarms, but we are telling the community that the American Red Cross is there for them.”
Daniel Lopez presents the Pillowcase Project
to students

In the short months that Daniel has been active as an AmeriCorps working with the Red Cross, he has impacted hundreds of people with his ability to speak fluently in Spanish and English, but more significantly with his zest for teaching. 

“There is something special about seeing a difference,” Daniel explained when speaking about The Pillowcase Project, a Disney-funded program that educates elementary level students on how to be prepared during an emergency. Daniel continued, “These young children want to learn. They want to know how to be safe and prepared during an emergency.”

Daniel stated, “We are not working for a profit. We are working for a difference.” With a sincere disposition, Daniel confirmed that this is the happiest he has ever been. That being said, on behalf of the Red Cross, I invite you to let Daniel’s story inspire you. It is never too early or too late to start a new journey in your life. Become an American Red Cross volunteer by applying online on to see what difference you can make.

-Grace Carnall, Communications Intern
American Red Cross, WNY Chapter

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Different Kind of Help in Texas

Greg Langen was signed in to the Texas flood relief operation
by fellow Greater Rochester Chapter volunteer
Diana McLaughlin
Editors note--Volunteer Greg Langen of Pittsford has been in Texas, doing Disaster Assessment as part of the flood relief efforts in the Houston area. He shared this story of his experience on Tuesday:

We were driving down a rural road that had just today become accessible and noticed an elderly woman walking aimlessly in a nearby field. She was plodding around in circles for no apparent reason. We stopped and called out to her to see if she needed any help. It turns out she had Alzheimer's Disease and had wandered away from the car where her son had told her to stay while he checked on his house. Her confusion was exacerbated because the flooded area looked so different that she didn't know where she was. We escorted her out of the field and reunited her with her son when he came back out to the road.

I'm not sure whether we saved a life today, but we surely alleviated some suffering.

This was a very rewarding day.
Sign on the side of the road in Fort Bend County, Texas
Photo by: Greg Langen, American Red Cross
Just some of the devastation from the Texas floods
Photo by: Greg Langen, American Red Cross

Friday, May 6, 2016

Love in the air at The BASH

Eric and Jessica at The BASH
Eric Farinacci and Jessica Wutz, both Western New York natives, have been regular guests at Buffalo’s annual Red Cross BASH. They both attended BASH*2011, but little did they know it was going to change their lives forever.

Believe it or not, it all started while Eric was standing in line for the bathroom. This was the first time he had spotted Jessica, and he knew right away that he had to go talk to her. She was attending the BASH with her brother, while Eric was there with his cousin, whom he used as a “wingman” to help start a conversation with Jessica. Once they got to talking, they realized that they actually worked together at Creditors Interchange, but they had never met until that night.

They began casually hanging out until officially being labeled boyfriend and girlfriend a few months later. After dating for about four years, Eric knew he wanted this relationship to last a lifetime.

He initially got in touch with Regional Communications Jay Bonafede to discuss his plans for proposing to Jessica. Eric wanted to pop the question where they first met, the BASH, but they were unable to make it last year. Once he found out that news, it was time for plan B. He asked Jay if he could use the site of the BASH—the Clement Mansion grounds—and after getting the go-ahead, Eric planned the entire thing in a week’s time.

On a beautiful Saturday last June, Eric invited 41 of their close friends and family to the Western New York Chapter. While Jessica was riding in her best friend’s car, she thought she was coming to the Red Cross to pick up a certificate for donating. Much to her surprise, the first person she ran into upon her arrival was Eric, who happened to be walking their dog.
Jessica said yes!

“I told her I was walking the dog,” said Eric. “She had absolutely no clue what was going on.”

When Jessica turned the corner, she saw all of their close friends and family waiting in a group. Everyone was bunched up under the big tree in front of the Clement Mansion, the exact spot they met four years earlier.

“I was really confused as to why everyone was there and didn’t really think anything of it,” said Jessica. “Until I saw everyone take out their phones and start taking pictures.”

Eric proposed to Jessica on June 13, 2015, and of course, she said yes. Jessica said it was fitting to have him propose at the site of the BASH because not only is it where they met, they also spent part of their first Valentine’s Day together there.

Eric and Jessica are tying the knot June 4, 2016,
one day after #RedCrossBASH and five years
after they first met at this very spot
during BASH*2011
Jessica and Eric will be tying the knot on June 4, 2016. That is the day after this year’s BASH and the five-year anniversary of the day they met at BASH*2011. They’ll be a little too busy to #PartyWithAPurpose this year, but they are both planning to attend the BASH in the future because they say it’s their favorite event.

 “It’s a fun event that always has great music and the atmosphere is amazing,” Jessica said. “The theme is always so fitting.”

Will love be in the air again this year? Find out at #RedCrossBASH June 3! Get your tickets now at And congratulations and best of luck, Eric and Jessica! We’ll see you for BASH*2017….

--Jacquelyn Fricano, WNY Chapter                     
Communications Intern

Monday, April 11, 2016

Celebrating National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week is April 10-17 and the American Red Cross, Western and Central New York Region, is honoring its volunteers who give their time to help people in need.

Nearly 330,000 volunteers serve the organization, helping staff blood drives, volunteering at veterans hospitals, teaching people lifesaving skills such as First Aid and CPR, responding to home fires in the middle of the night and so much more. Here in the Western and Central New York, 4,275 volunteers help the community.

“We want to take this time during Volunteer Week to thank our volunteers for their service,” said Rosie Taravella, Western and Central New York Regional CEO. “They help us fulfill our lifesaving mission every day, and we are overwhelmed with gratitude for their service.”

Last year, Western and Central New York Red Cross volunteers provided food, shelter, comfort and hope to 1,572 local families who faced emergency situations. They trained 86,708 people in lifesaving skills and provided 2,649 services to military members, veterans and their families.

The Red Cross invites the public to be a part of the lifesaving work it does and to sign up to volunteer and donate blood. People can go to to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application. To schedule an appointment to donate blood, people should visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

The Red Cross Home Fire Campaign offers another way to volunteer and help reduce the number of home fire injuries and deaths locally. Volunteers are going door-to-door in neighborhoods at high risk for fires to install smoke alarms and teach people about home fire safety. Since the Home Fire Campaign started, it has been credited with saving a number of lives. Volunteers have already installed hundreds of thousands of smoke alarms in more than 4,100 cities and towns across the United States.

Red Cross Responds to Three Weekend Fires Across Western New York

Volunteers from the American Red Cross responded to three separate fires in Erie and Chautauqua counties over the weekend, providing immediate emergency assistance for 15 people. Red Cross assistance typically includes vouchers for temporary housing, food and clothing as needed, and Disaster Mental Health volunteers are available to help with the emotional aspect of disaster. Those affected will meet with caseworkers in the coming days to work on a longer-term recovery plan.

Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteers responded to fires at the following dates and locations:

  • ·         Saturday, April 9
    Brookhaven Drive, Cheektowaga
    Two adults and two children assisted
    Volunteers: Betsy Crocker and Diane Sargent

    ·         Saturday, April 9
    Newton Avenue, Buffalo
    Two adults and four children assisted
    Volunteers: Betsy Crocker and Diane Sargent

    ·         Sunday, April 10
    King Road, Forestville
    Two adults and three children assisted
    Volunteers: Christine Thompson and Mary Walker
The American Red Cross has launched an initiative to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent over five years. The Red Cross is asking every household in America to take two simple steps: check their existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home. As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross is joining with fire departments and community groups nationwide to install free smoke detectors in homes that need them. For more information or to schedule an installation appointment, email or call 716-878-2353.

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 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. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Meet James Roback, Red Cross Volunteer

     James Roback, a 19 year old volunteer at the Western New York Chapter of the American Red Cross, is not your typical 19 year old. Originally from Utica, NY, James moved to the Buffalo area after he graduated high school to attend Erie Community College for emergency management. Once he started college, he was really busy between school work and his job as a ride operator at Darien Lake. But when that seasonal job came to an end, he needed something else to do, and that is when his Red Cross journey began.
Volunteer James Roback installing smoke
alarms as part of the Home Fire Campaign

  "I looked up the Red Cross on the Internet while looking for a paid position, and saw they were in need of volunteers to help install smoke alarms," James said. He immediately applied for the volunteer position, while also applying for paid positions at other companies. Just one day later, he was offered a job at a hotel and also heard back about becoming a volunteer.

  "Instead of choosing between the hotel job and volunteering with the Red Cross, I decided I should try to do both, while still going school," James said

   At the Red Cross, James has various roles that he fulfills. As a volunteer, James in usually in the Buffalo office everyday from 9 to 5. When not serving as an office assistant, his primary job is to go out into the community and install smoke alarms as part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Clearly that doesn't keep him busy enough, however, because he is also currently training to become a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT), the volunteers that help families at the scenes of home fires and other disasters. He also helps out with the Pillowcase Project, a Disney-funded project that teaches kids in grades 3-5 about emergency preparedness.

    In just four months as a Red Cross volunteer, James has installed over 175 smoke alarms and has put in over 150 volunteer hours, while working a job and going to school.

Volunteer James Roback hard at work at the
WNY Chapter offices
  "It keeps me busy," he says. "Volunteering allows me to continuously meet new people, and I love that I'm able to provide people with one less thing to worry about, such as installing a new smoke alarm to keep their home safer." James enjoys giving back to his community, and says the stories and experiences from his time as a volunteer are something that's hard to find anywhere else. He's hoping that this will help him find a job in emergency response in the future, either with the Red Cross or another agency.

  James is just one of the many dedicated volunteers here at the Red Cross, the people who make up 90% of the workforce and fulfill our humanitarian mission. The Red Cross is always looking for new volunteers, and has opportunities to fit every skill set and schedule. You can go to and apply to be a volunteer today.

-Jacquelyn Fricano, Communications Intern
American Red Cross, WNY Chapter

Friday, January 29, 2016

Recognizing Extraordinary Personal Actions

RED Rochester employee Gene Bernardo (center top) helped
save the live of co-worker Ed Szozda (far right in jacket), along
with Kodak Park Fire Department Members Rod Spreer
(white shirt), Mike Defendorf (far left), Patrick Doerrer
(bottom left) and Ryan Clair(bottom right)
Emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere. Every second counts in those situations, and the skills taught at Red Cross Health & Safety Classes can prove vital while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.

RED Rochester Refrigeration/Water employee Gene Bernardo learned that lesson first hand on February 11th, 2015.

Shortly after his team started their shift that morning, Gene found his coworker, Ed Szozda, unresponsive. He immediately started CPR, directed another coworker to call 911 and deployed their Department’s new automated external defibrillator (AED).

Ryan Clair, Mike Defendorf, Patrick Doerrer and Rod Speer of the Kodak Park Fire Department (KPFD) took it from there, applying medical attention until Ed could be transported to the local hospital, where successful heart surgery was completed that morning.  

Medical professionals credit Gene and the Kodak Park Fire Department with saving Ed’s life, as the first minutes of this type of situation are the most critical.

On January 15, the American Red Cross was proud to present Certificates of Extraordinary Personal Action to Gene Bernardo, Ryan Clair, Mike Defendorf, Patrick Doerrer and Rod Speer. The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is awarded to individuals who save or sustain a life by action that exemplifies the mission of Red Cross Preparedness and Health & Safety Services.

If you'd like to learn how to perform CPR, use an AED, or other skills that may help save the life of someone you love, visit, or contact Cristi at 716-878-2392 or to schedule a training at your school, business or organization.