Monday, November 13, 2017

3 out of 3 Octogenarians tell Red Cross: Maria has no equal

Editor's note: Volunteer Winnie Romeril from Wheeler, Steuben County, is currently in Puerto Rico supporting the Maria relief efforts. Click here to learn more about the response and how you can help. 

Nestled high in the mountains of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico the old-timers in Barrio Barranca told
Red Cross volunteers they’ve never seen anything like Hurricane Maria in all their years. “Never have we taken hand outs,” Marcelino Rivera Guzman, 82, and his wife lament as they gratefully accept cases of water, food, peanut butter crackers and hugs. “We worked hard all our lives for everything we have, but now… well, what’s the point in even talking about it?” Red Cross workers, however, are all trained in psychological first aid and know that “talking about it” is precisely what will help lift the weary spirits of people coping with their seventh consecutive week without running water or electricity and scant access to services other United States citizens take for granted. “Maria ended everything- the entire harvest is gone, and all the wooden houses in the hills… gone.” Mr. Rivera’s eyes filled with tears as he lifted his gaze towards the steep mountains surrounding their home, where he often hiked with his bride of 60 years. “My grandmother lived to see 107 years,” Mr. Rivera said, “Will I live that long in these conditions? I wonder.”

“I remember Santa Clara when my daughter was just a little girl,” Carmen Lydia Montecina Rivera, 80, Mr. Rivera’s wife said, referring to the local name for Hurricane Betsy of 1958. “Santa Clara destroyed part of our home, but at least we could find food. Even Hugo wasn’t like this.” In 1989, Hurricane Hugo, like Hurricane Maria, wiped out banana and coffee crops. Monster hurricanes leave an indelible imprint. People here name them to mark the passage of time; it’s like knowing where you were on 9/11. “There are no bananas. No plantains,” Mrs. Rivera said. Plantains, related to bananas, need to be cooked; they are a Caribbean staple prepared in endless delicious ways. Fruit tress of every kind have been decimated on the island, impacting food availability and income sources for years to come. Banana family crops will take a year to recover. Locals say that mature avocado trees will likely take five years to bear fruit again, if they survived at all, since Hurricane Maria completely upended by many productive trees.

 “Ay, there is no comparison to what Maria did to Puerto Rico,” said Teresa Rosado Ortiz, 86, as her doting family gave her a chair in the shade near the relief distribution line. A Red Cross volunteer personally delivered a case of drinking water and boxes of food to her side. “Do you know how to prepare the militares, grandmother?” Winnie Romeril, a Red Cross volunteer from upstate NY asked her. “Militares” (militaries) are the local name for the 2000 calorie pre-packaged meals commonly eaten by soldiers. “Yes, I know how,” she said. “You put a little water in the plastic bag and put it in the cardboard box and then it gets hot. Thank you for these supplies. Thank you.” Red Cross volunteers continue to encounter Puerto Ricans who are eating these packages of food cold. Some groups don’t take the time to explain how to heat the main dish when dropping off the meals-ready-to-eat (MRE’s), and the instructions are only printed in English. In asking about her health, Mrs. Ortiz said, “I have a bad heart.” The Red Cross volunteer winked and assured her, “No. I’m sure you have a very good heart,” which earned her a laugh. 

In Puerto Rico, emergency relief efforts continue with a strong sense of urgency. Red Cross teams are in the field daily, distributing life-sustaining food and water, and providing home visits for health and mental health needs to island residents. The Red Cross team who helped the Riveras and Mrs. Ortiz on November 4th in Barranquitas, also served 1,582 people in the communities of Maná, Cañaboncito and Lajitas. Simultaneously that day, Red Cross teams delivered supplies to 17 other affected municipalities. Many hands truly made light work in giving out water and meals plus providing medical and legal assistance in Barranquitas, thanks to help from Michael Chavez Guerra and family, the Cintrón family (“El Familión”), the Fonalledas family, Pfizer (Michael Sweitzer), Chrysler (RAM Trucks of Puerto Rico and the RAM volunteers), Samaritan’s Purse and the volunteer doctors and nurses, the group of pro-bono lawyers, and all the volunteers from NY.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

“God kept me here for a reason.” Rochester Board Member supports her Puerto Rico home

“I wish I could be there.”

Under normal circumstances, Rose Mary Villarrubia Izzo would be in Puerto Rico right now, helping friends and family devastated by Hurricane Maria. However, this past year has been anything but normal for the long-time Red Cross volunteer and Greater Rochester Chapter Board member.

Rose Mary Villarrubia Izzo (r) with MGO Lorraine Clements
at the Greater Rochester Chapter Volunteer Salute in October
(Photo by: Tony Zollo, American Red Cross)
“I went to the doctor because I had a migraine,” she says. “The CT scan said I had a tiny aneurysm. The doctor sent me to a neurologist, who sent me to a neurosurgeon. They discovered I had a Size 6 aneurysm. They told me they start rupturing at Size 4, and they had to operate immediately.”

Rose Mary was hesitant to do the surgery. She was told she had only a 50/50 chance of surviving, and even if she did, she may not be able to walk or talk, and could lose her memory.

“I walked out of the doctor’s office in total devastation,” she says. “But they told me if I didn’t have the surgery, I had a 100% chance of dying.”

So, Rose Mary underwent the brain surgery, followed by several long, difficult months of recuperation. Despite being under doctor’s order to stay as stress-free as possible, Villarrubia Izzo, who has been a part of disaster relief operations including Hurricanes Hugo and George during her 32 years with the Red Cross, worried about her nieces and nephews in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, and her in-laws in Florida as Hurricane Irma made landfall. Then, Hurricane Maria absolutely devastated her birthplace, Puerto Rico, where much of her family still lives.

“Every time I looked at videos, my heart stopped,” she says. “I kept waiting to see if any family members would pop up in the news. One of my cousins found a fish on the top of their house! They lost everything.”

Rose Mary moved with her parents to Rochester when she was five years old, but spent summers and holidays with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Puerto Rico, and her parents moved back after 18 years.

“Dad wanted to stay in Puerto Rico during this devastation and keep an eye on the house,” she said.  Her parents are in their 80s, and she knew that they couldn’t stay in an area with no power, potable water, or functional hospitals after Maria. Rose Mary worked to get them to join her in Rochester. After flights were cancelled six times, she arranged a relief flight, and they arrived safe two weeks ago and are now staying with her daughter. However, Rose Mary felt she needed to do more to help her homeland.

Rose Mary Villarrubia Izzo (3rd from left, red dress) was
instrumental in helping raise over $100,000 to support Maria
relief efforts during a telethon on September 25
“God kept me here for a reason,” says the deeply religious Villarrubia Izzo. After being convinced
that her medical condition made it impossible for her to go to Puerto Rico herself, Rose Mary began to use connections formed through 30 years with the Rochester City School District and the City of Rochester to help raise financial support for the Red Cross relief operations. She was instrumental in the raising of over $100,000 during a telethon on September 25, and helped ensure that proceeds from the City of Rochester’s ROC Relief event a week later also supported the Red Cross efforts. She represented the Red Cross during a concert at the Diplomat Banquet Center that raised over $5,000, and is currently working on another event with Country/Rock music group, “Stanby”, which will be held on November 26 at Three Heads Brewery, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross.

“I feel very proud that I’m capable health-wise to do it,” Rose Mary said. “I’m sad that I can’t go, but at least I can help from here. That’s why God kept me here. I know I can make a difference.”

Rose Mary started with the Red Cross 32 years ago through the Youth Leadership Program, which she is still involved with today. She says that the only way to truly understand all that she’s seen the Red Cross do for the community is to become a part of it yourself.

“If you can make a difference in someone’s life, you need to do it,” she says. “The purpose of helping pulled me out of a lot of depression, and I’m so happy to be here to do it.”

-Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Generous Spirits: Residents Keep Watch for One Another Across Puerto Rico

Editor's note: Volunteer Winnie Romeril from Wheeler, Steuben County, is currently in Puerto Rico supporting the Maria relief efforts. Click here to learn more about the response and how you can help. 

“You can’t get your Red Cross truck up the road to El Salto, it’s too steep,” said the people waiting in line for supplies in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s devastating blow to Puerto Rico. One after another echoed concern for these neighbors who weren’t present for the relief distribution of water, tarps, flashlights, baby formula, hand sanitizer and other items.

“El Salto” consists of 10 remote homes on a hilltop, all made of wood. It’s hard to imagine homes more remote than this valley. San Lorenzo, Morovis, is a town of around 1700 people, nestled deep in the center of the island. Red Cross relief workers drove for hours up and down mostly one lane roads to get here. Toppled electrical poles and broken bamboo forests, recently cleared mudslides and swollen, muddy waterfalls threatened this route around every dizzying, hairpin turn. 

If El Salto homes were all made of wood, this is bad news because the hurricane’s path
Red Cross distribution site in Barrio San Lorenzo
went directly over this area. Additionally, “home made of wood” is practically code for “I have no roof” across Puerto Rico. By and large, cement homes held up better, unless a tree or electrical pole fell on it. Everyone suffered water damage regardless, but Red Cross teams in this area were particularly targeting families missing a roof over their heads.


It’s dusk when the team finishes helping the last families in line. Still, none of the families from El Salto have appeared. Many hours of difficult driving on unlit winding mountain roads to get to a main artery leading to San Juan await the team. Suddenly, a pickup pulls up alongside Red Cross volunteers clearing away boxes and plastic wrapping from around empty pallets of unloaded supplies. “Please take this to another community that needs it more,” the driver points to the back of the truck. 

Volunteer Rut Gonzalez, Distribution Team Lead
in Barrio San Lorenzo
“They received more baby formula than needed by all the mom’s in this town,” explains 20 year-old distribution team lead Rut Gonzalez. “The military dropped it off and now they want the Red Cross to give it to people who are worse off than they are. All the mom’s here with infants say they have enough to feed their babies right now.”

“I am so touched by their selflessness,” reflects Rut, who joined the Red Cross after Hurricane Maria shut down her university. Her uncle is a Red Cross zone leader and encouraged her to get involved. She is working 15-hour days, 6 days a week, riding in the front of a box truck with a Teamsters driver, delivering supplies to town after town. Several cars of Red Cross volunteers together with Teamsters and FDNY volunteers complete each of the 15-20 convoys that spread out across the island each day. The Red Cross has reached every one of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities, but due to the limited supplies available until now on the island, more trucks and supplies are needed to adequately care for every affected community.

Just as the team is about to shut the door on the truck, a woman from El Salto is flagged down by San Lorenzo residents. At the Red Cross team’s request, and at the urging of her valley neighbors, she agrees to deliver 16’x20’ tarps to each of the families. Happy to have succeeded in helping Puerto Rican families people who needed help the most, the community members eagerly loaded the tarps into her car and disperse. As darkness falls in the mountain valley, and the Red Cross departs for San Juan, only the truck’s headlights— and the flashlights the team just handed out— light the night. 

-Story and photos by Winnie Romeril, American Red Cross

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

High Holidays with Hurricane Harvey in Houston

Editors note--This article was written by Red Cross volunteer Steven Schwartz of Buffalo for the Jewish Journal of WNY.

“Hurricane Harvey TX, DR397-18, hit Texas hard from Corpus Christi all the way up the coast to the Louisiana state line, and inward as far north as Austin in some areas. Flooding in some areas was as much as 8 feet, and in the Corpus Christi area, more structural damage than flooding occurred. “ (Sarah Perkins, Pittsford, NY,  Red Cross Disaster Assessment Lead)

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 Storm in Texas early in August, 2017, over one-half million residents were evacuated and 34,000 stayed in 240 Red Cross and partner shelters.  On September 22, I deployed to Texas, joining 160 Red Cross volunteers from Western & Central New York.

I have been a Red Cross volunteer for over seven years, during which time I have deployed to tornadoes in Alabama, storms in Connecticut, wildfires in Northern California, Superstorm Sandy in NY, Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina and “Snowvember” here at home. These efforts literally fulfill the commandment of “Tikkun Olam”, repairing the world. 

A child's thank you letter to the Red Cross in Houston
In Houston, I served as the Lead in Staff & Volunteer Relations, helping to anticipate and resolve problems between and among volunteers.  With thousands of volunteers traveling to a place most had never been, doing things they might not have done, with people they didn’t know, and under difficult circumstances, the major problems were relatively few.  Volunteers worked 12-14 hour days, 7-10 days in a row without a day off.  Many lived in staff shelters.  Despite these hardships and stresses, quality services were delivered and local residents responded gratefully, both personally and in cards and letters.

I had wanted to attend Yom Kippur services while in Houston.  I met Diane Levine, Red Cross Spiritual Care Lead on the disaster, who referred me to Rabbi Steve Morgen from Congregation Beth Yeshurun, the largest Conservative synagogue in the U.S.  He explained that the synagogue had been completely flooded, and although Torah scrolls and other books and materials had been saved, the building was totally unusable.  Joel Osteen had then offered his Lakewood Church to Beth Yeshurun for their High Holiday services.

Jai Lev Dravich (l) and Steven Schwartz at Kol Nidre Services
Jai Lev Dravich, from Santa Cruz, CA, with whom I had worked during Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina, and I attended this remarkable Kol Nidre service.  The huge arena (formerly a pro-hockey stadium) seated thousands of worshippers.  Images of the synagogue’s beautiful tapestries were projected on the sides and back of the bimah.  This was also Rabbi David Rosen’s last Kol Nidre service before his retirement after 22 years as Senior Rabbi.  After his sermon, in an emotional tribute, he was lauded for his wonderful work, and it was announced that the new entrance to the rebuilt synagogue would be dedicated in his honor.  His inspirational words engaged the entire congregation in the efforts to reclaim the synagogue from the flood waters as a physical act of Teshuva, the returning of Beth Yeshurun on Beechnut Street to the congregation.  (To view the devastation and to help, see the website:  www.bethyeshurun.org ).  We returned to our duties knowing we had witnessed an historical event.
Tapestry Projection Congregation Beth Yeshurun

As of mid-October, the Red Cross had provided over $200 million in direct cash assistance to a half million households in Texas alone. Millions of meals, snacks and relief items were delivered and over 100,000 health and mental health services were provided. Six weeks from landfall, only two Red Cross shelters remained open, serving 700 residents. Over 1000 Red Cross disaster volunteers remained in Texas at that time.  Additional efforts for Harvey extended into Louisiana.

Clean up supplies in a Houston warehouse to be distributed to
help families recovering after Hurricane Harvey
Overall, 16,000 Red Cross volunteers opened shelters ineight states, Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate.  They were joined by over 6,000 spontaneous volunteers.  Your voluntary donations supported these efforts.  The average cost of deploying a volunteer is $1650, and my friends and family raised nearly that amount. 

To respond to local disasters, the Federation helped to establish the Buffalo Jewish Service Corps (BJSC).  Over 70 members of the Buffalo Jewish community have received training in preparedness, psychological first aid and sheltering in preparation of a local response.  The last training also included members of the local Muslim community.  If you are interested in being a part of BJSC,  please contact Steven Schwartz (stevens@localnet.com), or  for more information about or becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer

Monday, July 31, 2017

Red Cross Offers Support After Recent Floods

Photo by @qianliu on Twitter
Early in the morning of Thursday, July 13, dozens of Western and Central New York residents woke up to flash flood warnings on their cell phones, TV's and radios. In the Buffalo area, flash flooding was predicted to last from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.. In under two hours, Buffalo got hit with 1.72 inches on rainfall and over 2 inches by the third hour, marking July 13th the wettest July day in almost 46 years. 

As the city of Buffalo and surrounding areas took on the torrential downpour, cars were submerged and homes were flooded. The streets were so submerged that children were swimming and playing games in the water.

Of course, with a weather disaster of this extent, the flooding caused in-home flood-related damage throughout the area. Once the Red Cross assessed that damage, it was decided that we should give clean up kits to those in need. The American Red Cross was prepared with over 100 clean up kits to distribute throughout several locations in the Western New York Area. 

Clean up kits included mops, buckets, bleach, a broom, a sponge and more to assist in clean up after a flood.  The initial date for the distribution of the clean up kits was July 16th, but that was extended throughout the week as the request for clean up kits increased. 
Clean up kits at the Harris Hills Methodist Church, Williamsville, NY

The majority of our clean up kits are kept at the Harris Hills Methodist Church in Williamsville, NY, where they were made available to the public the week after the flood. 

The Red Cross commends all of the rescue teams and the first responders of this disaster for all the lives saved and damaged prevented. As a second responder, the Red Cross is responsible in assisting those affected by disaster in whatever way we can, and we would like to thank our partners and volunteers in assembling and distributing our clean up kits during this disaster. Additionally, we would always like to thank our donors for making what we do possible. In fact, one week later, our volunteers were helping our neighbors in need again, after multiple tornadoes touched down in Western New York, and the Southern Tier dealt with more flooding.

You can help people affected by disasters like flooding 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 redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

~Lily Kaufman, WNY Chapter Communications Intern




Friday, July 7, 2017

Jewish Community Center Makes Great Partners

At about 4am the morning of Monday, June 26, the Buffalo Fire Department was called to a fire at an apartment complex on Elmwood Avenue.  Red Cross volunteers responded right away, and provided immediate emergency assistance including shelter and food for the families in the three unites that were directly affected. Later, the Western New York Chapter received a call regarding a gas leak that was preventing the entire apartment from having any hot water. After speaking with the management of the Elmwood apartment complex, it was determined that all residents needed access to hot showers as soon as possible.

Our Disaster Department reached out to the Jewish Community Center. The JCC was there when we called for help, offering residents of the Elmwood apartment use of their shower facilities from 5:30 am-8 pm for nearly a week.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo
on Delaware Avenue
“It has been a pleasure and a great experience working with Red Cross on this, and we were happy to help,” said Rick Zakalik, the Executive Director at the JCC of Greater Buffalo.   

Zakalik said that this isn’t the first time he and his team have teamed up with the Red Cross. Aside from generally being “friendly neighbors”, as he puts it (the Red Cross and JCC buildings are directly across from each other on Delaware Avenue), the JCC and Red Cross have teamed up before to help with emergencies in the Buffalo area.

“They (the JCC) have been great, accommodating and very welcoming” says Alexis Willard, Disaster Program Specialist for the Western New York Chapter. “There have been no issues from them”.

We are extremely grateful for the partnership we have developed with the JCC. A community disaster takes a community response, and there is no single agency that can meet all the needs of a community. Without partners like the JCC, the Red Cross would be unable to alone provide relief and comfort to our neighbors in need. Partners are a huge part of our back bone and play a huge role in how we are able to fulfill our mission. Thank you to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo for being the answer to our call and the solution we needed to help the people who needed us. If you'd like to learn more about how to support the Red Cross, as a partner, donor or volunteer, please visit www.redcross.org/wcny

~Lily Kaufman
Communications Intern, WNY Chapter

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Volunteering for the Red Cross has made me realize how lucky I am"

"I feel rewarded when I am able to teach people about fire safety," said David Roma as he told me why he became a Red Cross volunteer.

In the November 2014 Buffalo snow storm, David was out helping shoveling driveways for his neighbors. From this, he wished he could help people regularly. His daughter, Nicole, was a volunteer coordinator for the Western New York Chapter. So David went to her, and she helped set him up to be a Red Cross volunteer.

David Roma with fellow volunteer Shirley
Carnall during a Home Fire Campaign event
in the City of Buffalo
David remembers a specific time installing fire alarms for an elderly woman as part of the Home Fire Campaign. He and one other volunteer arrived at the house and found it was very run down. Windows were broken, there was no stove, barely any furniture, and no doors on rooms.  The elderly woman that called them to install fire alarms was the head of the house she housed her daughters and sons and their children, and David knew they simply installing smoke alarms made this family a little safer.

"When I see people like this it makes me realize how lucky I really am", said David.

If you're like David and enjoy helping people, you too can become an American Red Cross volunteer. Our volunteers have a range of opportunities when it comes to deciding what kind of volunteer you would want to be. It ranges from disaster relief to being a desk receptionist. Whatever kind of volunteer you want to be, you'll be helping the Red Cross to do their job to help provide comfort and hope to our neighbors in need.

~Emma Reeve, Communications Intern

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Day Experiencing The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign

As a communications intern with the American Red Cross, I have been able to experience this organization in ways that I could not have guessed when originally applying for the position. If you had asked me last year what the American Red Cross does for the community, my answer would have been limited and honestly wrong. Through this experience I have been able to understand the vast array of services that the organization has to offer. One of them being the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.

Chairman Andy March assisting board member
Luke Fagan with the installation of
their first fire alarm of the day.
The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign is the American  Red Cross’ way of trying to install fire alarms into every home that does not already have them. It has been proven that, from the time that the fire ignites, you only have about two minutes to get out of the house before someone gets injured or worse. While in training for this program, I learned that nationally, 19 percent of homes do not have working smoke alarms and four percent do not have them at all. However, out of all the fire fatalities, 37 percent happen in homes that have no alarm and 23 percent happen in homes without a working alarm. These numbers are sobering when you think of how many people could have been saved by having working smoke alarms. This is why it is so important to have an alarm that gives you the most time to make your escape.

This campaign really touched me as fire related incidents was a big part of my growing up. My grandmother, whom I was named after, passed away when my mother was very young in a house fire. While I never got to meet her, she has influenced my life in many ways. My mother has always been very proactive when it came to fire preparedness, and yet, I still did not know half of the information that this campaign has to offer.

Not only does this campaign install potential lifesaving alarms that alert you when there is a fire, it is our mission to also educate you on what to do when a fire happens and how to be fully prepared in a time of crisis. While one of our members installs up to three free fire alarms, another member educates the resident in what to do in case of an emergency. To me this is the most important part of the program.

Our educator goes through not only how to use the fire alarm and how to maintain it, but they also teach you about how to create a family fire plan in order to best be prepared if something does happen. This includes things like coming up with a meeting place so you can know if everyone is out of the house, and other lifesaving tips that are more than necessary. While these plans do not take a long time to come up with, they are so crucial to the well-being of your family.

Board member Renae Rokicki educating the home owner
on how to create a fire plan for her family.
They also teach you important lessons on ways to prevent a fire, like their catchy saying “Three feet from the heat” informing you that if you have any space heaters in the colder months, that there should be absolutely nothing within three feet of the it. Another tip I saw being talked about is to avoid using more than one extension cord to gain access to electric in a part of the house that does not have any. These tips are crucial and potentially lifesaving.

On March 25, 2017 I was given the opportunity to be a part of this campaign, and help install fire alarms in homes in the Central New York area.

I worked alongside Chairman of the Board, Andy March and board members Luke Fagan and Renae Rokicki. The first house we went to was an elderly woman who lived alone. While she was funny and quick as a whip, unfortunately without a fire alarm, if something were to happen it would be very hard to get out of her house that contains many steps. The fire alarms would give her more time to make her escape to safety. It was so nice talking to her and realizing how important the work we are doing is.

Going around installing fire alarms into homes that needed them, really helped to open my eyes to the importance of home fire preparedness. Not only was I able to learn a lot myself, but I also was able to be a small part in an organization that does so much for the community. I was able to be a small part in helping people to realize the severity of a house fire and hopefully not only help them in a time of crisis, but also prevent these issues in the first place. Overall, this was an experience that I would have never expected, and that I am forever grateful for.


If you are currently living in a home that does not have working fire alarms, or just think you could use a few extra in order to keep your family safe, please visit the Home Fire Preparedness Campaigns website to schedule an appointment to install alarms in your place of residence. 

-Gayle Landry, Communications Intern
M.A. Public Relations at Syracuse University 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Extraordinary Personal Action Saves a Life

"I saw an elderly lady hunched over and I knew it didn't look right," Caitlin McKinnon said as she recounted her actions.

Greater Rochester Chapter
Executive Director  James Love 
Presents the 
Certificate of  Extraordinary Personal Action
to Caitlin McKinnon
Caitlin was shopping at Trader Joe's in Pittsford, NY, when she heard a woman yelling, "Mom, Mom! Someone help!!" Caitlin saw an elderly lady clutching onto a cart. Caitlin, a registered nurse, carefully brought the woman to the floor and felt for a pulse. The woman did not have a pulse, so Caitlin asked the woman's daughter if she could give her mom CPR. Caitlin immediately began CPR, and within about 30 seconds, the woman woman took a breath. When the ambulance arrived, the elderly had a pulse and was able to speak.

"Caitlin in my mind has always been a hero because of the career she is in," said her sister, Lindsay. "But during an ordinary day at the grocery store, she continues to help others when in need."

Last month at the Greater Rochester Chapter, the Red Cross was proud to present Caitlin the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action. This certificate is awarded to individuals who save or sustain a life by action that exemplifies the mission of American Red Cross Preparedness, Health and Safety Services. 

Due to Caitlin's quick thinking, she was able to revive this woman and help save her life. Emergencies can strike anytime, anywhere, and every second counts. Having the skills to be able to save or help a life is very important, and we encourage everyone learn and get CPR/AED/First Aid certification from us here at the American Red Cross.


~Emma Reeve, Communications Intern

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"I've always loved the American Red Cross"

Janice Moore 
Very early Saturday morning, Janice Moore was going to her back room to watch TV.

"I suddenly heard a lot of footsteps and noises", said Janice. She looked out her apartment window to see fire engines. Still unsure of what was going on, she looked up to see a blaze coming out of the upstairs apartment window.

All residents of the Layette Avenue apartment building got out safely, and there were no injuries. The Red Cross opened a shelter at St. John's Grace Episcopal Church in Buffalo, and provided support to 84 people.

Janice is familiar with the Red Cross. She's been a volunteer blood services driver for nine years, but she had never needed Red Cross assistance before this weekend.

Shelter at St John's Grace Episcopal Church
"I've always loved American Red Cross," Janice said. She said that it must be hard trying to keep people calm and help them quickly, but the Red Cross pulled it through. She was also grateful that the NFTA brought a bus to the scene to protect them from the frigid temperatures as they met with volunteers and eventually helped them get to the safe, warm shelter.

Janice and her neighbors have since found other housing, but Red Cross volunteers continue to work with them to meet any additional needs and develop and individualized, long-term recovery plan. And Janice will soon be back on the road, delivering those life-saving blood products from the drives that were donated at to the blood centers.

Our volunteers responded to over 1,400 fires in the Western and Central New York Region last year, providing shelter, food and clothing, comfort and support to our neighbors in need. 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 redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

-Emma Reeve, Communications Intern

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Families Returning Home, Shelters Closing as Power Restoration Continues

207 people spent Saturday night in Red Cross and community storm shelters; Fire shelter in Buffalo remains open

As power restoration efforts continue across the Western and Central New York Region following this week’s windstorms, the American Red Cross has closed storm shelters in Batavia and Macedon. Anyone in these areas in need of additional assistance is asked to call their local Red Cross Chapter.

Red Cross volunteers continue to operate storm shelters at the following locations in the Greater Rochester area: 
        ·         David Gantt Center
        700 North Street, Rochester

        ·         Monroe Community College, Building 10
         1000 East Henrietta Road, Rochester

Additional community storm shelters are being operated by other agencies and many are receiving Red Cross support. 207 people spent Saturday night in nine total shelters. The Red Cross remains in constant contact with emergency officials across Western and Central New York to coordinate the most efficient and effective response to this disaster, and is prepared to provide additional relief services as needed.

An additional shelter remains open at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Colonial Circle in Buffalo for those displaced by a multi-unit apartment fire on Lafayette Street in Buffalo early Saturday morning.

DRIVING IN WINTER WEATHER With a Winter Storm Warning in effect for much of the region starting Monday, Red Cross encourages you to stay off the roads if possible. If you have to drive in snow or freezing rain, follow these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm and what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle:
  • Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • 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 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.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.

If you become stuck in the snow or icy conditions:
  • Stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
  • If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
  • Keep one window slightly open - away from the blowing wind - to let in air.

WEATHER ALERTS AND FIRST AID TIPS People can download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to winter storm tips and weather alerts for their area and where loved-ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. Both apps are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.


You can help people affected by disasters like home fires, power outages 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 redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Red Cross Begins Closing Shelters as Power Restoration Continues

Shelters to remain open in Batavia, Buffalo, Macedon, Rochester; Red Cross supporting community shelters

As power restoration efforts continue across the Western and Central New York Region following this week’s windstorms, the American Red Cross has closed three storm shelters, with a fourth scheduled to close by Saturday afternoon. Shelters at the Kendall Town Hall, Frontier Fire Hall and Varysburg Fire Hall were closed on Saturday as residents have been able to return to their homes. A shelter at Cross Creek Church in Macedon is scheduled to close on Sunday afternoon. Anyone in these areas in need of additional assistance is asked to call their local Red Cross Chapter.

Red Cross volunteers continue to operate storm shelters at the following locations:

FINGER LAKES CHAPTER (Chapter phone: 607-936-3766):
      ·         Cross Creek Church
3259 Canandaigua Road, Macedon

GREATER ROCHESTER CHAPTER (Chapter phone: 585-241-4400):
      ·         David Gantt Center
700 North Street, Rochester

      ·         Monroe Community College, Building 10
1000 East Henrietta Road, Rochester

WESTERN NEW YORK CHAPTER (Chapter phone: 716-886-7500):
·         Batavia Veterans Administration Hospital, Building 4
222 Richmond Avenue, Batavia

Additional community storm shelters are being operated by other agencies and many are receiving Red Cross support. For example, a number of cots, blankets and comfort kits have been delivered to Gates Town Hall and Greece Community Center. The Red Cross remains in constant contact with emergency officials across Western and Central New York to coordinate the most efficient and effective response to this disaster, and is prepared to provide additional relief services as needed.

An additional shelter remains open at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Colonial Circle in Buffalo for those displaced by a multi-unit apartment fire on Lafayette Street in Buffalo early Saturday morning.

With cold temperatures predicted throughout the weekend, the Red Cross encourages families to take precautions to stay safe:
      ·         Never use a generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
      ·         Keep all potential sources of fuel, including paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.
      ·         Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended.
      ·         Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
      ·         Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
      ·         Run water at a trickle to help prevent pipes from freezing
      ·         Download the free Red Cross Emergency App, which offers additional safety tips, as well as real-time weather alerts, shelter locations and more.


You can help people affected by disasters like home fires, power outages 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 redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

Red Cross Opening Shelter after Multi-Unit Apartment Fire in Buffalo


45 people spent Friday night in seven Red Cross-operated storm shelters across region

The American Red Cross is opening a shelter for those displaced by a multi-unit apartment fire on Lafayette Street in Buffalo early Saturday morning. That shelter will be located at St John’s Grace Episcopal Church, 51 Colonial Circle in Buffalo.

45 people spent Friday night in seven Red Cross-operated storm shelters across the Western and Central New York Region following high winds that left thousands without power and displaced many others. Volunteers are providing residents in need with a safe, warm place to stay as well as food and water. Health Services and Disaster Mental Health volunteers are also available, and caseworkers will meet with individually with families to assess their needs.

Anyone in need of assistance can come to one of the shelters or call their local Red Cross Chapter. Shelters are currently open at the following locations (new locations in bold):

FINGER LAKES CHAPTER (Chapter phone: 607-936-3766):
     ·         Cross Creek Church (three overnight residents)
3259 Canandaigua Road, Macedon

GREATER ROCHESTER CHAPTER (Chapter phone: 585-241-4400):
     ·         David Gantt Center (40 overnight residents)
700 North Street, Rochester

     ·         Monroe Community College, Building 10 (One overnight resident)
1000 East Henrietta Road, Rochester

WESTERN NEW YORK CHAPTER (Chapter phone: 716-886-7500):
     ·         Batavia Veterans Administration Hospital, Building 4 (Zero overnight residents)
222 Richmond Avenue, Batavia

     ·         Kendall Town Hall (Zero overnight residents)
1     873 Kendall Road, Route 37, Kendall

     ·         Varysburg Fire Hall (One overnight resident)
2446 Route 20A, Varysburg

Additional community shelters are being operated by other agencies and many are receiving Red Cross support. A total of 110 people spent Friday night in 13 shelters across Western and Central New York. The Red Cross remains in constant contact with emergency officials across Western and Central New York to coordinate the most efficient and effective response to this disaster, and is prepared to open additional shelters and provide additional relief services as needed.

With cold temperatures predicted throughout the weekend, the Red Cross encourages families to take precautions to stay safe:
     ·         Never use a generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
     ·         Keep all potential sources of fuel, including paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.
     ·         Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended.
     ·         Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
     ·         Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
     ·         Run water at a trickle to help prevent pipes from freezing
     ·         Download the free Red Cross Emergency App, which offers additional safety tips, as well as real-time weather alerts, shelter locations and more.


You can help people affected by disasters like home fires, power outages 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 redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.