Thursday, March 4, 2021

"Three Questions” with Red Crosser Shonda N. Scott

By Christine A. Gipson, American Red Cross in Greater NY

“Three Questions” is an American Red Cross in Greater New York blog series featuring staff, volunteers, and partners who help carry out our humanitarian mission. Through these short interviews, we hope to shine a light on our different programs and get to know those who make this work possible.

Philadelphia native Shonda N. Scott originally joined the American Red Cross as a volunteer with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Region. In 2019 she was hired as an employee and relocated to New York. Shonda works as the Mass Care Manager in the Greater New York Region. Her expertise is in distribution of emergency supplies, sheltering, feeding and reunification with additional expertise in operations management.

Why did you join the Red Cross?

In the early 2000s, I was an active volunteer with Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and served as a paid-call firefighter. I stopped volunteering for a while to focus on college and working as a General Manager in the automotive industry. While employment was paying all my bills, I was lacking the feeling of fulfillment. In 2017, as a birthday gift to myself, I decided to sign up as a volunteer to help people that were affected by the many hurricanes that year. Two weeks after joining, I was deployed to Puerto Rico in Mass Care. I loved what I was doing so much, I volunteered there for almost four months. That experience was the reminder I needed to see that life is about more than how much money you can acquire, but how you decide to live your life. American Red Cross allows me to not only work but have that fulfillment I was missing before I left the automotive industry.

Where did you deploy last fall what did you find most meaningful about that experience?

My last deployment was to the California Wildfires in 2020 as the Mass Care Chief. I learned a lot during this operation that I can use when working local operations in New York City. I served with an amazing team and mentor. The most meaningful experience I left with was how supportive the entire team was to each other. We cross trained, we helped clients and we also staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do you have one story you think of since joining the Red Cross that reinforces why you are here?

One day I was working to distribute water and food supplies to victims of Hurricane Maria. We were asking the residents to form a line to receive supplies when one resident warned us that a few gang members were present. I was the leader of the operation, so one of the members started walking towards me. I greeted him and he stated he wanted to help but didn’t know how. I passed him a case of water and stated, “start passing out cases of water to the people in line.” That day he became a volunteer and worked hard for his community. That’s what we learn in disasters. We learn who people are within their hearts. One of the best experiences I had there.

Monday, March 1, 2021

In Case You Missed It

Amazing Red Cross volunteers helping at COVID vaccine sites.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 64 adults and 22 children following 45 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review
Upcoming Events and Activities

Fire Brings Red Cross Care and Commitment to Yonkers Families

by Bernadette Casey, American Red Cross in Greater NY

The Red Cross provided assistance to 100 families affected by an apartment building fire in Yonkers earlier this year. For one resident, it was not the first time experiencing the care and commitment of Red Cross volunteers. When he was just nine years old, Edward McCoy and his family were forced from their Bronx home by a fire. More than 40 years later McCoy still remembers how the Red Cross helped his family find shelter at a hotel and helped a frightened young boy feel safe during a very difficult time.

“I’ve always trusted the Red Cross,” recalled McCoy. “They took a traumatic situation like that and made a young kid like me feel secure.” 

After the January 2021 Yonkers apartment fire, the Red Cross helped McCoy and approximately 250 other residents with temporary housing at nearby hotels as well as daily meals, bottled water, and access to trained Red Cross health and mental health professionals.

“The Red Cross came to the scene and helped all the people in the building. We greatly appreciated them showing us a little humanity because that is what we really needed - a little common courtesy and humanity,” said McCoy.

For Cesarina Nunez, a resident of the building since 2004, Red Cross assistance was a lifeline of support. Nunez, her daughter and their two pets – a Chihuahua-Pomerania mix named Venus and a cat named Zah Zah – turned to the Red Cross for shelter and comfort. 

“The Red Cross made us feel welcome at the hotel and made us feel that we were not alone,” said Nunez, who had been afraid she might have to sleep in her car. “Without the Red Cross it would have been horrible.” 

Nunez was particularly impressed with all the different ways that Red Cross volunteers worked to address her family’s specific needs, like helping her daughter find a new pair of eyeglasses and providing pet food for Zah Zah and Venus.

After a week at the hotel, Nunez found a temporary place to stay in Queens with the help of her brother. As she recalled: “In this sort of situation, you have to keep calm. There will always be a solution. Without what the Red Cross did for me I would not have been able to cope. Life has taught me to be more patient, especially with everything that happened.”

McCoy, who was able to move back to his Yonkers apartment, was also appreciative of the help of Red Cross volunteers, added: “I want to thank the Red Cross from the bottom of my heart for everything they did for everyone in my building. Continue doing the great work you have been doing for decades,” said McCoy.

Monday, February 22, 2021

In Case You Missed it

Red Cross Volunteers helping Texas residents during dangerous winter storm.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 91 adults and 22 children following 45 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review
Upcoming Events and Activities

Monday, February 15, 2021

In Case You Missed It

Celebrating our Red Cross couples for Valentine's Day.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 76 adults and 29 children following 50 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review Upcoming Events and Activities

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Suffolk County Family Finds Support and Holiday Spirit After Home Fire

By Bernadette Casey, American Red Cross in Greater NY
During what has already been a challenging and stressful year, a Suffolk County family found themselves faced with further heartbreak – losing their home to fire less than two weeks before the Christmas holiday.

Jason Silva, a Bay Shore resident since childhood, loved his neighbors and the single-family home he had lived in for the past five years with his girlfriend and three children.

“The last picture in the house is of me putting the star on the tree. The night before the fire happened the family was decorating the Christmas tree,” said Silva.

The night after the family tree trimming Silva was out after work with friends when his girlfriend called crying to let him know the house was on fire. When Silva arrived the fire was still blazing and firemen were breaking through the roof and windows and dragging items, some still burning, out of the house and garage.

The children had thankfully not been home when the blaze started and, after grabbing a few things, Silva’s girlfriend was able to get out of the house safely.

“The fire started in the wall of the garage. It was going a while before anyone knew about it. Once it was discovered it was already raging,” said Silva.

Water, smoke and flames destroyed the house and everything the family owned. As Silva and his girlfriend began to process what happened and what they would do next, in the early morning hours, Red Cross volunteer Edras Hidalgo arrived on the scene.

“When I approach a disaster scene to help, I think to myself ‘What if this was my brother or cousin affected?’ I go the extra mile,” said Hidalgo.

He immediately gave the couple blankets to protect them in the frigid weather. He also gave the couple financial assistance for immediate lodging at a hotel and to purchase a change of clothes for themselves and their children. Each of the family members also received comfort kits containing personal hygiene items including toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.

Having a safe and warm place to sleep and financial assistance meant a great deal to Silva, but what was equally important at this extremely difficult time was the support he felt from Hidalgo.

“When you are standing there in the cold looking at your house on fire and your whole world is upside down and someone comes through with a little bit of light by showing they care and showing their support and they tell you everything is going to be alright - that warmed me up right there,” said Silva.

Red Cross mental-health team members trained in trauma and crisis counseling also helped Silva discuss the fire with his daughter.

But Hidalgo’s help extended beyond the day of the fire. He maintained steady communication with the family and put Silva in touch with other organizations that provided donations.

The fire at Silva’s home had started in the garage, the place where he had hidden the children’s Christmas presents.

“We all spent Christmas Eve at my mom’s house. The Suffolk County Police Department, Uplift Brentwood and a motorcycle club came with presents. Edras was there the whole time. The kids
had smiles from ear to ear. It was almost like they didn’t realize they lost anything,” said Silva.

“Edras and the Red Cross mean a lot to me. They mean support and help. They treat you like family.”

Even after the fire Silva retains his positive outlook with advice for others experiencing a similar tragedy: “Don’t beat yourself up about what happened Move forward. It’s a new beginning.”

Monday, February 8, 2021

In Case You Missed It

Honoring notable African Americans who were essential in shaping our organization into what it is today.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 89 adults and 40 children following 35 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below

Last Week in Review 
Upcoming Events and Activities