Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Red Cross Continues to Support Queens Families After Sewage Emergency

One of the 100+ homes affected by a major sewage backup in Queens.
Since a major sanitation emergency in South Ozone, Queens forced hundreds of residents from their homes Saturday afternoon — two days after Thanksgiving — the American Red Cross has been working around the clock to support distraught and displaced residents coping with feet of raw sewage in their homes.

The day of the initial sewage backup, Red Cross disaster relief teams arrived at the scene and coordinated with NYC Emergency Management to open a Reception Center for impacted families at a neighborhood school. After staying open at the school on Sunday, the Center transitioned to the nearby hotel — Courtyard by Marriott, 145-11 N. Conduit Ave. — where it will remain open for families throughout the week.

At the school and at the hotel, the Red Cross has provided meals, water, and has met one-on-one with affected residents to determine housing needs and provide emergency financial assistance. Also on hand to help are Red Cross health and mental health volunteers and nurses to address individual emotional and health concerns.

Interim Greater NY Red Cross CEO, Susan Rounds speaks to
volunteer Georgine Gorra at a Service Center in Queens 
As of Wednesday morning, the Red Cross has registered 80 families for assistance, of whom approximately 30 families needed emergency housing, which has been provided in area hotels.

Today the Red Cross is going door to door to deliver “clean up kits” — which is a bucket that includes disinfectant and cleaning supplies. As of 1:00 P.M. on Wednesday, Red Cross volunteers distributed 120 kits to area homes.

Among the multiple City agencies working at the Reception Center alongside the Red Cross to support these Queens families has been NYC Emergency Management, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, NYC Comptroller’s Office, FDNY, and the Office of the Mayor. 

Red Cross volunteer prepare to distribute cleanup kits. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

In Case You Missed It - Dec 2

Red Cross Reception Center opened at P.S. 223 following major sewer backup in Queens
(now moved to Courtyard Marriott).
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 112 adults and 39 children following 32 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Friday, November 29, 2019

#GivingTuesday: Donate to Help Disaster Victims in Greater NY and Across the Country

Cassandra Philip among the 8000+ residents of
Greater NY that turned to the Red Cross so far this year
After disasters upended the lives of tens of thousands of people this year across the country, including more than 8000 here in Greater NY, the American Red Cross asks everyone to help provide emergency relief for future crises by donating at on Giving Tuesday, December 3. 

“Five to 20 times a day here in our NYC, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley, the generosity of our donors enables us to help someone affected by a disaster — and this year has been no exception,” said Susan Rounds, Interim CEO, American Red Cross in Greater New York. “Across the country, from flooding to hurricanes to fires, Red Cross volunteers were there every eight minutes when those suffering needed us most in the aftermath of disasters. On Giving Tuesday, please donate and help us provide emergency shelter, food, relief items and recovery assistance for people’s urgent disaster needs.”

HOW TO HELP People can #GiveWithMeaning on Giving Tuesday and throughout the holiday season by making a tax-deductible donation at in honor of loved ones:

  • Help disaster victims in the U.S.: A gift of $50 can deliver hot meals for five people or provide blankets for 10 people after a disaster, or a larger donation of $100 can provide a family of two with a full day’s worth of emergency shelter, including meals, snacks, blankets, cots and hygiene supplies.
  • Help military members and veterans: A donation of $50 can help connect veterans and their families to critical community services, such as food, housing, mental health support and rehabilitation. A larger gift of $145 can provide hospital kits, filled with toiletries and other essentials, for 20 service members.
  • Help save lives internationally: People can support our work with the Measles & Rubella Initiative, which provides vaccinations for children and educates families about the dangers of measles and rubella. A gift of $100 can help provide lifesaving vaccinations for 100 children facing an increased risk of measles and rubella around the world.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Rediscovered Memorial Pays Tribute to WWI Women Who Served

By Daniel Sieberg, American Red Cross in Greater NY 

The foot of the flagstaff memorial to those who served with the Red Cross in World War 1. It reads: 
"In memory of the members of the Overseas Service League who served with the Red Cross during the first and second World Wars."   
For eight decades, millions of New Yorkers and tourists alike in Central Park have visited a memorial to Red Cross volunteers who served in WWI - likely without ever realizing it. Perhaps because it’s “hidden” in plain sight. 

As the first global war escalated starting in 1914 and the U.S. became increasingly drawn in, the Red Cross was still a nascent organization searching for a strong identity but with an influential honorary chairman to help draw attention to its importance: President Woodrow Wilson. 

Whether in the U.S. or the European theater of war, hundreds of women volunteered and served with the Red Cross in WWI from medical care to running canteens to offering civilian aid. 

In 1925, more than six years after the end of WWI, a memorial of 24 trees and a flagstaff in the east side of Central Park in New York was conceived by the Overseas Service League to pay tribute to the number of women who had died (two more trees were added at a later date) - many of whom were members of the American Red Cross. 

From a report in the New York Times, we know a dedication ceremony took place where hundreds of people gathered to honor the occasion, complete with a color guard from Fort Jay, Governors Island. Lt.-Commander Nathan A. Seagle made the principal address and pronounced the benediction. President of the Overseas Service League, Mary Martin, laid multi-colored wreaths on the saplings. Indeed, according to a news report of the day, the entire grove was decorated with wreaths and sprays of poppies, irises, peonies, white lilacs and other blossoms. 

Over time, though, the impact and visibility of the memorial faded. The trees eventually blended into the surrounding foliage, their stories lost to the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest city parks in the world. 

1945. Marseille, France. The Coast Guard lands Red Cross worker
on the Riviera to catch up with the advancing allied forces in Southern France.
Credit: American Red Cross
Earlier this year, after the East Side WWI Centennial Commemoration (ESWWICC) rediscovered this tribute memorial to New York City women veterans, the American Red Cross joined them, the NYC Department of Veteran Affairs, and a cross-section of leading organizations and  elected representatives to bring this important site, also known as the Overseas Service League Flagstaff and Grove, out of obscurity and back to public recognition.

On November 6, 2019, just days before Veterans Day, under a clear autumn sky with a sun that burned shadows onto the paths, a re-commemoration ceremony marked by speeches delivered by more than a dozen non-profit, civic, community and government officials, made clear this site plays a critical and enduring role in reminding us all of the women who served (and continue to serve) their country.

“The American Red Cross began as the vision of an extraordinary woman,” said Susan Rounds, Interim CEO, American Red Cross in Greater New York, at the event. “Clara Barton risked her life to help wounded soldiers from the North and the South during the Civil War, selfless, humanitarian action that laid the foundation for the organization. Far ahead of her time, Clara forged a path for women. It was in this spirit that women volunteered with the Red Cross during World War 1.”

Greater NY Red Cross Interim CEO Susan Rounds speaks at a re-commemoration ceremony
alongside community, civic and local government partners   
Now that it has been brought back to the public eye, the hope is to make this tribute event an annual occurrence. The Overseas Service League Flagstaff and Grove is the only site in NYC that recognizes the women who served in overseas wars. 

And it’s a tribute to women who served that we should all look up to. 

If you’d like to visit the memorial yourself just head to the 69th Street walk entrance on the east side of the park - and find the flagpole, and for the Grove and trees, look to your right and walk the path up to 71st Street 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Three Questions: Raul Rivera Nuñez

By Maria Sievers, 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.

Raul (second to the left) with his Red Cross team in Bahamas 
Raul Rivera Nuñez, who currently serves as Regional Director of Planning, Readiness, and Situational Awareness at the American Red Cross in Greater NY, first joined the organization in 2009. During his time here he has been deployed several times to national and international disasters. He recently got back from a 5-week deployment to the Bahamas where Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the country in early September. He defines this experience as one of the most challenging one he has ever had.

What kind of impact did the storm have?

Hurricane Dorian was one of the strongest to impact the islands. A month after the storm impact, there were still 600 hundred people missing.

You hear stories, unbelievable stories of what people had to do to survive. There was one about this man, that was trying not to get swept out by the storm and a piece of flying debris severed his arm. He lost his arm trying to hang on to a tree, so he didn’t get swept out by the storm.

During my time there I quickly became very impressed with the Bahamian people’s resiliency. They are incredibly resilient, resourceful and very warm, even after having gone through something as traumatic as this. As they share their hurricane survival experiences, they always end the story with an intent of determination, energy, adaptability, courage, among other admirable qualities.

What was your specific role in Bahamas?

I was doing a bilateral role, as a shelter/settlement team member. The American Red Cross and the Bahamas Red Cross had a previous relationship, which was established way before this disaster arrived. Me and two other folks [from the American Red Cross] got deployed to do assessment and recommendations. There were two components: One, how can a shelter experience the increase in the number of evacuees? Second, once the evacuees move on to transitional sheltering, what are some recommendations that they need to have the most positive experience possible? And three, also make recommendations for how the Bahamas Red Cross can be a greater stakeholder in the next disaster relief operation

Day to day I’m doing a lot of coordination, so I definitely need to talk to a lot of people, staying on top of the current developments and what the situation awareness is and just make that as part of our overall report. We are also assisting the cash distribution team, they are distributing cash to the most vulnerable people, so we lend a hand in assisting and setting that up. We are working long hours, I would say at least 12 hours per day.

What do people in the US not know about the situation in the Bahamas?

The Bahamas is a bunch of islands, it’s about 700 islands, so the logistics of working here is quite different than working on the mainland or any other type of scenario. Being a chain of islands, there are a limited number of ways that assistance can enter each island, for debris clean-up to be completed, and for how people can get back to assess home damage or do repairs, etc.

Livelihoods have also added complexity to the impact, as a great number of people will not have a job to get back to when they return to their respective islands. All in all, there was the immediate impact trauma that affected the Bahamian people; but also, as time goes by, there will be an longer-term impact on them. It will take time for them to get back to their island, time to get the opportunity to rebuild, time to find/train for a new job, and time to return to some decent level of normalcy.

All of the deployments are different because of the nature of the specific incident, but this one has been one of the most challenging ones.

Monday, November 25, 2019

In Case You Missed It - Nov 25

Judy Audevard and her dog Lulu feature our latest podcast episode 
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 115 adults and 40 children following 38 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Monday, November 18, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Nov 18

Red Cross volunteers marched in the 100th NYC Veterans Parade (Photo: Lori-Ann Pizzarelli)
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 110 adults and 43 children following 56 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities