Thursday, March 4, 2010

“People in Greater NY depend on the Red Cross for hope and help.”

As Director of Government Relations for the American Red Cross in Greater New York it's not often that I have an opportunity to go into the field and see first hand the impact the NY Red Cross has on those affected by disaster or realize the difference our disaster responders make everyday for those who have lost everything.

In January I was asked by Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia to take part in a meeting with 20 men and women from Guatemala whose apartments on 86th Street were destroyed by a 5-alarm fire. The fire claimed the life of a young mother whom they all knew and left her infant hospitalized after she threw him from a window to safety. What made this event more traumatic for them was learning that one of their own had deliberately set the fire. These people spoke little, if any, English, had no "family" other then themselves and the community, and spent their days on street corners looking for work as day laborers.

The meeting was held three days after the fire. Working through a translator I was able to gather information to assist these clients and also able to let them know what services our Chapter was making available to them, including emergency financial assistance for food and clothing.

What stood out for me was despite all they had been through and the uncertainty of what they would do next, they came up to me to offer thanks and prayers for our organization and for me just being there with them. I also spent several minutes with the husband of the deceased woman; he was more interested in talking about his admiration for the Red Cross then about what I could do to help him.

I now have first hand knowledge and a greater understanding of our value to the community. People in Greater NY depend on the Red Cross for hope and help after they’ve been displaced by a disaster, and no one else does what we do to respond to their immediate needs. We are truly the First Humanitarian Responders and an organization well worth supporting––be it by government, businesses, corporations or the public.

–Alex Lutz, Staten Island

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