Friday, July 30, 2010

"I have a knowledge that I'll be able to tap into if I ever need to."

Craig Stout and 14 of his co-workers from a Manhattan branding company attended a NY Red Cross CPR/ First Aid class on July 28, 2010. Craig became interested in learning lifesaving skills after his two-year-old son nearly choked on a piece of food. Being prepared for the worst makes Craig feel empowered; he’s also glad that his company values disaster readiness.

Craig Stout from Maplewood, NJ

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"I never ride alone. I’ve always got a group watching over me.”

Few NY Red Cross staff members cut a more dashing figure when arriving at work than Charlie Wells on the days when he glides into the Chapter’s parking lot astride his dark purple Harley Davidson. A motorcycle rider since he was 16, Charlie has had this particular bike for the last five years. “It’s kind of like a tribute to the brothers—the firefighters and paramedics who were killed on 9/11,” he said. “I have a couple of tribute plaques on the bike in commemoration. So I never ride alone. I’ve always got a group watching over me.”

Charlie joined the NY Red Cross as Disaster Response director for New York City in January 2008 after spending 30 years with New York City’s Emergency Medical Service/New York Fire Department. His experience dealing with emergencies is long and deep. Born and bred in Queens, he worked as an EMT after high school and then joined the New York City EMS in 1977. There he rose through the ranks, responding as a paramedic captain to the 1993 bombing in the World Trade Center. In April 1995 he went to Oklahoma City as part of New York City’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force after the terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building left 168 people dead and close to 700 injured. That same year, in September, he deployed to the Caribbean after two hurricanes caused extensive damage to several of the islands.

On 9/11, Charlie worked downtown as a chief in charge of an EMS operation after the World Trade Center was attacked. His brother-in-law, Bobby, a FDNY lieutenant, died that morning. “That was a very life-altering change, because it turns out we were in the same building—the Marriott Hotel,” said Charlie. “I didn’t know that on 9/11.” As the South Tower began to collapse, the triage team that Charlie was leading ran toward the Marriot through a side entrance off Liberty Street. Though trapped in debris, his team managed to dig out. “When we found Bobby three months later, I realized that we had been working 50 feet away from each other.”

So directing emergency responses is nothing unusual for Charlie Wells, which was a good thing—since his first day on the job at the Red Cross involved a building vacate in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that left some 80 unhappy people shut out of their homes. “It’s not as if I got here and got a little mentoring first, as if I walked in the door on the first day and sat at a desk for a couple of weeks learning the job,” he said. “I got thrown into it right at the very beginning.” And the large-scale responses continued with two crane collapses in Manhattan in March and May of that first year on the job.

Of course, before starting his new job, Charlie had seen the Red Cross in action “thousands of times” at fires. And, while he knew people were being helped, he never knew the details about how they were being helped. In Charlie’s position as NY Red Cross director of response for New York City, he’s back at fire scenes again. “It’s kind of brought me around full circle in my career,” he said. “As an EMS Chief, I always saw the firemen telling people, ‘stand to the side, don’t get too close, it’s too dangerous.’ Now it’s ‘Hi, I’m Charlie Wells from the Red Cross. I’m here to help you.’ The firemen are helping you by putting the fire out. And the Red Cross is going to help you get through this after the fire is out.”

Charles Wells from Baldwin, NY

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Red Cross is assisting me in any which way possible."

Fourth of July 2010 turned out to be no holiday for John Peters and his family. The morning of Independence Day, a fire broke out in the church below their apartment located in the Saint Albans section of Queens. As smoke from the fire engulfed their home, John, his wife and their nine-year-old son used the fire escape to evacuate the building.

While his wife and son were taken to the hospital for evaluation, John remained at the scene and met an American Red Cross responder. “They offered me housing and everything, somewhere to stay for the night because I had nowhere to stay for the three-day-weekend,” he explained. His wife and son later joined him at the hotel. The Red Cross responder also took John to Chapter headquarters to meet with a caseworker who would help his family get back on their feet after the fire.

John is grateful for the help he has received from the organization. He said, “I am in a situation and the Red Cross is there to help me, assisting in any which way possible.” Although he was familiar with the work the Red Cross does on the local level, John said he was surprised at the extent of that help.

John Peters, Saint Albans, Queens

"There is no doubt about it. I have the best job in the world."

National Red Cross CEO and President, Gail McGovern, shares her thoughts on what it was like to throw out the first pitch at a Yankee game.
"There is no doubt about it. I have the best job in the world because when I wake up in the morning I’m helping people every day. It is an incredible privilege to be in that position. It’s also such an emotional roller coaster. I’ve seen victims of disasters and the heartbreak of what that is like – it causes such personal sorrow. It’s not only devastating but truly indescribable.
On the other hand, every once in a while, because I’m with the Red Cross, I get to do something that is just delicious. I got a call from our New York chapter and somehow, someway, they worked with the New York Yankees and asked them if they would sponsor Red Cross day. Not only did the Yankees say yes but they put our text message up on their jumbotron and they talked about our mission. They had a presentation on how to be prepared for a disaster and I was asked if I’d be interested in throwing the first ceremonial pitch."
 Read the full story here:

Monday, July 12, 2010

In It For The Feeling

National profiles a local family of volunteers from Greater New York chapter, the Rundles.
Four generations of the Rundle family volunteer for the American Red Cross in Greater New York. (l-r) Eva Ospina; Irving Rundle; Skye Rundle; Dennis Rundle; Damaris Rundle.Irving Rundle pulls the pillow over his head to block out the ringing phone. His wife, Damaris, answers.

Irving hears her ask for an address and he knows someone in the community in which he was born has suffered a disaster and is in need of Red Cross services. He closes his eyes and waits for his wife to nudge him.

Four generations of the Rundle family volunteer for the American Red Cross in Greater New York.

When the nudge comes, Irving throws the pillow aside, gets out of bed and dresses. He puts on his watch, noticing that it is 12:15 a.m.

This is the second home fire in less than a week. In the yard a family of five stands near the ashes of what used to be their home, in shock, with nothing left but the nightclothes they are wearing.

The Red Cross arrives at the site with toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, shampoo and other toiletries for the family. There are stuffed bears for the two youngest kids to hug.

A Red Crosser talks with the parents about the situation and the steps that need to be taken to begin the recovery process. Then the Red Cross drives the family to a hotel where they can sleep and eat for the next few days.
Read the full story here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

5-Alarm Fire in Rego Park, Queens

Red Cross teams of responders were on the scene of two five-alarm fires that occurred on July 7, a day of record-breaking, triple-digit temperatures. The two fires affected residents of 248 apartments in two different Queens apartment buildings.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

“The Red Cross came in as my knight in shining armor.”

Charmion Tamar and his wife had lived in their basement apartment in Brooklyn for three years, since before either of their two young daughters were born. Charmion, a cook and restaurant manager who is currently between jobs, described it as a pleasant space, with a nice kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, as well as access to the building’s backyard. He and his family were not aware that their basement home was an illegally converted apartment.

One day, after the landlord had locked one of the apartment’s exits, Charmion called the fire department to resolve the issue. Upon arrival, FDNY told him they had to bring in a building inspector. To the Tamar family’s shock the inspector declared the dwelling “unsafe” and told them that they were no longer allowed to remain in the home; they had to find somewhere else to live, immediately.

“The Red Cross came in as my knight in shining armor,” Charmion said. “They arrived before the Building Department.” The Red Cross transported the family to a hotel where they could stay for a few days, gave them a MetroCard to travel around the city and emergency funds for food. Charmion and one-month-old Layla came to Red Cross headquarters days later to speak with a caseworker. “Our caseworker gave us hope that we’d be able to have a place to sleep for the weekend and assistance finding something more permanent,” said Charmion. “It’s a blessing.”

Charmion said that he was familiar with the work the Red Cross does during large-scale disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but he was unaware that the organization assisted local victims of smaller disasters. “For me personally,” he said, “this little thing with being kicked out; my entire world is destroyed. I’m just glad that there’s someone that people in my situation can turn to.”

Charmion is so grateful for the Red Cross’ help that he hopes to be able to return the favor one day. “I would be glad to help the organization in any way I can,” he said.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ramses Barden's Day at the NY Red Cross

New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden spends a day at the Red Cross learning what it means to be a disaster responder.