Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Minisink Valley Lions Club Is Ready, Willing and Able

The Minisink Valley Lions Club (formerly the Greenville/Wawayanda Lions Club) of Orange County, NY, has a long history of community service—from cooking meals for the Orange County Mental Health Association’s annual autism fundraiser, to hand-delivering baskets of food to families in need during the holidays, to providing community members hard hit by the recession with financial assistance for household utilities, medical costs, clothing or food.

So joining the Metro NY Red Cross Ready When the Time Comes (RWTC) program, which provides disaster-relief training to volunteer teams from local community and corporate groups, seemed a natural fit to Lion’s Club members Joan Romanyschyn and Joanne Wilcox.

They were well aware that the Delaware River floods regularly, inundating Orange County communities. After record-setting floods along the Delaware in 2007, Red Cross set up shelters in Port Jervis and Washingtonville, NY, helping scores of affected residents. Joan, Joanne and the Lions Club wanted to be ready before the next flood occurred. “We wanted to become involved with the Red Cross because it provides a direct way for our members to assist others in our community,” said Joan. “If there's a need, we want to learn the skills necessary to fill it. We don't have a lot of money, but we are very hands-on.”

The Lions scheduled their RWTC training for April 2008, and a total of 13 members registered. But before they could even take their scheduled training, the team was placed on standby following the crane collapse that occurred in Manhattan on March 15, 2008. It turned out that the Lions weren’t needed, but if they had been, they would have been happy to travel down to New York City and help.

The team’s first and only response to date occurred in February 2010, when they helped staff a shelter during a fierce snowstorm in the Lower Hudson Valley. As a team, they truly felt a sense of all being in it together. The Lions also found that the beginning-level classes they had taken were helpful. As a result of their training, they felt as though they were providing the services genuinely needed by those who sought assistance at the shelter.

Now that they’ve had some experience, the Lions’ team feels very comfortable with the idea of responding again. In the meantime, they’re looking to strengthening their team through more advanced training. They want to be ready if and when the Red Cross calls!

Friday, July 15, 2011

“Red Cross is an A-plus in my opinion.”

It started as a regular Tuesday for Alexis Geraldino. He attended classes at Technical Career Institutes New York where he is finishing up a program in accounting. But when he returned to his Bronx apartment that evening, he learned that a fire had roared through the building during the afternoon. The fire was out, but the damage was done. The roof and most of the two floors above his were almost completely gone, making Alexis’s 4th floor apartment essentially the top floor of the building. Alexis found that his apartment was nearly destroyed; his belongings ruined with water and smoke damage and his ceiling ripped apart.

“The first night I tried to survive on my own resources,” he said. Although access to the floors above his was blocked, Alexis was able to get into his apartment and stay the night. “I accept that it wasn’t the best idea,” he said. “I was thinking, what am I going to do in the morning?”

Although Red Cross responders had been on the scene during and after the fire to register residents for assistance, Alexis had arrived after they’d gone. The next day, Alex spoke to a Red Cross worker who returned to the building. He later came to Metro Red Cross headquarters, where, caseworkers arranged for a hotel for him for two nights, and referrals for longer-term city housing. Alexis said, “I knew the Red Cross would come through. Red Cross is an A-plus in my opinion and not just because of the help I just got.”

As it turns out, Alexis had received Red Cross help years earlier. In 2003, while serving in the army in Tennessee, waiting to be deployed to the Iraq, Alexis’ father, who was his only living relative, had a heart attack back in New York. With the assistance of the Red Cross’s Service to the Armed Forces program, Alexis was able to return to oversee his father’s care. Sadly, before his father could receive the surgery he needed, he passed away.

After his father’s death, Alexis spent a year in Iraq, where he injured his back. Though he originally intended a life-long career in the service, Alexis was discharged for medical reasons. He returned to New York City in 2007.

Alexis is incredibly grateful for all the assistance he received both after the fire and when he was in the military. He said, “I cannot talk about the Red Cross without saying ‘Thank-you.’ I mean it.”

Alexis Geraldino, Bronx, New York

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Red Cross helps Holocaust Survivor recover piece of family history

L to R, bottom row: Mania Kichell’s daughter, Ruth Langroth and Holocaust survivor Mania Kichell. Top row: two of Mania’s granddaughters, Simone Vogel and Stacey Langroth; and daughter Anna Zvi.
On, we published a Holocaust tracing story on how we helped Queens resident, Anna Zvi, recover a piece of her mother's family history:
Since as long as she can remember, Hollis Hills, Queens resident and mother of two Anna Zvi has known that she was the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Although her mother, Mania Kichell, now 90 years old, rarely spoke of these traumatic years of her life, Anna still knew a bit about what she endured during WWII.
Hearing about what her mother went through was heart-breaking.
Anna knew about the brutality her mother had suffered when the Nazis lined up her family and divided them for transport to different camps in 1944. “When they were saying ‘Left’ and ‘Right,’ my mother’s mother, one of her sisters, and her sister’s child were sent to one side and she to the other side,” Anna said. “My mom later learned they were sent to a death camp. But at the time, she tried to run after themand was severely beaten.”
The rest of the story involves how the Red Cross was able to help retrieve public documents about her mother.
About three years ago, triggered by her mother’s age and further deteriorating mental condition, Anna began a search to discover as many of the lost pieces of Mania’s story as possible. She started by contacting Yad Vashem and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which sent Anna documents pertaining to Mania’s time in Auschwitz. Additionally, the Holocaust Memorial Museum recommended that Anna contact the Red Cross. She contacted the Greater New York chapter, and within two months of initiating a case, Anna began to receive the first documents from them—public records obtained by the Polish Red Cross confirming her mother’s residence in the Lodz Ghetto and liberation from Bergen-Belsen. 
Read the whole story here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

“There is still compassion in this city.”

After a May 29 fire destroyed his Brooklyn apartment, Michael Memeh discovered an unanticipated source of caring and kindness in his community. “Both the fire department and the Red Cross showed a marvelous kind of compassion that I have never experienced in New York,” Memeh said. “They were there to say, ‘This is not the end of the world. There is still hope….’”

Memeh said he stepped out for a meal that Sunday—and upon returning home from the restaurant, found smoke pouring from his third-floor apartment. He ran through the building alerting neighbors, who managed to evacuate by the time the fire department arrived on the scene. As firefighters controlled the blaze, Red Cross responders offered residents food, water, hygiene kits with essentials like toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, and arranged for temporary housing.

A few weeks later, investigators hadn’t yet determined the cause of the fire on Dean St., but there is little doubt about the effects. “When I left my apartment to go to the restaurant, there was no television or radio on; everything was in order,” said Memeh. “By the time I came back, everything had burnt down. There was nothing left.”

The episode was just one of more than 300 fires and other emergencies the Greater NY Red Cross has responded to in Brooklyn over the first half of 2011; this year the organization has offered food, shelter and emotional support to more than 2,000 people in the borough.

Memeh has transitioned to a longer-term Brooklyn shelter provided by the city, says he looks forward to returning to his job as security guard, and continues to have kind words for the Red Cross. “The team from the Red Cross was able to pat me on the back as if my mother was there for me,” he said. “There is still compassion in this city. I will never forget that.”

Michael Memeh, Brooklyn, NY