Friday, August 31, 2012

Long Island Red Cross Volunteer Finds Satisfaction in Hurricane Deployments

In the two years since Susan duBourg, a retired Verizon employee from Glen Head, New York, became an American Red Cross disaster volunteer she has worked in disaster response and assessment, sheltering and mass care (feeding) on Long Island.

She has also deployed to three major disaster relief operations: to nearby Farmingdale, N.Y., after Hurricane Irene last year; to Binghamton, N.Y., after Tropical Storm Lee; and last week, to Tampa, Fla., for Isaac.

In Farmingdale, duBourg’s first national disaster response, she worked at a Red Cross shelter where 400 people had taken refuge. She called this a terrific experience.

“It was a great learning how to deal with the issues that came up,” she said. “Issues like feeding, working with a great many people, and learning to adjust to it all.”

Although deployed to Binghamton as a mass care worker (someone who provides meals to shelter residents), duBourg was actually placed in a Red Cross warehouse doing logistics. She said she quickly readjusted to her new role and was gratified to be volunteering where people really needed help.

Perhaps the best part of these deployments for duBourg has been learning that she can cope with anything that is thrown her way.

“Every experience has been a new adventure,” she said. “You learn how to deal with people in different kinds of situations.”

Since Isaac did not directly hit Florida as expected, duBourg has found volunteering in Tampa to be fairly uneventful. She is, however, ready, willing and able to be re-deployed to the Gulf Coast to help those directly impacted by Isaac.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Red Cross Pet Therapy Volunteers Lorraine Brown and Meeka, New City, N.Y.

Lorraine Brown and her husband, Les, have always owned dogs, each one unique and special. After their last mixed Lab passed away, Lorraine decided she wanted a new dog, one with the temperament to be trained as a therapy dog.

Although the family was going to search for a shelter animal, their vet recommended that they look at a sweet apricot-colored Labradoodle pup with a lovable nature; the last of a litter of seven. The connection was instant: The puppy threw herself on them and blanketed them with kisses.

Lorraine enrolled Meeka in puppy training almost immediately and, at four months, Meeka proved to be a quick learner of obedience commands. She continued in classes to become a Canine Good Citizen, followed by training to be a therapy dog.

Upon graduation, Meeka and Lorraine became regular attendees at Friedwald Nursing Home in New City, New York. After a few visits, Meeka embraced her new status as a therapy dog, happily greeting residents with a wagging tail. Her joy took on new dimensions, and she actually displayed a smiling face when she met family visitors with children.

With Meeka’s happy disposition and good nature with people, it was easy for Lorraine to decide to get involved with the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at West Point as part of the Red Cross Pet Therapy program.

Again, Meeka proved herself to be a social creature, enjoying her interaction with the Soldiers, bouncing, with her tail wagging. When approaching West Point, Meeka’s excitement becomes evident as she plunges out of the car, pulling Lorraine toward the WTU. She invariably has fun spending time with her other therapy dog friends and saying her hellos to the Soldiers and other personnel.

With Meeka’s joy in meeting children, it was logical for Lorraine to obtain a R.E.A.D certificate and get involved with the younger population. In their first experience, Lorraine and Meeka attended a Valentine’s Day party at the Army Community Center, where children of deployed Soldiers read to individual therapy dog teams. Meeka eagerly awaited pets and hugs as she obediently lay down between Lorraine and a youngster.

Lorraine feels so very fortunate and proud to be the owner of this special dog, Meeka, and of how Meeka shares the gifts of love and joy. They both look forward to discovering many more opportunities to enrich people’s lives.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

“Bad if There’s an Earthquake.”

A few years after my husband and I moved into our Queens, N.Y., apartment two decades ago, my then 12-year-old cousin, Ted, visited from out of town. The kid took one look at the two bookcases in our hallway leading to the master bedroom and scowled.

“Bad in an earthquake,” he declared, shaking his head. “Very, very bad in an earthquake.”
My husband and I thought this was hilarious.

“We really don’t have earthquakes in New York,” I said, recalling that I’d slept through a small earthquake in New York years earlier. “Just tiny ones.”

“You never know,” said Ted, who as you may have guessed was—and still is—living on the West Coast.

Ted had already experienced many earthquakes in his life, including the 1989 San Francisco quake, from which he and his family emerged unscathed.

It’s now almost 20 years later.

I’m reminded of this incident today, because it’s the one-year anniversary of the 5.8 earthquake that struck Virginia—and was felt right here in NYC.

I was at work at Greater New York Red Cross headquarters on 49th Street in Manhattan when a colleague said, “Do you feel that? Do you feel the building shaking?”

The building was gently swaying. It was an unsettling sensation, which happily passed pretty quickly.

Which brings me back to the two bookcases that are still lining the hallway leading to my bedroom: It’s probably time to have our building superintendent secure them to the wall.

You can read Red Cross earthquake preparedness tips here.

Anita Salzberg, Queens, NY

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"It’s a normal day, and the next thing you know your building gets hit by lightning."

According to the National Weather Service, about 25 million lightning flashes occur each year in the United States, each one potentially deadly.

In Ryan Gerald del Castillo’s case, on July 26, lightning struck not him, but the roof of his seven-story Brooklyn apartment building, setting off a massive 7-alarm blaze. The fire raged through the building, ultimately forcing him out of the second floor apartment he’d lived in for nearly 17 years, since he’d emigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines.

Because the building is so large, and because the fire started on the top floor, it was at least an hour—and possibly longer—before del Castillo, a nurse at the NYU Medical Center ICU in Manhattan, realized the extent of the fire and left for the safety of the street.

He explained that because he lives so close to at least two neighborhood hospitals, it’s normal to hear sirens—fire trucks, ambulances and alarms.

“You always hear something,” he said. “I didn’t really see smoke … I was nonchalant.”

Once outside, del Castillo joined his aunt, who also works as a nurse, but at Kings County hospital, and lives with her daughter on the building’s first floor. His aunt had called about twenty minutes after the fire started to make sure her nephew was okay and he’d assured her he was.

Now, watching as the flames covering the entire roof spread, del Castillo understood the true severity of the situation.

“I’m looking at the building with this blank stare,” he said. “It was overwhelming; it was traumatic. You can’t even talk.”

He and his aunt decided to visit the Red Cross reception center set up at a nearby school for assistance.

“We needed someone to comfort us,” he said. “The Red Cross volunteer was helpful and friendly and asked how we were doing. You feel horrible, and they’re there to listen a little.”

Although he and his aunt declined emergency housing from the Red Cross, he said they were extremely grateful for the assistance they did receive.

“I’m so appreciative of the Red Cross,” he said. “They were helpful with what to do next. Me and my aunt are thinking of volunteering after we get settled. It’s not just the physical help they give; it’s the emotional help that people need.”

Ryan Gerald del Castillo, Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pet Therapy Volunteers Pat Coglianese and Jessie, New City, New York

Photo: Liz Borda
Jessie, a five-year-old German Shepherd, spent the first two years of her life in a service dog program, training to lead a blind person. Unfortunately, Jessie is very friendly, and the service dog trainers were unable to train her not to want to say hello to people and dogs passing by.

At two years old, Jessie was released from the program and adopted by a convent of nuns who run a soup kitchen in an unsafe neighborhood. The nuns wanted a German Shepherd that could run free in their soup kitchen yard and bark at anyone who tried to climb over the fence at night.

But Jessie wouldn’t bark—because she is too friendly!

The nuns decided she was not the dog for them. They asked dog trainer Pat Coglianese if she knew anyone who might want Jessie. Someone did want Jessie—Pat!

Pat trained Jessie as a therapy dog as well as a Reading Assistance Education (R.E.A.D.) dog. Jessie is now a therapy dog whose friendly personality is perfect for reading programs with children. She and Pat also visit soldiers recovering at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at West Point.

What’s more, Jessie also helps Pat train other people’s dogs. She is Pat’s best friend and gets to say hello to many people and dogs—just what she loves to do!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

AECOM and the American Red Cross Partner for Historic Blood Drive at Grand Central Terminal

NYC commuters are rolling up their sleeves to help save lives today at a blood drive being held from 8 am to 6 pm at in Vanderbilt Hall at New York’s historic Grand Central Terminal on E. 42nd Street.
With a history spanning the better part of a century, Grand Central Terminal has long stood as a symbol of the promise that entry into New York City holds. Likewise, the American Red Cross has long served as a symbol of hope and humanitarian aid to those in need.
The blood drive is being hosted by AECOM, a provider of professional technical and management support services to a broad range of markets, including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, water and government.

“AECOM and our employees have a long-standing history of partnering with, and supporting, the Red Cross,” said AECOM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John M. Dionisio. “We are delighted to sponsor such an important event for the New York City metro area.”

The blood drive comes at a crucial time for the Red Cross, as summer months can take a toll on the blood supply, with high schools and colleges on break and many potential donors pursuing summer activities. Unfortunately, patients don’t get a holiday from needing blood products. The need is constant, and donations must be continual to provide for hospital patients in need. Yet, despite this constant need, only five percent of the eligible population actually donates blood.

Ironman triathlete Brian Boyle was on hand this morning to encourage people to donate. Following a horrific car crash in 2004, the now 26-year-old Boyle would have lost his life had he not received 36 pints of blood from the Red Cross. Due to Brian's determination and physical conditioning, Brian gradually progressed from a coma to a wheelchair, eventually competing in the Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii and most recently the Boston Marathon. Brian says he represents the many blood recipients whose lives have been saved in part due to Red Cross blood donors.

“One hour of someone’s time today can save three lives,” he said. “I’m proof of that. Please come down to Grand Central Terminal and donate.”

“Blood must be on hand when it’s needed to help save a life, whether it be a young mother who needs blood during a difficult childbirth, a friend or family member needing blood during cancer treatments or the victim of a traumatic injury who needs several units of blood in the emergency room,” said Donna M. Morrissey, Director, Communications, American Red Cross Blood Services – Northeast Division. “We are so pleased to work with AECOM to bring a historic opportunity to those who live or work in New York City to donate blood and experience giving the gift of life.”

Commuters and other New Yorkers are urged to stop by Grand Central Terminal and donate blood today!