Wednesday, February 27, 2013

“I thank the Red Cross for helping me bounce back up.”

Friends and neighbors Cristina Morales (l) and Miguelina Jaquez (r)

Miguelina Jaquez and Cristina Morales, neighbors and friends for 33 years, live on the “E” line of apartments at 2440 Amsterdam Ave., in Manhattan’s Washington Heights.

The evening of Jan. 23, a four-alarm fire drove them both from their homes and out into the bitter cold. 
Morales , whose smoke alarm had gone off, ran down to Jaquez’s apartment to alert the family—Miguelina, her daughter, son-in-law, and their 8-month old son—to get out. 

Jaquez grabbed her purse and they ran from the building.

“If had been 1:30 in the morning we’d all be gone,” said Jaquez, an administrator for the MTA. “When the fire was climbing up the walls it got stronger toward the fourth floor and blew up; it went up to the roof …. we’re blessed to be alive.”

Morales, who left her apartment with no coat and only slippers on her feet, said she is grateful for the emergency financial assistance she received from the Red Cross for food and clothing. She says from now on she plans to donate ten dollars a month, every month, to help other families who may be displaced from their homes as she was.  

Jaquez said, “You helped me get back on my feet. I had no clothes; I lost everything. So to be able to get some clothes with the [debit] card you gave me helped so much. I thank the Red Cross for helping me bounce back up.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Generations of Service

Brooks Brothers has a long, proud tradition of supporting the American Red Cross. The relationship between the clothing retailer and the humanitarian organization goes back to 1898 when Brooks Brothers made a financial contribution to the Red Cross during the Spanish-American War.

Today the Golden Fleece Foundation, Brooks Brothers’ non-profit arm which manages its charitable endeavors, carries on this tradition. The Foundation aims to create a “culture of caring” within the Brooks Brothers organization by giving back to the communities it serves. 

The Red Cross has found a staunch partner in Brooks Brothers. The retailer hosts Red Cross blood drives, encourages volunteerism within its workforce, creates and carries out customer donation programs and provides direct financial support for Red Cross programs and services. Brooks Brothers’ support extends to almost every Red Cross line of service, including the Service to the Armed Forces program that helps military members and their families, blood services, and local, national and international disaster response.

Spearheading this modern-day relationship is Emilie Antonetti, vice president and managing director of the Golden Fleece Foundation.

“Personally, I hold the same ideals as the Foundation,” she said.

Accompanied by her 16-year-old niece, Katie Stratton, Antonetti recently visited a Red Cross feeding site in Howard Beach, Queens, a community deeply impacted by Superstorm Sandy.

“I wanted to see service delivery first-hand and interact with those affected by Sandy in person,” explained Antonetti. “I also wanted to share the experience with Katie; imparting to her ideals that have so much meaning for me.”

Overseen by Tommi Patterson and Billy York, two long-time Red Cross volunteers, Antonetti and her niece spent the afternoon serving lunch to local residents still reeling from the effects of Sandy.

For several hours a steady stream of people, mostly elderly residents, came to the Red Cross mobile feeding truck to collect meals and snacks. On the menu when Antonetti and her niece were serving: chicken, corn and mashed potatoes. 

“Each day, the residents are lined up here, waiting for us when we arrive at 10:45 am,” said Patterson. “The financial strain Sandy has put on these folks makes buying food really difficult.”

This was the first time Stratton had helped people in need face-to-face. Originally apprehensive about what to expect, Stratton felt real empathy for those she knew were suffering. 

“It was sad to see people hurting,” she said. “I’m glad we were able to help them in some way.”

Antonetti, who embodies the humanitarian ideals the Red Cross stands for, was glad to give her niece an opportunity to see and practice compassion in action. And thanks to her leadership at Brooks Brothers, the retailer’s tradition of service should continue for years to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Volunteer Profile: Franklin Maidman

Story and photo by Bill Fortune

There are times when the American Red Cross could be considered an international organization. That is especially true during times of emergency. The desire to help those in need is what drives the organization and individual volunteers. Volunteer Franklin Maidman exemplifies that attitude. 

Here on a student visa from Holland, Maidman, 19, is in New York City to study dance. In the evenings he works with his dance troupe; but every afternoon you will find him at Greater New York Red Cross regional headquarters on West 49th Street in Manhattan.

He found his way to the Red Cross shortly after arriving in the United States in early November. Recognizing that he had extra time on his hands and that people in New York needed help, he walked into the Red Cross office and asked to become a volunteer.

“When I walked into the building it was very busy,” he said. “It was only a couple of days after Hurricane Sandy and people were everywhere.”

Franklin completed the application process and began volunteering. He worked in bulk distribution for a while and then stepped into the local community volunteer activity for the disaster response operation. His energy, bright smile and strong work ethic have endeared him to the Greater New York workers.

Timothy Pitoniak, regional director of staffing and training, has high praise for Franklin:“He is here every day, working hard to meet the needs of the Red Cross,” Pitoniak said. 

Maidman has been a quick learner and easily tosses out Red Cross acronyms. He has learned that the business of the Red Cross can be hectic, challenging and rewarding, all at the same time.

“I have met so many new friends and the Red Cross is like a second family,” he said. “What I really like is meeting people of all ages and backgrounds. It is cool that there is no generation gap here. We all learn from each other. We are one Red Cross.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Red Cross Youth Take International Humanitarian Law Training

Fourteen high school students from across New York City came to Greater New York Red Cross headquarters in Manhattan Feb. 10 to learn about the rules of war through an interactive Red Cross International Humanitarian Law (IHL) simulation.

The simulation included six scenarios that placed students into roles as prisoners of war, humanitarian aid workers, soldiers and army generals. The program is designed to teach students the rules of war through representative experiences.

“This Red Cross training for ages 13 to 18 is an exciting way to teach students the importance of International Humanitarian Law. Going into the training, the youth don’t know what to expect and are literally thrown into scenario after scenario, encouraging them to put themselves in other’s shoes,” said Amanda Crabbe, Greater New York volunteer and youth services associate.
The students who participated will in turn recruit a group of six to 10 of their peers, facilitate the same simulation, then work together to come up with an IHL action campaign by April, 2013.

“The action campaign will address one or more issues related to IHL in an effort to spread awareness about the rules of war, and to stimulate deeper discussions among their peers,” said Crabbe. 

Photos by Evan Marcy.  See more photos here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

When Your House Burns Down, A Little Levity Goes a Long Way

By Ashley Chapman

On January 14, Na’eem Rasheed, age 36, returned from class to find fire trucks blocking his street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. There was so much chaos that it was hard to tell which building was in flames.

“You just don’t think it’s going to be your house on fire,” said Rasheed. 

But it was his house: a four-story brownstone that Rasheed shared with 22 neighbors. By the time Rasheed arrived, firefighters had spent two hours extinguishing the two-alarm blaze, which had ripped through the back of his building and into the brownstone next door.

The Red Cross was on site when Rasheed arrived, providing key resources and emergency relief, including temporary housing for all the displaced tenants in the building. 

Rasheed was the first tenant home, so he took charge by calling his neighbors and roommates to tell them the news. It wasn’t as simple as it sounded.

“When I called them to say ‘the house is on fire, you need to come back,’ many thought I was kidding,” he said. 

When he went to his apartment to retrieve some key items, he was shocked by what he saw: broken windows, an overturned bed and shelves, and possessions strewn across the floor.

“I just started laughing because I couldn’t believe it,” Rasheed explained. “When I’m nervous, I joke around. But the Red Cross guy understood this, and he joked around with me a little bit.”

Rasheed was particularly nervous about where he was going to stay for the night so the emergency housing that the Red Cross provided gave him peace of mind.

“Once I found out that I had a place to stay,” Rasheed recalled, “I began to calm down and was able to help out those around me.”

In the past, Rasheed had volunteered and donated both money and blood to support the Red Cross, but he never knew that the Red Cross also helps out in local disasters. 

“If people have any money, they should donate it to a worthwhile charity like yours because you do a lot of great work that’s very, very important in situations like this,” he said. 

“I’m a very anxiety-prone person, and man, I would have really freaked out if it hadn’t been for the Red Cross.”

When looking back on the past month, Rasheed admitted that the fire, while traumatic, was also a bit ironic. 

“I had been praying that I'd find a way to move out of the neighborhood,” Rasheed said. “But I wasn’t expecting the whole house would burn down."

MLK Day 2013 – Fire Prevention and Emergency Preparedness in Mount Vernon

By Millen Asfaha, American Red Cross AmeriCorps member 

To mark this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 21,
AmeriCorps members from the American Red Cross Greater New York Region partnered with volunteers from HOPE worldwide, a local faith-based organization dedicated to community services initiatives. The one-day project targeted the south side of Mount Vernon, a small low-income town in Westchester County that has been affected by an unusually high incidence of fires in the past three years. The objective was to disseminate fire prevention and emergency preparedness information across the community. A total of 66 volunteers of all backgrounds and age groups, including 12 AmeriCorps members serving as team leaders, took part in the Day of Service.

Volunteers were welcomed with a warm introduction from HOPE worldwide’s Sylvia Sichone as well as the chief of the Griffin Valentino Fire House. Everyone was filled with enthusiasm and a sense of camaraderie as they split into 10 groups, each assigned to a different section of the south side area. Before heading out, all volunteers were provided with Be Red Cross Ready brochures and door hangers containing fire safety information for distribution throughout the neighborhood. Each AmeriCorps team leader was also given a tracking sheet to calculate the amount of materials handed out, the number of households visited, and the number of conversations conducted. 

The canvassing spanned about two hours long and was very successful despite the cold weather. The teams distributed approximately 883 materials to countless households throughout the area and volunteers engaged in vital fire prevention and preparedness conversations with Mount Vernon residents.

Many of the volunteers found that local community members were quite surprised by the initiative, a reaction which seemed to emphasize the need for more educational resources and future preparedness activities in the area. The day ended with a quick tour of the fire house before volunteers departed. Everyone involved showed great dedication to the project and it was satisfying to see the work that we accomplished during this Day of Service. We look forward to organizing similar events in the future.

Friday, February 1, 2013

“You never know whose life you’re going to save.”

By Ehrett Ramey

The American Red Cross partnered with Iona College Wed., Jan 30, to host a blood drive. Iona students came out in force, with close to 100 people participating in the collection. Pierre Eliezer, a junior at Iona College, has been participating in blood drives at Iona for three semesters.

 “You never know whose life you’re going to save,” he said. 

The Jan. 30 drive was so busy that the Red Cross called upon staff members from Albany, New York, 150 miles away, to drive down to lend a hand. Debbie Kellogg, a Red Cross volunteer nurse from Albany, was excited about the turnout and declared the event a success.

“It has been very steady and we’ve had a lot of double donations, which is great,” she said.

Double donors are people with sought-after O-Negative, O-Positive, A-Negative and B-Negative blood types, which is in short supply. A special machine is used to allow these donors to safely donate two units of red blood cells during one donation.  

Only 38 percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood, and more than 44,000 blood donations a day are needed to keep up with the demand for blood. So please sign up at and donate to the Red Cross; each pint of blood has the potential to save three lives.

The American Red Cross thanks the Iona College students, New Rochelle community members and Red Cross volunteers that made this blood drive successful.