Monday, February 4, 2013

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.

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