Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"We Can Get Back on Our Feet Now."

Although Edward Gralla and his family evacuated their home in Far Rockaway in advance of Superstorm Sandy last October, they returned to find with six feet of water in the basement.

With their rental now unlivable, Gralla’s wife and four of his children then stayed with relatives. Gralla himself, along with a special-needs child, took refuge in a Red Cross shelter near where they’d lived.

“It was very nice there,” he said. “We had a place to sleep, it was heated, we had Kosher food.”

About three weeks later, the family moved to temporary lodgings in a FEMA hotel.

On April 30, Gralla accepted a check from the Red Cross that will allow the family to move into a brand new rental in Far Rockaway.

“Red Cross helped with the rent, security and moving expenses,” said Gralla. “I thank them very much for that. It’s wonderful, wonderful help. We can get back on our feet now.”

Photo: Superstorm Sandy survivor Edward Gralla accepts a recovery check from Kathy Massar, Red Cross casework supervisor from the Northeast California chapter, and Robert Callender, Manager, Move in Assistance program for Queens, from the Greater Carolinas chapter in Charlotte, N.C.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrating National Volunteer Week: CEO Letter to Volunteers

Dear Volunteer,

In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 21-27, 2013), I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for working tirelessly to fulfill the American Red Cross mission.

National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities; day in and day out, you do all that and more.

Our region has more than 7,000 volunteers from all walks of life. You come together with one common purpose—to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Considering that our region is the nation’s largest—home to more than 13 million people—that is a tremendous task.

Red Cross volunteers like you are always ready to step in and help people down the street, across the nation and around the world.

Last year, you helped us bring lifesaving safety courses such as first aid, CPR, babysitting and care giving to more than 100,000 people. You helped us serve veterans, members of the military and their families. You supported our critical mission-related work through general office support. And you helped us provide food, shelter, comfort and hope to more than 12,000 area residents affected by over 2,300 local disasters. From house fires to floods—you were there.

Last, but hardly least, you stepped in and gave your time, energy and compassion for days, weeks and months to help thousands of people affected by Superstorm Sandy, and continue to do so.

On behalf of everyone throughout our region, I send a heartfelt “Thank You!”

Josh Lockwood
Regional CEO

Friday, April 19, 2013

JetBlue Volunteers Partner with the Red Cross during Red Cross Month

JetBlue has continued to rise to the occasion when it comes to partnering with the American Red Cross to help residents of the Greater New York region.

This past March, which was Red Cross Month, a time when the accomplishments of the American Red Cross are recognized, along with the accomplishments of the organization’s remarkable volunteers, members of JetBlue’s all-volunteer Ready Team stepped up to help the Greater New York Red Cross help others.

 “JetBlue continues to be a strong partner, not only in deploying employees to help when disaster strikes, but on day-to-day regional needs,” said Marcela Espinoza, Greater New York regional director of volunteer and youth services. “Last month they assisted at three events so that people affected by Superstorm Sandy and people affected by home fires could take the critical first steps on the road to rebuilding their lives.”

The first event took place on March 19, when 18 Ready Team members came to JetBlue Headquarters in Long Island City to assemble 200 personal hygiene comfort kits containing toothpaste, toothbrush, combs, shampoo and other essentials. Red Cross disaster responders will distribute these kits to people displaced by fires and other emergencies.

The next event, dubbed a “muck out,” took place March 28. Eight JetBlue volunteers travelled to the Rockaways to assist Sandy affected residents. Activities included removing sand and debris, discarding damaged furniture and appliances, tearing out soggy drywall and insulation, vacuuming and more.

“The Muck Out highlighted the true meaning of caring as our volunteers assisted families who suffered such loss in the wake of Hurricane Sandy,” said Athena Amideneau, JetBlue Analyst, Care & Emergency Response, who oversees the Ready Team.

Finally, on March 26, in just four hours, 11 JetBlue volunteers reached out to more than 1,200 Red Cross volunteers by phone, reminding them to update their profiles on Greater New York’s new volunteer management system, Volunteer Connection.

“Once again, JetBlue proved its dedicated support of the Red Cross,” said Espinoza. “We would not be able to fulfill our mission were it not for committed partners like JetBlue, whose employees give their time and energy to help those in need.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Red Cross “Poet Laureate” Anthony DeRiggs

Most everyone at Greater New York Red Cross headquarters in Manhattan knows Anthony DeRiggs, our facilities manager, who oversees all aspects of the mailroom—accounting, invoicing, bill paying, mailing system software, and, of course, mail delivery. He travels the halls daily, speaking in the lilting accept of his Caribbean birthplace, the island country of Grenada.

Not everyone, however, knows that DeRiggs, who immigrated to the United States in 1978, is a published author and poet. Since arriving in New York City, he has written and published three books about his native Grenada, and is now working on a fourth. The first book, “Recollections of an Island Man,” was released in January 2006.

Like many before him, DeRiggs came to the U.S. to widen the scope of his life.

“Living in Grenada, the opportunities were not many in terms of development—educationally, socially, spiritually and otherwise,” said Deriggs, who taught high school in Grenada. “America is always a good place; it has worked for me.”

Initially settling in the Bronx, DeRiggs later moved to Brooklyn, where he now lives. He worked in offices at night, doing inventory; on and off, as he was able, he attended Brooklyn College, eventually earning a BA in history.

In August 1990, DeRiggs joined the Red Cross in the Facilities Department, responsible for shipping and receiving packages, overseeing the copy machines and more.

He said he immediately developed a deep love for the Red Cross. And although his job has evolved and expanded over the past 23 years, DeRiggs’ love for the Red Cross has remained unchanged.

“The Red Cross is a wonderful organization,” he said. “Working here give you the opportunity to see human nature at its best—with overflowing love and generosity.

Being poetic and a storyteller, working here has aided me in my development,” he continued. “That’s because I write about feelings; about people; about life. At Red Cross, you see people coming in asking for help; people who suffer because of an earthquake, a hurricane or some other disaster.

“A man, for instance, came here with a dog. That’s all the possessions he had in his life after a huge fire destroyed his house. You look at that man and see the need in his face. Bt then you see the help that comes from the Red Cross; you see the importance of an organization that would come to the assistance of someone in their darkest hour.

“The volunteers of the Red Cross are people who come out to help; people who sacrifice, people from all aspects of life. And when I look at that when I see how the people help the unfortunate in society, without looking for any sort of material gain or reward, it reinforce my belief in humanity.”

Knowing of DeRiggs’ writing, Marcela Espinoza, regional direction of volunteer and youth services, asked him to compose a poem to volunteers, to be read at each of three volunteer recognition events—one for Metro New York North volunteers, one for Long Island Red Cross volunteers, and one for New York City volunteers—to be held three Saturdays in March 2013.

“Right away, I felt I just had to do it,” said DeRiggs. “I did not wait. Right away, the words started coming.”

That day, on his way home, he settled into a seat on the subway and started to write. He was so involved in writing, he missed his stop. DeRiggs completed the poem at 3 am the next morning.
“I woke, and the rest of the poem came into my mind.”

Here is the poem, which DeRiggs read to acclaim in March:

Poem for American Red Cross Volunteers

We pause today to salute our gems
To shower gratitude and appreciation
On the unfaltering heartbeat
Our volunteers, the untiring pulse
Of the American Red Cross

Our volunteers who willingly forsake
The warmth and comfort of homes
And face the icy chill
To wrap a blanket around a shivering child
Are worthy of our highest commendation

Our volunteers who journey far
To stamp smiles on needy faces
And to ease the plight of those whose homes
Become rubble after the elements rage
Are spotlights of hope

Our volunteers who grab hold of pens
And tap keyboards in the dead of night
While many are wrapped in deep slumber
Embody the principles that steer this noble institution
The American Red Cross

No reward is too great
No gift can compensate
Our selfless heroes whose love for humanity
Propels them to reach out, to serve, to help
Those who cannot help themselves

Volunteers, we thank you all.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tell Me About Your Day

By Sam Kille
I’m sometimes asked what a typical day at the American Red Cross is like, often I’ll jest about the countless meetings and mind-numbing conference calls that dominate a lot of my time. Granted, there is a lot of planning that must go into disaster response but I do hate being chained to a desk.

Yet there are the days, like today, that reinforce why the Red Cross mission is so important.

My morning started in Island Park, a small village on Long Island’s south shore that was swallowed by Superstorm Sandy’s storm surge. There, I met with Carmen Torres who literally swam for her life when the storm hit.

Five months after, she and her boyfriend are still struggling to move past the disaster; however, their toil has been eased thanks to the Red Cross which helped provide the means for them to move into a new apartment.

Inspired, Carmen has started the process to become a Red Cross volunteer. New York’s ABC news affiliate, Eyewitness News 7, was interested in hearing her story—just one example of the more than 1,100 New Yorkers who have signed on as permanent volunteers since the storm.

Carmen walked us through her old apartment. The mold on the walls clearly showed how high the water rose. There was broken glass all over, and tattered photos—even a water-logged Bible.

It wasn’t easy for Carmen to be there and she nearly broke down in tears as she told the reporter her story. Yet every time she mentioned the Red Cross, her eyes lit up and one could truly feel the hope she described.

From there, we went to see her new apartment and its furnishings. The Red Cross had provided funds for the first month’s rent, security deposit, and furniture. It was definitely rewarding to see the donated dollar at work.

We then agreed to meet the news crew at the Long Island Red Cross office in Mineola. There, Carmen would get a tour and learn more about the process to become a volunteer.

Yet on the way, Carmen and I came upon a three-car collision in Garden City. I hoped it wouldn’t cost us the rest of the interview; however, I was compelled to stop and assist.

There was a woman holding a small towel to her mouth, I asked to look and saw that she had bitten her tongue and it was bleeding. Yet what concerned me most was the pain she was feeling across her chest, likely due to her seatbelt. Plus, I could see that she was starting to shake and looked pale—signs of shock.

I was fortunate to have Carmen with me as there was a language barrier—I really should have taken Spanish in high school. We helped the woman to the ground and let her know she would be okay. I told her daughter to reassure her.

By then, a police officer arrived and I let him know that he had at least one person who would need medical treatment. I returned to find that the daughter was stroking her own arm and was starting to shake as well. I asked if she was okay and she said her arm was starting to hurt. It did look as if it was slightly swollen. I had her sit down and keep the arm immobilized and elevated.

When the ambulance arrived, I asked the responders if they needed anything else, and they cleared me to go.

Fortunately, Eyewitness News was able to wait for us to finish the story, and Carmen was more than excited to meet the local Red Cross team, which she’ll soon be a member. It was a great day for Carmen.

And for me, it was a day away from the office that served as a reminder that the American Red Cross helps people get through life’s emergencies every day—big and small—and one never knows what kind of day it will be.

So, tell me about your day …

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

“There Are People There to Help You”

Red Cross Helps Actress after New York Apartment Fire
By Steele Filipek

Although Kira Davies and her boyfriend, Tim Race, didn’t connect immediately with the American Red Cross after their Brooklyn apartment was destroyed by an electrical fire, once they did, they felt they were in good hands.

Davies and Race thought they’d lost everything in the fire—furniture, records, books, bed, clothes; in other words, many of the tangibles that make up everyday life. Thankfully, neither was home at the time, and they were able to salvage some meaningful items, but seeing a decade of New York living going up in flames was as surreal as it was devastating.

“I pulled up in a car to see the fire department literally throwing my dresser out my window,” Davies reported. “My apartment was on fire.”

An actress and part-time sales agent, Davies had very little left with which to start over, least of all, time. Working on several projects for the theatre troupe Dangerous Ground Productions while also filling in for a departing actor took her mind off of the damage that had been done, but also prevented her from picking up the pieces.

Then, days after the fire, she and Race, who were staying with friends, returned to the apartment to see what they could salvage. They now saw that the Red Cross had left a sticker on the door of their apartment following the incident (it had been partially covered by another notice), and reached out for help.

Though she had worked for charities in the past (specifically, Children’s International), Davies had never “really thought about being the recipient of any support.”

She didn’t realize the Red Cross could help. After all, she thought, the Red Cross assisted victims of huge disasters like Hurricane Sandy. What could they do for her?

A lot, apparently.

The process proved to be straightforward, easy and quick. A phone interview led to a home visit by Red Cross disaster responders. They conducted a damage assessment and, within minutes, determined that the apartment was unlivable. The assessment led to a rented hotel room (provided for by the Red Cross) and stabilized the couple’s situation.

There was more.

“The Red Cross team handed Tim a debit card right there, on site,” Davies said. “We had almost run out of money…. I don’t know what we would have done if they hadn’t come.”

The debit card was to cover replacement food and clothing; the couple also received MetroCards for transit to and from Red Cross regional headquarters in Manhattan to speak with a caseworker for further assistance.

Davies said that the responders were helpful and kind, understanding of the circumstances. With their backing, Davies is in the process of moving out and on with her life.

“I would tell people that if they have a disaster, they should reach out as soon as possible, especially that first night,” she said.

The stress of everyday life had been amplified by the tragedy, but the Red Cross was there to help.

“People should know that if something awful happens that’s out of your control, there are people there to help you.”

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tables Are Set for the 2013 Red and White Ball

By Ehrett Ramey

Each May, the Metro New York North chapter of the American Red Cross hosts its Red and White Ball at the NetJets Hanger in White Plains, N.Y. The fundraiser, which is spearheaded by a dedicated group of volunteers, features table designs and layouts by many top-level local decorators.

The 2013 Ball has the potential to be the most beautiful yet, with exceptionally inspiring designs. Each artist has been asked to create a unique design, one they believe embodies the Red Cross mission. 

Decorators include Tom and Kerry Sheridan of Sheridan Designs; Noelle Newell of Noelle Newell Residential Designs and Décor; Silvina Leone of Silvina Leone LLC; Kellie Grogan of Ken Gemes Interiors; Jane Ellsworth of Jane Ellsworth Interiors; and Melissa Lindsay of Pimlico Interiors. Below are sketches these artists have created and their inspiration for their layout. The Red Cross is excited to be collaborating with these designers and to offer a sneak peak of the beauty of this year’s Red and White Ball.

Melissa Lindsay of Pimlico Interiors
“I definitely wanted the design to feel ‘Americana’ but in a very unexpected way.  Instead of playing off the strong graphic element of the 'Red Cross,' I chose to do the exact opposite: a painterly abstract design in reds, blues and whites.  Painted canvases by local artist Kerri Rosenthal will wrap glass vases and will be the tablecloth—a main focal point for the design.”

Jane Ellsworth of Jane Ellsworth Interiors
This design is for all those who give selflessly; HOPE springs eternal. Roses symbolize uplifted hearts full of love, courage and compassion.”

Kellie Grogan of Ken Gemes Interiors
With all of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, as well as many of this year’s winter storms, I think we are looking forward to the coming spring and summer months. We wanted to tablet o be fresh and crisp and remind everyone summer is right around the corner. We’re hoping the table will portray a sophisticated outdoor picnic feel.”


Silvina Leone Help Today, Hope for Tomorrow
 “This graceful vignette represents assertive and purposeful acts of love and collaboration through powerful symbols: a passive hand in need, touched by a butterfly as a sign of imminent good fortune, and an active and compassionate hand of hope, declaring: ‘Please take my hand and we will work together, with patience but in earnest, to overcome the past and emerge triumphant from this temporary hardship.’ Across cultures the butterfly remains an optimistic symbol of life and resurrection through struggle, patience and transformation, while the open and active hand signifies human action and creativity. Flowers in bloom stand for a celebration.”

 Noelle Newell – Noelle Newell Residential designs and Décor
“My inspiration is from travels to France with an eye toward beauty, refinement and romance. I am delighted to work with the powerful color red, as it is a symbol of beauty in many cultures. Louis XV’s fashion-loving, trendsetting mistress, Madame de Pompadour, fell in love with red. She moved red Versailles velvets to simpler cotton prints and stripes.”

Sheridan Interiors
We wanted a table skirt that would make a bold statement, so we chose a graphic pattern that is both fresh and exciting. We paired it with a wide contrast backing and solid pleating for a tailored look. For our centerpiece, we wanted to do something architectural that would make the most of the height in the airport hangar. We chose a vintage bird pavilion to house flowering branches.”