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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this inspirational poem. May I read it at our Annual Meeting & Awards Banquet?
    Betsy Hammar
    Vol. Resources Dir.
    American Red Cross of Greater Idaho


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