Thursday, May 23, 2013

“I needed help right away and the Red Cross was there.”

By Michelle Shore

In late March 2013, Bronx resident George Ford returned home from a friend’s house and saw his second-story apartment in flames. His first thought was for his two Pomeranian dogs, Krypto and Knight, who were trapped inside. The American Red Cross responder who came to assist understood that for Ford, his dogs came first.

That’s because, for a long time, with no family in his life, the dogs had become like family to Ford, as had his neighbors in the Westchester Village neighborhood in the Bronx where he’d lived since 2009.

“This is the only place I have been able to call home in a while,” he said.

When the 56-year-old ex-Navy reservist was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, he really saw the best side of his local community.

“I knew no one when I moved into this apartment but all my neighbors became my good friends,” Ford explained. During his cancer treatment, “They brought me food, did my laundry and shopped for me,” he said.

In return he helped out his neighbors and watched over the seniors in the building. After two years of extensive treatment and surgery, Ford’s cancer went into remission. Soon after that, he took the advice of his doctor and adopted the two Pomeranians.

“The dogs were a lifesaver for me,” he said.

The day his apartment burned, Ford tried desperately to reach the dogs. Though he made two efforts to climb onto the fire escape and into his apartment, thick smoke and flames pushed him back. Ford suffered minor non-life threatening burns from his rescue attempts.

Within minutes after Ford’s fruitless efforts, firefighters were in the apartment extinguishing the blaze and bringing out the dogs, who were both unconscious.

“Their eyes were shut and they were barely breathing,” Ford said. “I don’t know what I would have done if they had perished in the fire.”

After a half hour of oxygen administered by a firefighter, the dogs awoke. It was a moment of huge relief for Ford, who realized he wouldn’t be able to relocate without his dogs at his side.

“The American Red Cross responder got on the phone and wouldn’t stop calling until he had found a place for me and my dogs to stay,” he recalled.

In addition to providing Ford and his dogs with temporary housing during repairs to the damaged apartment, the Red Cross was also able to provide emergency funds to help with urgent purchases such as food and clothing.

“I needed help right away and the Red Cross was there,” Ford said. “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

Monday, May 20, 2013

“We were able to keep our dignity”

by Carl Manning

For Hafiz Ahmed, the American Red Cross was the difference between keeping his dignity as family provider and suffering the despair of being without any place to live but the streets.

Ahmed, who makes a living as a New York City taxi driver, arrived in the United States from his native Bangladesh in 1997. For the last year, he has lived with his wife and his 8-year-old son in a basement apartment in the Forest Hills section of Queens.

In March 2012, after dropping his son off at school, Ahmed was working his day shift when he received a frantic phone call from his wife. There was a fire in their apartment building and their home had been flooded with water and smoke. It would be uninhabitable.

When Ahmed arrived home, the police asked if his family had a place to stay. That’s when the reality sank in. He said he was supposed to be the family provider, but at that moment he couldn’t even provide them a place to live.

Ahmed didn’t have the money to stay at a hotel, his father and brother didn’t have room to take the family in and he couldn’t count on the landlord to help out.

“Everybody I know lives in tiny places and it is no good to go there and bother them,” Ahmed said. “Everything was gone. There was water like a shower on my TV, my computer, my mattress. The whole house smelled.”

As he worried about what to do next, Red Cross volunteers showed up at the scene and provided Ahmed and his family with immediate assistance—food, clothing and a place to stay.

“One night I was in my bed and the next night I was in the hotel,” he recalled. “During that time I got a gift from God. We made it. These people helped us … this is really appreciated.”

But the Red Cross assistance didn’t end there.

Ahmed met with caseworkers who helped with his long-term recovery needs. Ahmed said he didn’t realize the Red Cross helped fire victims, and he’s glad they were there when he needed them.

“The most important thing the Red Cross did for me was to assure me that I didn’t have to live on the street,” he said. “We didn’t beg anybody. We were able to keep our dignity.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chelsea Couple Turns to Red Cross Volunteers After Fire

By Gemma Haywood

Chelsea residents Ana, 27, and Miguel, 36, had been planning a romantic evening at home March 27: sharing a bottle of wine and celebrating their first year as a couple. Instead, they found themselves picking through what remained of their belongings after a fire destroyed their home.

Thankfully for them, the American Red Cross was on scene to help, providing emergency relief that would help them get through this trying time.

“The Red Cross was awesome to us,” recalled Miguel, “all of them!”

The fire happened in the middle of the day, when the couple was at work. It started in the Laundromat on the first floor of their 15th Street building, but spread quickly to their second floor apartment. By the time they were notified, little could be done.

Miguel was the first to arrive and was escorted to the burnt-out apartment by police and firefighters. Ana arrived soon after.

“When we got home all of our stuff was lying in the backyard. Glass was shattered everywhere, water everywhere, all of our clothing, our sofa, TV, computers, everything—a complete loss,” she said.

Standing on the sidewalk with just a few bags of salvaged belongings, Ana and Miguel learned that the Red Cross could provide them with assistance. In fact two Red Cross disaster response teams had arrived on the scene to help not only Ana and Miguel, but all of the building’s residents, who were ordered to vacate the building.

Recalling the efforts of the Red Cross teams, Ana said they did everything very quickly.

“They found somewhere for us to stay for a couple of nights; they gave us emergency funds to get some food; and they asked us to talk to a caseworker so we can find some help to follow up the case.”

Two days later, Ana and Miguel came in to the Red Cross Manhattan offices. Their meeting with a Red Cross caseworker empowered the couple to get the help they needed, including referrals for longer-term housing.

“The caseworker has been giving us good advice on what to do and what not to do. And how to proceed,” explained Miguel. “All the information she has given us has been so helpful.”

Ana and Miguel never thought they might one day need the help of the Red Cross. They were familiar with the humanitarian relief and recovery work of the Red Cross for major disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. Ana was also a regular blood donor for the Red Cross. But neither was aware of the Red Cross disaster response activity in the Greater New York region.

“You don’t think if you have a problem like this in your home, that the Red Cross can help you,” said Ana. “But now we know.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

SAF Supports Marines Family Day Event in Brooklyn

American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) volunteers Jason Slibeck, Heather Goodchild, Tony Delgado, and Jim Shevlin, along with Inna Fainbain, Marine Family Readiness Officer, 6th Communication Battalion, took part in the Marines Family Day Event May 5. The annual event is held every May at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

During the day, SAF volunteers provided information on SAF services and Red Cross preparedness information to nearly 1,000 Marines and their families.

Photo, L to R: Jason Slibeck, Heather Goodchild, Tony Delgado, Inna Fainbain and Jim Shevlin

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Teen Kids News Films Red Cross Clubs International Humanitarian Law Exercise

Teen Kids News, a national TV show broadcast Saturday mornings, came to Greater NY Red Cross headquarters the end of April. They filmed eight high school students, all Red Cross Youth Club members from across New York City, as they participated in an International Humanitarian Law (IHL) training exercise.

During “Raid Cross” the students played roles such as soldier, humanitarian aid worker, and prisoner of war in in simulations designed to teach young people about IHL, or the rules of war. This gave them the opportunity to make tough decisions and experience a small sense of what it is like to participate in a conflict. The segment will air in early fall.

Photo by Evan Marcy: Red Cross Club members participate in a "Raid Cross" exercise this past February.