Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NYC Volunteer Summer Social 2013

More than 185 New York City Red Cross volunteers, employees, and their guests picnicked and played at the 2013 Volunteer Summer Social, held at Riverside Park in Manhattan the evening of July 26.

Volunteers from a wide range of departments attended: disaster responders, Mass Care volunteers, blood drive volunteers, and Ready When the Time Comes volunteers, including the Purple Pro Team. Youth volunteers turned out in force from Hunter College High School, Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts, Brooklyn Tech and Bayside High School. A dozen Sandy volunteers were also on hand; they were immediately recruited into various Greater New York departments.

The evening’s activities included hearty picnic fare, a tug-o-war contest, face (and arm) painting, a potato sack race, board games, a Mass Care challenge, and numerous raffles and giveaways.

In true Red Cross fashion, attendees not only had fun but engaged in some community outreach. At the registration table, many passers-by asked for and were given information on volunteering and being prepared for a disaster. Upcoming blood drive information was also distributed.

Thanks go to Volunteer Services and Emergency Services for their hard work in planning and carrying out this successful social. See more photos here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Greater NY Red Cross Partners With Photographer Jason Florio

Photo credit: Helen Florio-Jones
Several months ago, veteran freelance photographer Jason Florio approached the Red Cross about a possible pro-bono collaboration with the Greater New York Region. Jason began by accompanying Greater New York disaster responders to fires and other emergencies to see their work in action.

He then decided to create a series of portraits and videos highlighting the commitment and compassion of our diverse volunteer workforce. Last week, Jason, along with his wife Helen Florio-Jones, visited our headquarters in Manhattan to photograph and interview about a dozen volunteers from across the region.

The Red Cross is honored to partner with Jason and thrilled to see the finished product. Stay tuned!

Read about Jason’s accomplished work below.

Jason Florio is freelance photographer and writer based in New York City. He has worked around the world for publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Men’s Journal, Outside and the Virginia Quarterly Review. His focus has been on under-reported stories about people living on the margins of society and in places of conflict. His work has been recognized with a number of international awards including The International Photography Awards “People Photographer of the Year 2010’, and 2013 Virginia Quarterly Review – Prize for Photography.

Jason’s work has been acquired by museums in the USA and China and exhibited internationally. In January 2013 he completed a 700 mile journey down the River Gambia in West Africa to document the communities along one of Africa’s last free-flowing major rivers, before it is dammed. He is a proud Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London. www.floriophoto.com

Between my job and the Red Cross – it’s a family. A real family.

by Nadine Rose

Yamilka Alvarez and her family barely escaped from a five-alarm fire in the Bronx that destroyed their home. Alvarez lives with her mother, husband and two young daughters, ages 8 and 2. In the face of this tragedy, the family has found comfort and support with the American Red Cross.

The Alvarez family had lived in their second floor apartment for almost two years. The morning of the fire, they woke up in shock to heat and smoke. Thinking fast, Alvarez was able to grab some identification and a blanket for the baby, and quickly guided her mother and kids to safety. The father of the household met with Red Cross responders when they arrived on site.

Alvarez admitted, “It’s hard because when you see things happen on TV; you don’t think they are going to happen to you.”

Outside, Alvarez continued to feel anxious for her family, especially her mother, who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

A Red Cross responder took charge, asking if the family needed anything, including housing. They declined the housing, and stayed with friends for two nights.

Then, they decided to meet with a Red Cross caseworker at regional headquarters in Manhattan to learn how to find more permanent housing.

The caseworker helped the family determine the correct paperwork for housing through NYC’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, what resources were available for the mother’s medical needs, and other key next steps.

“I was surprised at all the help the Red Cross gave me,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez appreciates that she came out of the devastating fire with what she needs most.

“I have the most important things – my family.”

Additionally, Alvarez works at a local hospital and is thankful that her employer has given her a lot of support. “Between my job and the Red Cross – it’s a family. A real family.”

Friday, July 19, 2013

Patrick was our hero.

Jaimie Sanita and Emily Viemeister were awakened around 4 am on a steamy night in July by frantic knocking by a neighbor: there was a fire in their building. They rushed down from the sixth floor and watched from across the street as their apartment and two others were consumed by flames.

The two best friends and former NYU college roommates had no idea what to do and where to go next. Then, a Red Cross disaster responder arrived as the fire was extinguished.

“We met Patrick, and he was our savior,” Jaimie said. “He went above and beyond. He made the situation bearable.”

“Patrick was amazing,” Emily agreed. “He gave us cold water and made sure everyone on the street had cold water. He did all the paperwork. He gave us a debit card for food.”

Patrick also prepared them for what they could expect when they were allowed back into their apartment to see what they could retrieve.

“It looked like a war zone,” Jaimie said. You could see straight to the sky when you looked up.”

Although Jaimie, a banker, and Emily, who works in PR, declined an offer of short-term Red Cross arranged housing and have been staying with friends, they are grateful for everything the Red Cross—and in particular Patrick, has done for them.

“You could tell he cared and wanted to make the situation a little better. He was our hero,” Emily said. She added about the Red Cross, “Keep doing what you’re doing. It makes a difference.”

Monday, July 15, 2013

In Memoriam: Cristina Carbonell, Devoted Volunteer

The Greater New York Region mourns the passing of long-time Red Cross volunteer Cristina Carbonell July 6.

Since she began volunteering in 1996 for what was then the Greater New York chapter, Cristina, who recently retired from her job as a document translator at the UN, contributed greatly to almost every aspect of Red Cross work.

As a member of the Queens DAT, she responded to hundreds, if not thousands, of incidents over the years, providing comfort and a helping hand to those affected by disaster. She excelled as a Spanish presenter at outreach preparedness events; she also helped translate outreach materials into Spanish.

Cristina was present at every single 9/11 and aviation memorial since 2001. What’s more she volunteered as a marathon spotter and was a ubiquitous presence at Greater New York fundraisers in New York City, including the annual Ball.

 In honor of her years on the Friday night Disaster Action Team, the Greater New York Red Cross held a memorial for Cristina July 12 at regional headquarters in Manhattan. At the memorial, Red Crossers shared remembrances about Cristina with each other and with three of her family members in attendance.

“She had incredible spark and incredible spirit that came through immediately,” said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the Greater NY Region. “I think she embodied the best of all of our Red Cross volunteers; that sense of selflessness. I hope all of us will carry that with us as part of her legacy.”

“The warmth in her words and her emails were incredible, and I’m sorry we lost her so soon. I hope her legacy lives on,” said Mario Fontenla, Red Cross volunteer.

“She had so much energy for the work of the Red Cross. She made us better,” said Joanne Galardy, Greater New York regional staffing/training manager.

Cristina will be very much missed.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"The responders really helped with a smile.”

Alicia Rios, her husband, Miguel Ortiz, and their two daughters, Diana Rios, 16 and Felicia Rios, 14, were recently burned out of their Bronx apartment. They were grateful the Red Cross was there to help.

The night of the fire, the family members were all asleep. Feeling unusually warm, Miguel awoke around 1 am. He told Alicia he thought he smelled bread toasting; to her it smelled more like fire. 

Miguel went upstairs and found smoke coming through the apartment door above. The family ran outside to safety—just before their living room ceiling collapsed in smoke and flame.
“It was a miracle we got out, but it was so sad,” said Alicia. “Even though we did not get hurt, we saw pictures of our family go down with the fire. We lost everything.”

They had moved into the apartment only a month earlier. 

Red Cross disaster responders met with the family at the scene. After making sure that Alicia, who has a heart condition, was not in need of medical assistance, they arranged for temporary housing for the family at a hotel, and drove them there.  

Alicia, Miguel and the girls came to Red Cross headquarters days later, where they received financial assistance for food assistance and referrals for long term housing.

"The Red Cross came and they were so friendly and supportive,” said Alicia. "The responders really helped with a smile. They helped a lot and are still helping."