Friday, March 28, 2014

Red Cross Helps East Harlem Residents Return to Their Apartments

Over the past several days, the Red Cross has provided move-in assistance kits containing non-perishable food, cleaning supplies and more to 41 families that have returned to their homes more than two weeks after the East Harlem explosion. Here are some images of that part of the relief effort, which has been ongoing since March 12.

Below, resident George Alexander thanks the Red Cross for its help. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Empire State Building and Social Media Go Red For Red Cross Month

Wednesday evening, March 26, 2014, shortly after sunset, the New York skyline saw red and white as the Empire State Building paid tribute to our supporters in honor of Red Cross Month. Social media followed suit with a flurry of posts from celebrity supporters, media personalities and Red Crossers from around the world. Below is a selection of some of those tweets.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Long Island Volunteer Celia Vollmer Honored

American Red Cross volunteer Celia Vollmer was recognized by the Long Island Red Cross with its highest honor, the Clara Barton Leadership Award, at its Volunteer Recognition Event on March 1 in Woodbury, New York. Celia, who lives in Brentwood, N.Y., works at the Brentwood Public Library as a circulation and computer services advisor.

She joined the Red Cross in 2010 and trained as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) responder, ready to help her neighbors in need anywhere on Long Island.

“DAT responds on a daily basis in our own communities and outer communities,” Celia said. “People really need help when they’re displaced from their homes,” she added. “We show up and make sure that they’re safe and secure, and that they have food, clothes and the resources they need to mitigate their circumstances.”

Celia volunteers whenever and however she is needed: in shelter operations, mass care (feeding) and logistics. She is now a DAT captain, which means that every second week of the month, she is on call 24-hours a day. Other times, she is the backup in the event that another Red Crosser is unable to respond.

Additionally, Celia is trained as a lifesaving skills instructor who teaches Red Cross CPR/AED and First Aid classes every month at the Brentwood Public Library. She acknowledges that she has a very supportive employer and community behind her, which allows her to carry out her volunteer work.

 “The Brentwood Library has been incredibly generous in allowing me to clock out and clock in and get to Red Cross events,” she said. “The library board places value on community service of our staff members.”

It was in fact, it was Celia who helped connect the Red Cross and the Library, which at the March 1 volunteer event received the Red Cross Community Partnership award. “The Library is always looking for new ways to teach and engage with the Brentwood community,” she said.

Sometimes, Celia assists with casework for fire-affected residents during work hours at the library. Many Red Cross Long Island meetings and trainings are also held in the library, which has opened its doors to the community. When nearby Bayshore, N.Y., residents lost their homes to a fire during this brutally cold winter, the library welcomed them and served as a Red Cross reception center.

 During Hurricane Sandy, Celia was lucky enough to have been spared the worst of the storm. In the aftermath, she served as operations manager at the Red Cross shelter at Brentwood High School. Library staff and their families pitched in, helping set up the shelter three days before the storm, assembling cots and getting the facility ready for occupancy.

Throughout that trying time, Celia logged in over 56 days of service. In addition to serving as operations manager, she helped out whenever she could—doing casework, moving equipment, handing out blankets and comfort kits and more.

“We still have people coming into the library system looking for additional help because of Hurricane Sandy,” Celia said. “The first step is to connect them to disaster case management at the Red Cross, which I’m happy to do.”

"The Clara Barton volunteer leadership award award recognizes distinguished and meritorious volunteer service given by an individual in a number of leadership positions, as well as personal expertise that has enabled the American Red Cross to contribute valuable services to the community," said Long Island Board Member and former Senator Michael Balboni, on presenting the award to Celia. "This honor is well-deserved."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Red Cross Volunteers in New York City Honored

See more photos here.

The American Red Cross in New York City celebrated its tireless volunteers on March 15 at its annual Volunteer Recognition event, held in Lower Manhattan.

Nearly 200 people attended the event, which honors NYC’s Red Cross volunteers who help their neighbors by responding to disasters, teaching preparedness and lifesaving skills, connecting service members and their families and much more.

Special recognition was given to 12 volunteers, two Red Cross Clubs and one partner organization for their extraordinary commitment to carrying out the Red Cross mission of helping people down the street, across the country and around the world.

“Our volunteers are truly on the front lines, serving our fellow New Yorkers,” said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the Greater NY Red Cross, addressing the attendees. “In the past year we’ve responded to more than 2,000 emergencies and disasters here in New York City alone. And I know that many of you have been  working tirelessly to help those affected by this week's tragic explosion in East Harlem.”

Lockwood added, “It’s appropriate that this event is taking place at the start of March, which is National Red Cross Month. President Franklin Roosevelt declared March Red Cross Month in 1943, and, every year since, across the country, the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross is celebrated in March, along with our Everyday Heroes — our amazing volunteers and employees, who reach out to help our neighbors in their darkest hours.”

During the event, singer/songwriter and Red Cross supporter Kate Vargas performed two songs from her recently released debut album, “Down to My Soul.”

As the event was taking place, Red Cross responders at the NYC Resident Service Center on Park Avenue, near 113th Street, continued to assist families affected by the East Harlem explosion and to provide meals and hydration to first responders.

Award Recipients:

Clara Barton – Arturo Guzman

Leadership – Oonagh Turitto

Emerging Leader – Paul Allwright

Disaster Services – Ronulfo (Ronnie) Rigos and Richard Sanford

Service to the Armed Forces – Jim Shevlin

International Services – Kezia Carpenter

Corporate Partner Award – Brooks Brothers Group Inc. Golden Fleece Foundation

Support Services – Brandon Bryant

Blood Services – Maureen Miller  

Preparedness Health & Safety – Arleen Asti

Outstanding High School Red Cross Club – Hunter College High School Club

Outstanding High School Red Cross Club Leader – Sharita Beckles

Outstanding Red Cross Campus Club – Columbia University

Outstanding Red Cross Campus Club Leader – Suchitra Nair

Sunday, March 16, 2014

East Harlem Building Explosion - The First Five Days

Below is a collection of some of the images that marked the first five days of our response to Wednesday's tragic East Harlem building explosion.
Red Cross at the scene of East Harlem Explosion - 3/12/14

Friday, March 14, 2014

Metro New York North Volunteer Jackie Jones Honored

Mary Young, CEO, Metro NY North Red Cross (L), and Jackie Jones.
Long-time American Red Cross volunteer Jackie Jones, who last week received the Metro NY North Red Cross Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership, says that her impetus for joining the Red Cross was her mom, Sarah Marion Hammel, who was known as Marion.

One of Jackie’s early memories is of seeing Marion in her American Red Cross Gray Lady uniform. (Gray Ladies were Red Cross volunteers who worked in military hospitals, providing non-medical care.) This was just after World War II, when Jackie’s family lived in Locust Valley, Long Island. Wounded soldiers coming back from the front were arriving in Mitchell Field, a United States Air Force base located on the Hempstead Plains of Long Island.

“Mom said she was going to feed the soldiers,” Jackie said. “It was a mystery to me as to why, but I felt very proud of her for doing that.”

Marion was in the Red Cross for about 20 years and also volunteered for other organizations, including twenty-five years with the Girl Scouts. “She was a model for all of us in the family,” Jackie said.

As Jackie grew up, she herself joined service organizations including school service clubs. Later, when she married, Jackie volunteered at local blood drives with the Red Cross, at hospitals and nursing homes and, of course, with the Girl Scouts.

Re-involvement with the Red Cross

When Jackie and her husband, Ward, moved to Mt. Kisco, N.Y., in the late 1970s, “One of the first things I did was get re-involved in the Red Cross.”

At that time Jackie drove people to and from Northern Westchester Hospital for cancer treatments in a Red Cross vehicle. Within the hospital she was part of the transportation staff that assisted in moving patients throughout the hospital according to their needs, helped with feeding patients unable to feed themselves, and worked for several years as a hospice volunteer.

After Jackie’s son and daughter were grown, she returned to school, receiving a master’s degree in social work in 1984. She worked at a family services agency in the Bronx and later with families of children with disabilities. Reconnecting with the Red Cross Fast forward to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Jackie immediately knew she wanted to return to the Red Cross to help.

She re-trained as a volunteer, then worked initially at the District Attorney’s office in Westchester, where local families who’d lost loved ones could receive some of the financial help that had been made available for such things as housing.

“We were there in a supportive role,” Jackie said, “providing them with literature and helping them to begin to move through that period of their lives.”

Jackie stayed on with the Red Cross and became active in Disaster Services. She worked on Disaster Action Teams (DATs), responding to fires and other emergencies in Westchester County. While still volunteering as a DAT member, Jackie became a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Lead, providing crisis support for disaster-affected residents and connecting them with county mental health professionals and school social workers when needed.

“Providing emotional support as a Disaster Mental Health volunteer feels very natural to me,” she said. “It’s pretty much a part of everything I do for the Red Cross and in my life.”

Chapter Links 

During the Katrina response in 2005, Jackie initiated the “ChapterLinks” program for Red Cross volunteers deploying to relief efforts in the Gulf States. Many were new volunteers and, recognizing the need for support in an intense and often unpredictable environment, Jackie gathered a team of 10 Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers to address the concerns of those volunteers before, during and after deployment.

When the volunteers returned, “We listened as they told stories that revealed how really difficult the deployments were and how they were able to rise to the challenges they faced while working in the Gulf area. Later, when we met with small groups of the same volunteers, the value in the sharing and the support that they provided to each other was obvious,” Jackie said.

Service to the Armed Forces 

Jackie is especially proud of her Red Cross work with the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program that provides support to veterans and active military members and their families. In 2009 she and other Red Cross Mental Health volunteers began partnering with Four Winds Hospital in Westchester, N.Y., developing a group for the families of Reserve and National Guard members who were being deployed to the Middle East. With no military base in the immediate area, these families had no access to needed support programs.

The Military Family Group members met weekly with their Red Cross co-leaders for about three years and developed close relationships with each other. “When the group ended,” Jackie said, “we were happy to find that the friendships didn’t, and they still had the support they needed from each other.”

Additionally, along with other SAF volunteers, Jackie has an opportunity to interact with military members and their families while staffing SAF events, including pre-deployment and post-deployment events within the Greater NY Region. This often gives them an opportunity to hear stories from service members and their families.

“It’s not unusual to hear something like, “Oh! The Red Cross was so wonderful when my father was in the hospital and they were able to help my brother get home to be with him,” she said. “It’s heartwarming to know that the organization we represent is able to facilitate that type of service.”

Part of Jackie’s role with SAF in the Metro NY North Chapter is to keep the group of 17 SAF volunteers together as a team. “In order to keep us all engaged we stay in touch by email and meet together from time to time in order to get to know each other, and to learn from each other. We really have a solid team,” she said, “along with wonderful support that we can count on from the Regional employees when needed.”

On helping others and volunteering with the Red Cross 

“I’ve always felt strongly that you don’t necessarily know when you’ve been able to help someone,” Jackie said. “I once got a note in the mail thanking me for something I had no recollection of. For me, the rule is to be kind, and be supportive, and it will be to the good.” She said she believes that what keeps most volunteers at the Red Cross is the relationships they build with each other and their shared commitment to the mission.

“Our volunteers bring a huge scope of backgrounds and skills to the Red Cross,” she said. “It’s a place where anybody who cares about their neighbors in need can fit in.”

On receiving the Clara Barton Award 

Jackie said she was shocked, and even a little embarrassed, to hear that she was receiving the award.

“I look at all the wonderful volunteers we have, and think how do you pick just one? Clara Barton is someone I’ve been in awe of since I first heard of her. She put a whole lifetime into her work. She courageously set the stage for all of us and created the pathway we follow in our work. And I think we all have a bit of Clara Barton in our hearts—without necessarily even knowing or understanding it.”

Jackie added, “I keep thinking of my mother. She would have been proud.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Response, Readiness and Recognition ... Greater NY Kicks off Red Cross Month

March 1st marked the start of National Red Cross Month. Here are some highlights from this weekend's kick-off in the Greater New York Region:

Long Island Volunteer Recognition Event

News 12 Long Island story on the Long Island Volunteer Recognition Event.

Youth Volunteers Marching at Queens St.Patrick's Day Parade

Emergency Prepardedness Event at Lutheran Healthcare in Brooklyn

News 12 Brooklyn reported on the community preparedness event at Lutheran Healthcare in Brooklyn.