Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lisa Karpinski: Getting Help and Giving Back

Lisa Karpinski, third from left, with fellow responders.
By Alice Ding

When Superstorm Sandy hit the Rockaways, Lisa Karpinski, her husband, and their two children (who were 12- and 14-years old when Sandy hit), lost all their belongings as their house filled with more than five feet of water.

A friend directed Lisa to Beach 129th Street to receive help from the American Red Cross, which had an emergency response vehicle stationed there. “The Red Cross provided me with food and a home cleanup kit,” Lisa said.

Before receiving help from the Red Cross, Lisa knew nothing about the organization. Now, she is one of the Greater New York Region’s most enthusiastic volunteers.

“I saw two Red Crossers, one from California and one from Texas, constantly during Sandy as I kept going back for meals and became friends with them,” Lisa recalled. She said that later, when she was making career changes, one of them suggested she become a volunteer herself.

Lisa, who started volunteering in April 2013, says she wanted to give back to the Red Cross because it helped her during a difficult time. She usually works the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. response shift. During her shift, Lisa goes to disaster scenes — mostly fires — and provides assistance to those affected.

While on the way to a disaster, Lisa and her fellow volunteers discuss possible resources and the best way to respond to each individual situation. Lately, she’s been learning how to assess disasters more efficiently, as the Greater New York Red Cross shifts to a new computer program that will help responders.

Lisa shared that the best part of her Red Cross volunteer experience is meeting and supporting disaster survivors. “I really like talking to people affected by disasters and helping them. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that.”

Lisa has made great friends with others at the Red Cross. “People here are friendly. We go out and grab a bite when we have time,” she said. Although the Red Crosser volunteers who initially helped her during Sandy have returned to their chapters in other parts of the country, Lisa remains in contact with them through social media.

“People working here really care about those they are helping,” Lisa said. It is that culture of caring she saw during Sandy that drew Lisa to volunteer for the Red Cross — and one that she now helps spread to others in need. 

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