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. 

In Case You Missed It- September 26, 2014

Volunteer training on Saturday, Sept. 27.
During the last week, the Greater New York Red Cross responded to 28 disasters, distributed 18 Comfort Kits and provided aid to 101 people in the area. Check for other highlights below:


200 Girl Scouts participated in preparedness training on Sept. 20. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

American Red Cross Recognizes Legacy Society Members at Luncheon

See more photos.

The American Red Cross Legacy Society in Greater New York held its annual luncheon at regional headquarters in Manhattan on Sept. 17.  The luncheon recognized long-term donors who have generously included the Red Cross in their estate plans, as well as those who have funded planned gifts.

Josh Lockwood, Greater NY regional CEO; Hugh Williams, Greater New York Red Cross Gift Planning Officer; and Sonja Ronovech, MPA, Recruitment Manager, American Red Cross Blood Services, addressed attendees.

“Your gifts help ensure that the Red Cross has the financial resources necessary to continue providing lifesaving programs and services to the people of our region for years to come,” Lockwood said. “We, and those we serve, are extremely grateful.”

“Those here today are just a few of the many generous Americans supporting the humanitarian efforts of the Red Cross here in Greater New York, in the U.S. and around the world,” Williams added.

Lockwood and Williams discussed the programs and services the Red Cross provides throughout the Greater New York region of New York City, Long Island, the Lower Hudson Valley and Greenwich, Conn.

These include helping military members through the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program; teaching emergency preparedness, as well as CPR and first aid; and responding to disasters. Lockwood also talked about recent disaster responses including the Harlem building explosion in March and the Hamilton Heights fire in August.

Ronovech spoke about Red Cross blood services in the Greater NY Region and explained how the Red Cross is ramping up more blood collection efforts in order to meet the local demand.

“Members of the Legacy Society play a critical part in expanding the services and role the American Red Cross has across the Greater New York Region,” she said. “Sharing information on the Biomedical line of service to these key individuals was a wonderful opportunity.”

For more information on the Legacy Society, please contact Hugh.Williams@redcross.org or (866) 423-3194.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Red Cross and Girl Scouts of Greater NY Partner for Girl Scout Prep Day

Photo: Steven Thorne
The American Red Cross and the Girl Scouts of Greater New York partnered to prepare and empower young girls at a First Aid and Wellness Day hosted by the Greater NY Red Cross on Sept. 20.

“Helping the community prepare for emergencies is at the core of the Red Cross mission,” said Amanda Crabbe, Greater NY Regional Manager, Youth Services. “Going back to decades, the Red Cross has a long history of getting youth involved in its mission.”

Throughout the day approximately 200 Girl Scouts, ages 5 to 17, from across the city participated in a variety of activities, including first aid and emergency preparedness classes, a “Scrubby Bear” hand washing presentation a Basic First Aid (BAT) event for younger girls, and an opportunity to design and build their own first aid kits.

Scouts also took part in a panel entitled, “Women in Emergency Management,” in which women from various disaster response organizations, including the Red Cross, discussed what they and what motivates them to work in their respective fields. 

"This day was an amazing opportunity for our girls, who work every day to make the world a better place,” said Sarah Pooley, Manager, Youth Leadership & Volunteer Support, Girl Scouts of Greater New York. “Girl Scouting emphasizes leadership development, and this event gave our girls the opportunity to learn about leading during a disaster. We're grateful to the American Red Cross for this opportunity."

“My favorite part of the Red Cross training was learning how to deal with serious emergencies and how to get out of a fire, said Meghan Bernardy, a Junior with Troop 4791. “It was also fun to make a first aid kit to carry at all times.” 

See more photos of the event

Our Red Cross Family Down the Street

by Michael de Vulpillieres, American Red Cross Greater NY Region

The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is alive and well in New York City. The Big Apple is one of only a handful of cities in the world where all three arms of our global network have a permanent presence.

The Greater New York Red Cross, headquartered on West 49th Street in Manhattan, represents the American Red Cross locally; but a little over a mile to our east, our two sister institutions—the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)—also call Manhattan home.

The ICRC’s humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. During situations of conflict, the ICRC is responsible for directing and coordinating the Red Cross network’s international relief activities. It also promotes the importance of international humanitarian law and draws attention to universal humanitarian principles. The IFRC, on the other hand, focuses on coordinating international assistance efforts in response to natural and human-caused disasters unrelated to conflict. It also strives to teach disaster preparedness, fight the spread of disease, discourage discrimination and violence, and promote humanitarian values. The IFRC fulfills its mission by coordinating between 189 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies throughout the world. 
Enabled by their United Nations Observer Status, each organization maintains a delegation to the UN, just across town from our Hell’s Kitchen HQ. This special mandate allows them to participate in UN activities, such as meetings, committees and debates, but does not authorize them to vote on or propose resolutions; only Member States may take part in in those activities.

The ICRC was granted UN Observer Status in October 1990—the first institution which is not a government organization to be granted this status. The exception was made because of the special role conferred upon the ICRC by the international community and the mandates to protect the victims of international and internal armed conflicts given to it by the Geneva Conventions. The UN has since allowed the ICRC to voice its opinion on subjects within its expertise, such as International Humanitarian Law, and to have these ideas heard on the largest of international stages.

Four years later, in 1994, the IFRC was granted this same status. Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro, IFRC president at the time, described Observer Status as the organization’s “most important diplomatic tool.” It has allowed the Federation to strengthen its partnership with UN agencies like the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and to speak out on a range of humanitarian issues including disaster mitigation and human rights.

So as the UN General Assembly kicks off this week, remember that our colleagues from the ICRC and the IFRC are there as well, serving as the eyes and ears of our global network while advocating for the humanitarian principles that unite us.

Photo credit: Christophe Lobry-Boulanger, IFRC

Monday, September 22, 2014

Conrad Sauvé of the Canadian Red Cross Visits Greater NY

Conrad Sauvé (left) and Josh Lockwood

Greater New York Red Cross Regional CEO Josh Lockwood met with Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Red Cross, Conrad Sauvé, on Monday, Sept. 22. Mr. Sauvé visited Greater New York headquarters to learn more about how the chapter plans for and responds to local disasters as well as large-scale disasters. Among the topics discussed was the response to flooding in Alberta last year, on-going recovery operations in Haiti and how the Red Cross is helping with the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Both also discussed an “exchange program” where teams from Greater New York and the Canadian Red Cross would visit one another periodically to share information and best practices.

In Case You Missed It — September 22, 2014


Ready Red Hook Day in Brooklyn

In the last week the Red Cross provided emergency relief in the form of shelter, food, clothing, health services and/or emotional support to 143 New Yorkers impacted by 41 disasters across our region. Here are some highlights.

  • “A good deed for desperately needy families is a great mitzvah [act of kindness],” said community leader Isaac Sofer, in thanking the Red Cross after it helped four families displaced by a 2-alarm fire in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Sept. 16.
  • The Hauppauge Industrial Association-LI (HIA-LI) honored the American Red Cross on Long Island at the HIA-LI 20th Annual Business Achievement Awards Gala, held at the Crest Hollow Country Club on Sept.16.
  • Also on Sept. 16, Brooklyn Disaster Program Manager Edmund A. Torraca and Disaster Action Team Captain Garfield Richards supported an Emergency Preparedness Forum at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
  • On Sept. 13, Red Crossers Nancy Soto Les Levinowitz supported “Ready Red Hook Day" organized by the Red Hook Coalition by distributing disaster preparedness materials.    
  • In partnership with South Florida Red Cross, we created a video with children’s suggestions for how to prepare for a disaster. Check out their hilarious responses (see below) and subscribe to our Youtube Channel. 
  • Last week, the National Youth Council announced that November is National Youth Involvement Month (#NYIM). Young leaders and volunteers are encouraged to visit the Red Cross National Youth Website and complete a checklist of activities for the month, as well as create their own.
  • On week three of National Preparedness Month, we published tips on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from floods.
  • Because it's National Preparedness Month, we encourage everyone to download our free Red Cross Mobile Apps for natural disasters, including Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Wildfires, Floods and Tornadoes, as well as our apps for First Aid, Pet First Aid, Swimming and Volunteering.
  • A Boston Marathon hero encourages everyone to download the Red Cross Blood App. Read his story.
  • Enterovirus D68 has affected 150 people in 18 states according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On Sept.19, we provided some useful tips on how to prevent the spread of this virus, which can cause respiratory illness.
  • For #FunnyFriday, we explained how NOT to create a disaster kit on The Good, The Bad, and The Ridiculous.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Brooklyn, Are You Prepared?

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, Brooklyn Disaster Program Manager (DPM) Edmund A. Torraca and Disaster Action Team (DAT) Captain Garfield Richards supported an Emergency Preparedness Forum at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The forum, “Brooklyn, Are You Prepared?”, was an event associated with the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) campaign to encourage New Yorkers to be ready for all types of emergencies.

"The Red Cross is actively engaging community- and faith-based organizations across Brooklyn to facilitate the development of disaster plans, to bridge gaps in disaster response activities, and to organize efforts to prepare communities to face the challenges of the next disaster,” Torraca said. 

The forum was hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and featured special guest speaker OEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito. Invited guests from FEMA, NYPD, FDNY and National Grid joined the Red Cross to encourage members of the community to develop a disaster plan, gather emergency supplies, and finally, to learn how to keep informed about the hazards faced in New York City.

“Brooklyn, Are You Prepared?” afforded the Greater NY Red Cross an opportunity to engage local community leaders, collaborate with preparedness partners, and present disaster response initiatives and long-term objectives.     

Red Cross Helps Williamsburg Families

A little more than a week before the observance of the Jewish High Holy Days, a 2-alarm fire displaced four families (10 adults 35 children) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. On Sept. 16, the Red Cross provided emergency funds for basic necessities to two affected families and worked with a partner agency to arrange temporary housing at a Kosher hotel for them.

“A good deed for desperately needy families is a great mitzvah [act of kindness],” said Jewish community leader Isaac Sofer, in thanking the Red Cross.

The Red Cross stands ready to work with these families as needed to help with their longer-term needs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ready Red Hook Day

Brooklyn Disaster Action Team (DAT) Captain, Nancy Soto; Brooklyn DAT member Les Levinowitz; members of the Red Hook Coalition
 On Saturday, September 13, Brooklyn Disaster Action Team (DAT) Captain Nancy Soto and DAT member Les Levinowitz supported “Ready Red Hook Day” by meeting with residents of the Red Hook community to discuss emergency preparedness and distribute home and family disaster preparedness materials.    

In the first hours and days after Hurricane Sandy, the community of Red Hook organically came together and managed the initial response. Out of that response came the Community Disaster Readiness Plan, which was developed by the community of Red Hook for the community of Red Hook. The plan provides residents with a single guide for the critical 72 hours prior to and after a disaster, before formal government assistance is in place. “Ready Red Hook Day” was an opportunity for community members to practice their own emergency plan. 

Organized by the Red Hook Coalition, “Ready Red Hook Day” afforded the Red Cross Brooklyn DAT an opportunity engage the local community, collaborate with partners and integrate disaster response plans.     

Monday, September 15, 2014

In Case You Missed It – Sept 15

Red Cross responding to a 3-alarm fire on Decatur Ave in the Bronx.
In the last week the Red Cross provided emergency relief in the form of shelter, food, clothing, health services and/or emotional support to 97 New Yorkers impacted by 35 disasters across our region. Here are some highlights.

Last Week in Review

Friday, September 12, 2014

Greater NY Representatives Meet with Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna

L to R: Greater NY Red Cross Senior Regional Director, Community Relations, Alex Lutz; Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna; Greater NY Red Cross Brooklyn Disaster Program Manager, Ed Torraca.
On Thursday, September 11, representatives of the Greater New York region visited Brooklyn Borough Hall and met with Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna to report on Red Cross services to Brooklyn.

This was the first meeting with new Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ administration since his election last year. The deputy borough president was briefed on daily disaster responses in Brooklyn, particularly house fires, readiness actions the Red Cross is taking in advance of future large-scale disasters, and ongoing recovery services to residents impacted by Superstorm Sandy.

Newly appointed Red Cross Brooklyn Disaster Program Manager Ed Torraca discussed his role in coordinating response operations for the borough and his plans to engage community groups and leaders to increase the borough’s readiness and response capacity.

Monday, September 8, 2014

In Case You Missed It – Sept 8

In the last week the Red Cross provided emergency relief in the form of shelter, food, clothing, health services and/or emotional support to 106 New Yorkers impacted by 37 disasters across our region. Here are some highlights.

Last Week in Review
  • On Sept. 5, Josh Lockwood, Greater NY regional CEO, and numerous Red Cross volunteers helped kick off national Preparedness Month (#NPM2014) with our emergency partners OEM and FEMA in front of Macy’s in Herald Square. Our volunteers spoke with passersby about how to prepare before a disaster.
  • #SelfieSaturday with volunteer Maria Millan (above) showing off her #RedCross First Aid app. She's prepared! Are you? It's National Preparedness Month (#NPM2014). Learn more about downloading your free Red Cross preparedness apps at www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps.
  • Villanova University student Caroline Hroncich laughed when her parents insisted she keep things like a flashlight in her dorm room. But after the school lost power during Sandy, she understood the importance of being prepared. Read her personal story.
  • If you’re a student heading off to college—perhaps for the first time — you may be inexperienced at driving long distances or driving alone. Red Cross has tips for you!
  • A shout-out to students from Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School who live in Queens and held a benefit concert for the Red Cross. On Sept. 3, they presented a check for $5,000 to the Greater New York Red Cross to support disaster response operations. 
  • Our GNY Red Cross Facebook page reached 30,000 Likes! We couldn't have done it without your support!
  • It might be difficult to tell if your co-workers are dead or bored, but everyone in the workplace should know CPR. September is National Preparedness Month. As everyone heads back to work after summer vacations, it’s a great time to register for a Red Cross lifesaving class at www.redcross.org/take-a-class

Friday, September 5, 2014

Stuyvesant High School Students Raise Funds for Red Cross

On Wednesday, Sept. 3, students from Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School who live in Queens presented a check for $5,000 to the American Red Cross in Greater New York to support disaster response operations. The students held a benefit concert in June with donations going to the Red Cross. This is the sixth consecutive year the school has raised funds for Greater New York. The check presentation was held in the office of Congressional Member Grace Meng.

Rep. Meng thanked the students for their continued commitment to their community and to the Red Cross for its continued service to New York City and her district.

Several of the students in the music program are also members of the Stuyvesant High School Red Cross Club, which is the largest student club at the school.

Photo: Rep. Grace Meng (left) with students from Stuyvesant High School and Alex Lutz, senior regional director, Community Relations, American Red Cross. Photo credit: Jeehoon Chun from the Korean Times

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Importance of Being Prepared in College

By Caroline Hroncich

As a senior in college, I’ve come to think of this time in my life as a stepping-stone between childhood and adulthood. You are given freedom, but are not yet required to be completely independent. We often don’t realize how much we rely on our universities to provide us with essentials. Personally, I did not realize how much I relied on my school until Superstorm Sandy hit.

Until Sandy, I had never thought about what I would do in the face of a disaster at college. I have distinct memories of my 19-year-old self, perched atop my bunk bed, listening to rain pound the window. The lights flickered frequently, threatening to die; all I had to eat was a bag of tortilla chips. I was completely unprepared. The school lost power, the dining hall could not be kept open, and my friends and I found ourselves confined to our dorm rooms while the storm raged around us. After talking to my friends who attend other universities, I realized this was not an uncommon experience.

While universities are equipped to deal with disasters, it is equally as important for students to prepare. During my junior year, a major snowstorm hit, leaving me (I was now living in an on-campus apartment) without power. Being without light meant there was a mad rush to purchase battery-powered lamps, leaving many students without alternative options to light their apartments. I lost most of my refrigerated food. The school urged everyone to go home, but since I did not live a convenient distance, that was not an option. A few of my friends considered going to a nearby hotel for the night.

As a freshman, I laughed at my parents when they insisted I keep things like a flashlight in my dorm room. Now I realize how truly important those things are. Keeping items like a flashlight, extra batteries and a small portable lamp in your dorm are essential when it comes to emergency preparedness. Even food is important to keep in your room, just in case the dining halls are unable to serve you. My experience has definitely taught me that as we go about our busy college lives it’s important to stop for a second and think about if we are truly prepared.

Caroline Hroncich recently completed an internship with the American Red Cross Greater NY Region.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In Case You Missed It – Sept 2

Long Island Red Cross volunteer Sal Montoro (Far Right)

In the last week the Red Cross provided emergency relief in the form of shelter, food, clothing, health services and/or emotional support to 104 New Yorkers impacted by 38 disasters across our region. Here are some highlights.

Last Week in Review
  • Heading back to school? Red Cross has tips to help children stay safe when taking the bus or biking to school, plus tips for parents to help their kids even further.
  • After Superstorm Sandy, the American Red Cross relied on its dedicated staff members and volunteers to provide aid to those affected by the storm. More than 10,000 volunteers from across the country poured into the Greater New York region to help the thousands of people in need. For some of those volunteers, assisting with the long-term recovery efforts of the Red Cross became a mission they wanted to commit to full time. Patty Jones, Tymera Jackson and Kevin Rivero are three of those individuals.
  • Kudos to Long Island’s Sal Montoro, who was recently promoted to Red Cross National Shelter Operations Manager. In this position, Sal will be charged with supervising shelters in large-scale disasters. Read more about Sal, a 13-year Long Island volunteer.
  • On August 28, the Red Cross took part in a “solidarity event” in Hamilton Heights for residents of 512 West 136 St., the site of the fatal 4-alarm fire on Aug. 18. During the program, hosted by NYC City Council Member Mark Levine, organizations on hand paid tribute to the young girl who passed away and offered their continued support to those impacted by this tragedy.
  • Red Crossers responded to a fire at a multi-family residence in Mount Vernon Aug. 29. The fire displaced four families, eight adults and one child. All families were provided emergency financial assistance for lost personals (clothing, food, etc.), emergency relocation as needed and referrals with community agencies.