Friday, October 31, 2014

Red Cross presented with the Distinguished Community Service Award by Project Hospitality

Regional CEO Josh Lockwood with Greater New York Board Member and Staten Island resident Robert Coghlan. 

On Tuesday, October 23rd the American Red Cross in Greater New York was presented with the Distinguished Community Service Award by Project Hospitality at its annual Harvest Gala in Staten Island. The event was held at the Staten Island Hilton Garden Inn. Regional CEO Josh Lockwood accepted the award which honored Greater New York for its support to Staten Island in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and for its continued long-term recovery operations.

Red Cross has helped thousands of Staten Island residents with disaster case management, home repairs, mental and physical health support and financial assistance through the Move In Assistance program. Over $3 million has been provided to Staten Island residents through the program. In his remarks, Lockwood thanked Project Hospitality as well as the borough’s elected officials, community groups and faith-based organizations for their partnership to help those in need. He also extended a special thank you to Richard and Lois Nicotra, owners of the Hilton, for their assistance to Red Cross volunteers in the immediate days after Sandy struck. The Nicotras provided sleeping arrangements, showers, food and additional amenities at the hotel to the volunteers at no charge.

Regional CEO Josh Lockwood accepting the Distinguished Community Service Award from Project Hospitality while Executive Director for Project Hospitality Rev. Terry Troia looks on. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

South Korean Delegation Visits Red Cross HQ in Manhattan

On Tuesday, October 28th, a delegation of over 30 individuals representing the Office of the Prime Minister of Republic of Korea (ROK) visited the headquarters of the American Red Cross in Greater New York. The delegation came to learn more about how the Red Cross prepares for and responds to local emergencies as well as large-scale disasters.

The group included the ROK Presidential Secretary, ROK Prime Minister’s Deputy Chief of Staff, several prominent professors and 20 civic leaders.

The group met with Regional CEO Josh Lockwood and Chief Response Officer Kelly McKinney who provided a brief presentation on Greater New York’s operations and provided details on the chapter’s specific responses to the East Harlem explosion in March 2014, Superstorm Sandy and the events of September 11, 2001.

The group was also provided with a tour of the building which included a visit to the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) and Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

American Red Cross Responds to Inaccuracies in ProPublica and NPR Stories

This morning, NPR and ProPublica published stories detailing criticisms of the Red Cross response to Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac. Click here for a matrix that documents information provided to these news outlets that was omitted in their reporting.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Grandmother’s Red Cross Legacy

By: Valeria Ricciulli-Marin Greater NY Red Cross Intern

Margarita Sandoval (on the right,) my grandma, when she was a gray lady for the Colombian Red Cross. 

When I think about Margarita Sandoval, my grandma or “abuela,” I think about a proud, strong woman. She was born in Colombia, in a small village called Oiba. When she was 52 years old, with no education, my grandma was inspired to help others by volunteering with the Colombian Red Cross; and she’s now inspired me to work with the American Red Cross as well.

Sadly, my grandma was forced to marry young, at 15, dropping out of school to do so. She had six children with my grandpa; the oldest was my mother, Maritza. When her youngest daughter started high school (my mother was in college in another city), grandma decided to start a whole new journey. She wanted to feel a purpose in her life and she wanted to feel accomplished.

She separated from my grandpa and, in 1974, she joined the Colombian Red Cross. Deeply passionate about helping others, grandma started volunteering as a dama gris or gray lady, providing nursing services across marginalized areas around the country.

My grandma’s eyes brighten every time she tells the stories of her 35 years as a volunteer, travelling and meeting others while she provided hope and health services to those in need, wearing a gray dress.

Whenever I had tantrums at age five, she would give me the best advice I have ever received: “Don’t cry; there’s people suffering out there, yet putting a smile on their faces.”

She told me how she traveled to remote areas to provide free vaccinations to children, how she talked to women with health issues, and how she gave talks about reproductive health. She recently told me about travelling with the Red Cross to provide farmers with food and healthcare after a flood in the small villages that border the Magdalena River.

 Based on what I learned about my grandmother’s Red Cross work, I believe that the values of deep neutrality and humanity that characterize the Red Cross allow the organization to impact every person involved in it. It is an organization that promotes and provides aid, irrespective of nationality or any religious or cultural affiliation, which makes it, for me, the most peaceful, inclusive organization in the world.

My grandmother’s Red Cross experience also inspired her to study nursing, after completing her high school studies. In 2001, at age 56, she pursued a nursing degree, while living with my family in Cartagena, the northern Colombian city where I was born. She later worked for a hospital, while still volunteering for the Colombian Red Cross.

It is almost magical, how the story of my grandma connects with mine and how everything she went through and every tear she shed, led me to where I am today. She always taught her daughters—and me—to be independent; to complete our studies so we could excel in life and be autonomous.

That is why my mother, who is the regional CEO of a bank which helps the Colombian petroleum company (Ecopetrol) workers, taught me and my sister those values and was, as well, inspired by my grandma to strive, succeed and help others.

Thanks to the legacy of my grandmother, who currently lives with my mom and dad in Cartagena (I see her every time I visit), I am passionate about serving others.

I am currently studying in the United States, about to attain my bachelor’s degree in communications, and I am interning in the Communications Department of the Greater New York Red Cross, where I write for the chapter's blog and post on their social media. I get to inspire and help others on behalf of one of the most important humanitarian organizations in the world!

I have also volunteered and interned at several other nonprofits, including Operation Smile, UNICEF and

I hope other grandmas and granddaughters keep getting inspired to love, thrive, help and succeed, just as my grandma and I did.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Childhood Bereavement Expert David Schonfeld Addresses Disaster Mental Health Workers

Dr. David Schonfeld addresses attendees
One of the callings of American Red Cross disaster mental health workers is to give children affected by disaster support and guidance at one of the most difficult times in their lives—suffering the loss of a parent or close family member in a fire or other disaster.  

On Oct. 18, a total of 90 Red Cross disaster mental health volunteers and members of partner organizations joined Dr. David Schonfeld, a prominent figure in the field of childhood bereavement, at Greater New York Red Cross regional headquarters in Manhattan. Dr. Schonfeld led a best practices conversation about supporting the mental health needs of individuals in the aftermath of a disaster in which a child has perished.

He applauded the passion of the Red Cross volunteers. “They are an incredible resource for those affected by emergencies,” he said. “Their selfless compassion and skills provide relief and comfort during times of unbearable tragedy. It was amazing to see their dedication first hand and to engage with them in a discussion about best practices for supporting those who lose a loved one.”

Diane Ryan, lead specialist, Disaster Mental Health Services for the Greater New York region said that while Red Cross DMH volunteers are themselves licensed practitioners, they were enriched by Dr. Schonfeld’s discussion.

“Our disaster mental health volunteers mobilize quickly whenever there is a loss of a child due to disaster—a fire, flood or other incident,” Ryan said. “They are the compassionate presence for those who are suffering. The presentation today provided additional tools for this challenging work.” 

New York Life co-hosted the event.

“New York Life is proud to partner with the Red Cross and its disaster mental health volunteers to provide advanced level training on childhood bereavement,” said Maria Collins, MSW, Vice President, New York Life Foundation.  “Today’s discussion supports our vision and awareness raising efforts around childhood bereavement. We couldn’t be more pleased to be here and to take part in such a meaningful dialog.”

Right Place, Right Time

In support of our #RedTieHeroes initiative, American Red Cross partner JPMorgan Chase recently reached out to their employees nationwide and asked them to submit stories of heroic coworkers who embody the humanitarian spirit of the Red Cross. Below is one of those stories.

submitted by Denise Edwards, JPMorgan Chase Employee
Deborah O'Toole
Deborah O'Toole began her career at Chase as a contract employee while pursuing training as a medical assistant back in 2009. After two years she completed her training, but decided to stay on with Chase in a permanent position because she enjoyed the work, the company and the people.

One morning in May of this year, between 7:00 and 7:30 am, Deborah and another Chase employee were in the deli/cafe getting breakfast. The deli is independently owned and patronized by the companies and employees that utilize the business campus where our offices are located. Another Chase employee came in wearing stiletto heels.

While standing in line and moving along she slipped and fell. When she fell one of her legs landed on top of one of her heels, which punctured her leg, and she began to bleed profusely. No one knew what to do.

Deborah came to the rescue, had her lie down and applied pressure to the puncture, kept it clean and calmly instructed everyone as to what to do.

The deli staff was panicked; the injured employee was going into shock. They called an ambulance and the other Chase employee went outside, flagged it down and directed the paramedics into the deli. They came, took over and transported the injured employee to the hospital.

We often hear of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in this particular case Deborah was in the right place at the right time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In Case You Missed It- October 21

Swiss Re Employees rebuilding a Sandy damaged home in Brooklyn. 

Since October 1, the Greater New York Red Cross has responded to 127 emergencies and provided aid to 334 adults and children.



Representative Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn with GNY  Director of Community Relations Alex Lutz.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Representative Yvette Clarke Meets with the Red Cross

On Oct. 15th, Alex Lutz, Greater New York Red Cross senior regional director of community relations, met with Rep. Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn’s 9th congressional district, to update her on the chapter’s continuing Superstorm Sandy recovery activities in her district.

Rep. Clarke’s district was one of the hardest hit by the storm, especially in communities such as Gerritsen Beach and Sheepshead Bay. Rep. Clarke expressed her gratitude and support for the Red Cross and its personnel who continue to assist those in need almost two years after Sandy made landfall in New York City.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Case You Missed It- October 13

Volunteers from the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces during Veterans StandDown supporting local veterans at the Northport VA medical facility. 

During the last week, the Greater New York Red Cross responded to 43 emergencies and provided aid to 74 adults and 29 children.

NY Red Cross volunteers during an evacuation drill in Hawthorne, NY, on Oct. 7. 

Through the Dust: A First Step Towards Hope

By Elaine Biller, Long Island Red Cross Volunteer

September 11 will always begin by drawing me backward. I revisit that day remembering, “This is what I was doing when…” as hours on the clock tick by: one plane, then the next, one building, and then the second. Waiting for phone calls, some I received, until the phone went silent. Hours stretched into days as a smoky haze trailed clouds floating east along the North Shore of Long Island. I remember keeping my children inside the house because I was afraid of what was in the smoke. Afraid.

I said I grew up in the towers; Tower Two was where my father worked. I visited him often, taking the elevator up to the sky lobby then on to his office. Later we wandered through the Winter Garden and the shops and every visit included a stop at the dock to see if the yacht the ‘Stars and Stripes,’ was there or was it out exploring the world. Those days with my father were precious; I was glad he never saw “his” towers come down.

I waited at home watching the news trying to make sense of the carnage. Nothing grounded me. I watched the television for hours trying to grab a glimpse of something, anything that I knew. My unrest grew along with my incomprehension of what had happened 60 miles from my home.

Shortly after the LIRR resumed service to mid-town I headed toward the towers with a friend. As we walked, a sense of surreal enveloped us as the numbers on the blocks fell lower and lower; images of crushed fire trucks on flat beds, emergency service vehicles covered in a dusty haze, armored military vehicles patrolling the streets and sanitation trucks, hundreds of them, stretching for miles down the West Side Highway, still come to me as snippets of recollections.

I lost my bearings scanning the skyline for the towers, my compass. It was then I saw an impromptu distribution site set-up along the highway by a New Yorker with a passion to reach out to his city. Citizens began bringing water, socks, dust masks, gloves, and homemade baked goods.

The smells still haunt me today, sweet chocolate chip competing against the acrid smoke that filled the air. It is the smells I remember, and that I long to forget. All day I lingered at this site, feeding workers who stopped after their shift at ground zero. They stopped for water; we gave them a cookie and a hug.

One photographer gave me a framed picture as thanks. It was of the towers, and we both held the photo, and each other, and cried.

Sometime later a police officer stopped and asked if there were batteries. There were. He reported this back to his command but could not leave his post so the batteries sat there for thirty minutes.

I could not bear to see them sitting less than a mile from where they were needed so I offered to run them up to whoever had asked for them. The officer radioed to his commander and with a backpack loaded with batteries I ran toward my towers. There are no words to express what I saw, or felt, nor can I speak of the journey I took over and over that day to bring more batteries up to the rescuers, then water to the officers who guarded the perimeter for double, even triple shifts, passing by a doctor who sat on a curb while he held up an x-ray into the daylight’s rays as in disbelief of what he had seen on his screen inside. I am only one of many with stories and no words to express them.

With each trip I wished I could do more. I squinted through the smoke, breathing at this point through a dust mask as advised by the officer I gave the batteries to, watching heroes at work looking for survivors at ground zero.

One truck stood out, a disaster services truck with a large red cross. It was inconceivable to me, here was my city, here were my friends, I should be there, I should do more, I had so much more to give. That red cross gave me hope. It is difficult to not describe the moment in cliche but through it all—dust, debris, chaos and pain, there was familiarity; the Red Cross.

There is not a time that I can recall that the American Red Cross has not been in my life. I learned to swim with the Red Cross; then I became an instructor; then a lifeguard. I took first aid and CPR classes, and my own children learned to swim the same way. I decided that day that was how I was going to make a difference; I would volunteer with the American Red Cross.

It is this moment I bring with me when I reach out to a family who has just lost everything in a fire, or a hurricane or any type of disaster for I know The Red Cross is a first step back toward hope, just like it was for my own healing that day back in September 2001.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Practice Makes Perfect in Metro NY North

A total of 31 Red Crossers from across the Greater New York Region convened in the early morning hours at the Red Cross offices in Hawthorne, N.Y., on Oct 7. to participate in a multi-county mass evacuation drill. Throughout the morning into early afternoon, Red Crossers simulated a response to the mass evacuation.

"This was an extraordinary exercise, one in which our volunteers and community partners worked to fine-tune their skills and be ready if our community needed them,” said Mary Young, CEO of the Metro New York North Red Cross chapter. “I am so proud of the work we do to help ensure our neighbors’ safety.”

The Red Cross thanks all volunteers who participated in our Hawthorne, N.Y., and Orange and Westchester County locations, as well as our Emergency Services partners. 

See more photos.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Red Cross Participates in Veterans StandDown in Northport, Long Island

Red Cross volunteers (L t R): Robin Cohen, Doreen Brienza, John Galligan
The American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Team on Long Island participated in a Veterans StandDown at the Northport Veterans Administration Medical Facility on Sept. 24.  The StandDown is held twice a year to do provide an array of services to the local veterans’ community, with a focus on those veterans facing homelessness or seeking employment.

"The Veterans StandDown events are important opportunities to support local veterans and provide information on the services available through the American Red Cross Service SAF program,” said Bridgette Nugent, Regional Case Manager, SAF & International Services American Red Cross Greater New York Region. “The Red Cross is committed to supporting military members throughout the deployment cycle, to include reintegration amongst veterans, and we are proud to be a part of such a collaborative community event."

At the event, the SAF team provided approximately 210 veterans, with Red Cross comfort kits containing personal hygiene items including toothpaste, soap and shampoo.

The SAF team was one of many local organizations providing services to veterans.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In Case You Missed It -- October 6

During the last week, the Greater New York Red Cross responded to 42 disasters,  provided aid to 124 people in the area. Check for other highlights below:

Rena Silverman- Greater New York Volunteer

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Manhattan Family Helped by Red Cross after Fire

After discovering flames shooting from a compactor room next to their lower Manhattan apartment on a Sunday night, Nellie Quiles and her parents fled down four flights of stairs. Once safely outside, they didn’t know what to do or where to go—until Nellie learned that they could receive help from the American Red Cross.

Quiles and her dad first took her mom, who is receiving home hospice care, to a hospital, where she received help. Daughter and father then returned to their apartment, to find it filled with mud and soot. The building manager showed Quiles a contact sheet left by the Red Cross. She called, and a Red Cross disaster responder was soon at their side.

“He checked the apartment out,” she said. “He gave us masks to wear because we couldn’t breathe. He brought cleaning supplies, which was so nice because you’re not thinking about things you’re going to need, like a sponge to clean stuff, because you don’t know what you have left. It was nice to have somebody come in and say, ‘We’re here. We’re gonna help you.’”  

The family received two nights of temporary housing from the Red Cross, as well as emotional support. “Someone listens to you and you get a good cry and get it off your shoulders,” Quiles said. “You don’t realize what a bed and taking a shower really means until you’re in the situation,” she added. “You feel like a human being again and that’s amazing.” 

Quiles was unaware that the Red Cross helped after home fires, even though the organization had been there for her family twice before. “After Sandy, the Red Cross came and checked on us and brought water,” she said. “And they helped us after 9/11.”

The family lives a few blocks from the World Trade Center. The day of the attacks, they left their apartment, returning that Friday.

“We came back and got the knock on the door from Red Cross,” Quiles remembered.

A Red Cross volunteer gave them water, a snack and a pamphlet with information about obtaining further assistance.

“That’s comforting,” Quiles said. “Especially in the city, people don’t really appreciate that there is a Red Cross you can go to. I think we think, ‘Oh, it just happens in other states.’ It’s not in Manhattan; it’s not in New York. And now I know that it is. And I’m very grateful for that.”