Wednesday, November 30, 2016

In Case You Missed It - Nov 28

Red Cross Responders providing assistance to residents of New Rochelle. (Photo: Caroline Sherwin)
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 124 adults and 37 children following 47 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities
  • Dec 3: #GetAlarmedNYC is coming to Staten Island to help make the community safer one home at a time. Volunteer to help out, or sign up to get a free smoke alarm installed in your home.
  • Dec 3: The Metro NY North Red Cross is hosting its annual “Battle of the Badges” blood drive in Greenwich, CT from 8 a.m. to 1:30 pm at the Greenwich Public Safety Complex/New Greenwich Police Department garage on 11 Bruce Place. The annual tradition is a friendly contest involving police officers, firefighters and EMTs to see which service can collect the most units of blood. Come out and support your favorite department! 
  • Dec 3, 6, 8: Red Cross blood drive at GNY Headquarters: 2 to 7pm: 520 West 49th Street, Manhattan. Schedule an appointment to donate today. 
  • Dec 5: The Port Washington Crisis Relief Team is sponsoring a special blood drive at the Port Washington Library (1 Library Drive) on Monday, December 5 from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Make an online appointment please visit and use sponsor code: pwcrisisrelief. We hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Five Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

By Niamh McDonnell, American Red Cross

The holiday season is upon us and what better way to spread holiday cheer than to help those who need it the most! At the Greater NY Red Cross, we offer many opportunities for area residents to give back to their communities. Here are five of them:

1) Donate Blood

Blood donations are in need year-round. But during the holiday season, busy schedules and travel plans make it more challenging for donors to give. On top of this, the latter half of 2016 was met with severe natural disasters such as the Louisiana flooding and Hurricane Matthew that forced the cancellation of many blood drives. That means we need them now more than ever. And don’t worry, even a fear of needles can be overcome with the right preparation and mental state!   

2) Learn First Aid or CPR 


Did you know that performing CPR in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can triple a person’s chance of survival? At the Red Cross, there are several ways to learn CPR. By following this link you can find the most convenient way to learn to save a life: in-person classes, online classes or a combination of the two. In addition to CPR, knowledge of first aid can also allow you to be an asset to whatever environment you are in. Since injuries impact millions of people each year, you can help save someone’s life in the event of an emergency. And this skill could change your life as well.

And yes, we also have resources to teach your pet first aid including a free app!

    3) Volunteer 

    Another great way to give back is to become a Red Crosser! More than 90% of our workforce is made up of selfless NYers who give of their time to help others, You can help be a part of the Red Cross mission in so many different ways: providing relief following disasters, helping install free smoke alarms, supporting military members and their families and so much more! No matter what it is you are doing, every volunteer makes a difference.     
      4) Get Prepared For an Emergency

      Emergencies are never expected, that’s what makes them emergencies. But being prepared before a disaster will lessen its impacts on you, your family and your community. The Red Cross provides some great tips and resources to help you and your loved ones be Red Cross Ready! This includes our NY State Citizens Preparedness Corp training, which provides information about common types of natural and man-made disasters and teaches effective ways to prepare for them. The Red Cross also has a free Emergency App that provides guidance for over 35 different types of emergencies. You can find both the Apple and Android versions by following those links.

      5) Make a Financial Donation

      Image result for let's do this game of thrones gif

      Donating to the Red Cross doesn't just help those we serve, but you as well. For starters, it’s tax deductible. Second, you are helping to provide services for your community that you may also need in the event of an emergency. And beyond those personal benefits, making a financial donation ensures that these services will be ready and available to those who may need them most. This assistance includes emergency housing, food and relief items such as blankets for those displaced by local disasters like home fires; free smoke alarms throughout Greater NY and so much more. 2016 has shown us that emergencies can strike at a moment’s notice. And if you do decide to give, the process has been made even easier now that Apple Pay allows you to do so through your Apple account!

      Thanks for giving. Whether it is time, money or your blood, the Red Cross is thankful for all that you can do to help us carry out our mission to help keep our neighbors safe any time of year.

      Wednesday, November 23, 2016

      In Case You Missed It - Nov 21

      Red Crossers helping displaced Carmel residents after a large fire in Putnam County. (Photo: Caroline Sherwin)
      Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 104 adults and 27 children following 40 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

      Last Week in Review

      Upcoming Events and Opportunities

      Tuesday, November 15, 2016

      In Case You Missed It - Nov 14

      Red Crossers marching in the NYC Veteran's Day Parade. (Photo: Joe Spaccarelli)
      Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 84 adults and 25 children following 50 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

      Last Week in Review

      Upcoming Events and Opportunities

      Friday, November 11, 2016

      Notes From the Field: Haiti

      Since mid-October, Greater NY Red Cross Disaster Program Manager and International Red Cross Delegate Tiara Youmans has been in southern Haiti supporting the Global Red Cross response to Hurricane Matthew, the country's largest disaster since the 2010 earthquake. 

      Tiara is part of a small, highly-trained group of American Red Cross staff members who have traveled to the Caribbean nation following last month's historic storm to lend their humanitarian relief expertise in areas such as emergency distribution and telecommunications support. She joins a permanent team of American Red Cross staff members in Haiti (majority Haitian nationals), thousands of Haitian Red Cross team members and other Red Cross partners from all over the world. 

      We recently caught up with Tiara and discussed her experience in Haiti so far.

      Can you talk a bit about the drive from Port-au-Prince to where you are now working in the South? 

      We left from the capital to the southern peninsula at 4am so it was dark for the first half of the drive. I did not start getting a feel for the surroundings until we were already in the southern departments [the areas most affected by the storm]. There was definitely damage to the infrastructure and a few bridges were out but it wasn't until I got out to the more remote areas that I saw the extreme damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.

      Can you talk a bit more about the damage in areas you have worked?

      Where we are based in Les Cayes there is damage to the roads and some buildings, however a majority of the damage I saw was in the small villages along the coast. Whenever it rains the roads turn into rivers and access is very difficult. Out in some of the heavily-hit communes the homes are completely destroyed with only a few studs remaining. Even bridges and some of the more sturdy hotels suffered severe damage, so you can imagine what the damage was to the smaller homes. Those that did not completely lose their dwellings usually lost part of their roof in the storm. The other devastating impact of the storm is the loss of crops and livelihoods (boats for fishing, stands for trade/selling, etc).

      Walk us through a “typical” day.

      I usually wake up between 3am and 4am on a day that we do a distribution and between 6:30am and 7am on a day that we focus on planning.

      We start off by heading out to different localities in the Sud Department where assessments have been completed, and we meet with the local leaders and the local Haitian Red Cross coordinator to distribute vouchers. We then visit the distribution site and plan out how we will run the distribution from that location. This includes determining what supplies we will need at that particular site. Once everything is set up we head back to the office to plan for the actual distribution which generally takes place the following day.

      On a distribution day we get up very early to load the trucks and head out to the site before the streets are crowded. Distribution days are long and hot but very rewarding.

      On days when we are not planning or distributing, there is a lot of running around. This includes organizing the warehouses, completing inventories, working on plans, dealing with the transition of team members, and figuring out the logistics of our office space, residence, etc.

      Can you discuss the relationship between the American Red Cross and the Haitian Red Cross? 

      All of the work that we have been doing here has been a joint effort between the American Red Cross and the Haitian Red Cross. We sit in makeshift offices in Les Cayes next to each other in the same complex. The planning is almost entirely made possible by the Haitian Red Cross who provide volunteers to help not only with running the distributions but also with help connecting with the local leaders in the localities to make the distribution of vouchers possible. It is amazing to see how we can reach even the most remote areas thanks to the local Haitian Red Cross coordinators.

      Can you talk about some of the recipients of Red Cross supplies that you have met?

      One of the conversations that stood out the most to me was with a man from the south coast who lost everything he owned. He had four children and made his living as a fisherman. His whole household had to move into a tiny section of their home that still remained and he was trying to figure out what to do in order to continue making a living. Even in his difficult situation he was out helping his neighbors rebuild and was helping people carry the items that they had received at a distribution site. One of the things I have really come to understand is the resiliency of Haitian people; they have all started rebuilding. There is still a long way to go but it is heartening to see people move forward and work together.

      What has surprised you the most so far?

      As my first international deployment for the Red Cross, one of the most eye opening things for me has been to really fully understand the network that the global Red Cross has and how deep it reaches into even the most remote places. Rather than coming in as a complete outsider, the Red Cross is able to reach the most isolated places because of its local base.

      What does it mean for you personally to deploy?

      For me, I am here to serve. I am here to help in whatever way I can and do my best to ensure that help is going to those who need it the most. I am representing not just the American Red Cross but the larger Red Cross network. In the context of Haiti there is already a delegation out here filled with smart and capable individuals who are really running the operations. I am here with my team to help with relief planning and logistics in every way we can. [The days] are hard and long but getting to be a part of this complex team has been incredibly rewarding. I am excited to see all of the great work that is being done on the ground, which will continue well after my team departs.

      On October 4, 2016 Hurricane Matthew made landfall on the country’s southern coast as a Category 4 storm, the largest to hit the country in 50 years. Matthew’s impact, Haiti’s worst disaster since the 2010 earthquake, has been devastating: widespread flooding, high winds and a massive storm surge have destroyed infrastructure, crops and livestock and left hundreds dead and tens of thousands homeless. According to the UN, 1.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

      With a permanent team in Haiti of nearly 200 staff, more than 90% of whom are Haitian nationals, the American Red Cross has been working with the Haitian Red Cross and other local and international partners in Haiti since before landfall to mobilize resources and provide critical relief and other vital logistics support. This includes the delivery of lifesaving supplies (soap, water purification tablets and rehydration salts) and door-to-door outreach to address the deadly spread of cholera. This work will continue for weeks and months to come.

      To learn more about the work of the American Red Cross in Haiti, visit

      Wednesday, November 9, 2016

      From Southeast Asia to the US Gulf Coast: Capturing Images of Hope

      By Caroline Hroncich, American Red Cross

      For Marko Kokic, no place is too far. Kokic, who has traveled the world working as a photographer for the Global Red Cross Network, says regardless of the location, the Red Cross is on scene to provide comfort for those affected by a disaster. During his most recent trips, Kokic spent time with American Red Cross volunteers in West Virginia and Louisiana photographing the aftermath of two major floods.

      "I want a hug," says Fonda Buckley, a resident just beginning to recover from the flooding.  Denham Springs, Louisiana.. Photo credit: Marko Kokic, American Red Cross 

      In June, he was deployed to West Virginia for six days to help document the work of dedicated Red Cross volunteers.

      “A raging river washed away homes and created a lot of destruction,” said Kokic of the damage in West Virginia. “A lot of people were caught off guard, there were a lot of flash floods.”

      Kokic spent his time in West Virginia working with photographers to capture images of response and recovery efforts. He accompanied Red Cross volunteers on a day-to-day basis and communicated with locals affected by the disaster. Kokic said the damage he encountered in West Virginia was shocking, but the resilience of the residents was inspiring. After the flooding, residents, many of whom did not have insurance, were left with little to nothing, forced to rebuild their homes from the ground up.

      Flooding, Gonzales, Louisiana, August 16, 2016.  Photo credit: Marko Kokic, American Red Cross
      “There was this one place that was really devastated, White Sulphur Springs,” said Kokic. “There was a home that got washed away, killing three people…[There was one family that was] picking through the ashes and debris to find what they could, trying to figure out where their wedding rings could be.”

      While Kokic was saddened by what he saw, he was comforted to know that Red Cross volunteers were there to bring some hope. Local and out-of-state Red Cross volunteers came together to rebuild the community. Volunteers distributed food, clothing and clean up kits. Some volunteers ran shelters for those who had lost their homes in the flood.

      “They were upbeat, they came in ready to go,” said Kokic of the West Virginia Red Cross volunteers. “No matter how long I have worked with the Red Cross it always remains inspiring. It’s the volunteers that make the organization. The number of volunteers we have, its really amazing, we can move mountains if we want to.”

      Courtney Robinson (center) is nearly certain that her home is destroyed by southern Louisiana flooding. Staying at a Red Cross shelter with her children and husband, they had fled their home with a few essential items.  Courtney shared their story with Red Crossers Elizabeth Stander, and Rachel Ambeau, who is also displaced at saying at a Red Cross shelter in Gonzales, Louisiana. Photo credit: Marko Kokic, American Red Cross
      Two months later, in late September and in the wake of another major flood, Kokic was deployed to Louisiana to work as a photographer for eight days. In Louisiana, Kokic travelled with a case worker, providing support to those displaced by the flood. Many homes were destroyed, forcing people to start from scratch.

      Red Cross volunteers came from all over the world to help those affected by the flooding in Louisiana. Most of the volunteers, Kokic said, worked in shelters or emergency response vehicles, serving those who had recently lost their homes during the disaster. Everyday the volunteers would make sure each person received a hot meal.
      Harry Tyler holds supplies received during a Red Cross relief distribution. Eunice, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. Photo credit: Marko Kokic, American Red Cross
      “Getting a hot meal when everything you own is destroyed, can be incredibly soothing,” Kokic said. “I think it helps people in some small way with recovery. I think they may feel like they’re not alone.”

      Sometimes, Kokic admitted, small acts of kindness can go a long way. He recalled one woman walking up to a Red Cross volunteer in Louisiana and simply asking for a hug. A small comfort, Kokic said, in the midst of a disaster.

      “It was a really special moment,” Kokic said. “In that moment, that’s what that woman needed most.”

      Kokic has worked in 49 countries – from the Congo to Papua New Guinea –photographing for the global Red Cross network in action. He has spent much of his career photographing the aftermath of natural disasters and wars. But, Kokic asserts, regardless of the circumstances, Red Cross volunteers always exude hope and support. No matter the location, it’s the volunteer base that makes the Red Cross so unique.

      No other organization has this kind of volunteer base,” Kokic noted. “The volunteers leave the comfort of their home so they can be in a place that’s been hit by tragedy. They are the best humanity has to offer. No place is too far. Where others won’t tread, the Red Cross will go and help people.”

      Marko Kokic 

      Tuesday, November 8, 2016

      In Case You Missed It - Nov 7

      Red Cross Volunteer Medical Spotters before the NYC Marathon. (Photo: Thuan Nguyen)
      Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 93 adults and 25 children following 45 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

      Last Week in Review

      Upcoming Events and Opportunities

      Tuesday, November 1, 2016

      Brian Gerber Shares a Snapshot from the Field

      Brian Gerber, a Mass Care Program Manager for the Metro NY North chapter, has a truly amazing story. His first experience with the Red Cross came when a townhouse exploded in his community of West Haverstraw, New York. As a board member for the homeowners association of Village Fairgrounds II, he worked closely with the Red Cross to provide relief and care for those who were struggling after the explosion. By seeing the impactful ways that the Red Cross was able to assist his loved ones and community, Brian decided to become a volunteer himself. That decision allowed him to go down an entirely new path, as he would then spend many nights volunteering to assist in local emergencies within the Metro NY North area. After devoting his time for almost five years as a volunteer, he went through a week of swift transitions. He was hired as an employee, and was deployed just four days later to assist in the immediate relief for South Carolinians after Hurricane Matthew. Despite being so new to his position, he rose to the challenge of coordinating mass care for thousands of people in need. He took some time to sit down with me and share his fulfilling experience over the course of his 16-day deployment.

      What was it like transitioning from a volunteer, to an employee, to a deployed staffer?

      “Being immersed into the deployment was very different because I’ve done local disaster relief operations, but never going outside the area. But I have such good rapport with the volunteers because I had worked with them for so long that it felt no different [being an employee]. There’s a very big amount of respect. Even as staff or as a volunteer, you have to do what’s best for the client. And that’s how a lot of us feel, so it makes it very easy to transition.” 

      What was your role while you were in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina?

      “Well I actually deployed as an Emergency Response Vehicle team member. When I got down there they heard that I was Mass Care Program Manager, and [since] they needed a Feeding Lead for the district, immediately I got pulled off [that team] and I got put into the District Office as the Feeding Lead. We had two kitchens that were being run by the Red Cross, and the Southern Baptists were doing the cooking for us.”

      What were you seeing/hearing while you were there?

      “The first days were very busy. [We were] making sure people had shelter, opening and closing shelters very rapidly, so the feeding needs were changing very quickly. A lot of people were in homes that didn’t have power, but people don’t always want to leave their homes, so we were making sure they had the essentials, that they had food. We were providing two hot meals a day, both lunch and dinner. It was a very logistical operation, making sure routes were done and working very closely with partner organizations. We were very close with the Salvation Army there because they were also helping to feed people; so we were making sure we weren’t duplicating their routes. Our numbers got up to almost 10,000 servings per meal period: one kitchen was making 3,500 and the other was making 6,200. It was an interesting operation to see: the moving pieces that all have to be made sure they’re working together.”  

      Were you able to see any improvement in the conditions from the day you arrived to the day you left? 

      “The first week was very hectic. But after that it was like everything fell right into place. It settled down and we got into a good flow and a good routine. By the time I left, we had already closed one of the kitchens, and we were getting ready to close the second one due to the power being back on in almost all the areas. Certain areas that had severe flooding still didn’t have power, but those people were living in shelters so we could then switch to catering feeding. Because once the number of people in need comes down low enough, you don’t need the capacities of the kitchens, so it’s easier to do local catering.”

      Is there any particular person you met, or experience you had that touched your life in a meaningful way?

      “I think the way that the group of us in the District Office came together as a team. We had people from Wisconsin. We had people from Utah. So all over the country. We didn’t know each other, we had never worked together before, and within 48 hours we were one cohesive group. [Because of] the comradery, and the support we were able to give each other, I still keep in touch with everyone…I got to say [the experience] is emotionally fulfilling. You walk into a shelter and you give out little Mickey Mouse dolls. The kids are so appreciative. And the parents are appreciative because now their kids have something tangible to hold on to.”   

      What do you think people should know about the conditions that are still going on in South Carolina?

      “The biggest thing is that there were a lot of homes that got destroyed due to flooding. The flooding of the rivers was very big down there; they had floods that they had never seen before. And they went through this a year ago, so some of the same communities that were just starting to rebuild got re-impacted. The biggest thing was our caseworkers being out there and listening to their stories, because their needs are going to be long-term. It’s not going to be fixed in a day, week, or month but it’s going to be another year that people are going to be recovering. So there’s a lot of work that’s still left to be done; when I left our district was still fully functioning.”

      A big thank you to Brian for upholding what it means to be a Red Crosser, and for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

      Piece by Communications Intern Niamh McDonnell

      In Case You Missed It - Oct 31

      Red Cross Youth Volunteers holding a fun Zombie-theme preparedness event.
      Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 130 adults and 45 children following 43 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

      Last Week in Review

      Upcoming Events and Opportunities
      • Nov 5: #GetAlarmedNYC is in full swing and serving neighborhoods all across NYC. Volunteer to help out, or sign up to get a free smoke alarm installed in your home.
      • Nov 6: For the TCS NYC Marathon, the Greater NY Region has recruited over 150 volunteers to support the Marathon medical team as course spotters in the post-finish area. There is also a team of 12 competitors, who are fundraising and running on behalf of the Red Cross. Please cheer for #TeamRedCross!
      • Nov 7, 8, 14: Red Cross blood drive: 2 to 7pm: 520 West 49th Street, Manhattan. Schedule an appointment to donate today. 
      • Nov 9: The American Red Cross Tiffany Circle Society of Women Leaders is hosting a event of cocktails and conversation about "Preparedness and Security in Today's World" for its members and guests. Special speakers include U.S. Congressman Daniel Donovan, Assistant U.S. Attorney Saritha Komatireddy and Greater NY Red Cross CEO Josh Lockwood.
      • Nov 11: Keep an eye out for Greater New York Red Cross volunteers and staff who will be marching in the NYC Veteran’s Day Parade. 
      • Nov 19: Supporting Volunteer and Managing Teams Workshop at the Metro NY Chapter. If you are a supporting volunteer or team manager, please take advantage of this engaging course. You can sign up and learn more about SVMT here.