Monday, December 16, 2019

In Case You Missed It - Dec 16

2019 Year in Review (Photo: Lisa Weatherbee)
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 136 adults and 44 children following 56 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, December 10, 2019

In Case You Missed It - Dec 9

Long-time GNY Volunteer Georgine Gorra recognized by the IFRC for her service.
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 102 adults and 37 children following 51 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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Red Cross Continues to Support Queens Families After Sewage Emergency

One of the 100+ homes affected by a major sewage backup in Queens.
Since a major sanitation emergency in South Ozone, Queens forced hundreds of residents from their homes Saturday afternoon — two days after Thanksgiving — the American Red Cross has been working around the clock to support distraught and displaced residents coping with feet of raw sewage in their homes.

The day of the initial sewage backup, Red Cross disaster relief teams arrived at the scene and coordinated with NYC Emergency Management to open a Reception Center for impacted families at a neighborhood school. After staying open at the school on Sunday, the Center transitioned to the nearby hotel — Courtyard by Marriott, 145-11 N. Conduit Ave. — where it will remain open for families throughout the week.

At the school and at the hotel, the Red Cross has provided meals, water, and has met one-on-one with affected residents to determine housing needs and provide emergency financial assistance. Also on hand to help are Red Cross health and mental health volunteers and nurses to address individual emotional and health concerns.

Interim Greater NY Red Cross CEO, Susan Rounds speaks to
volunteer Georgine Gorra at a Service Center in Queens 
As of Wednesday morning, the Red Cross has registered 80 families for assistance, of whom approximately 30 families needed emergency housing, which has been provided in area hotels.

Today the Red Cross is going door to door to deliver “clean up kits” — which is a bucket that includes disinfectant and cleaning supplies. As of 1:00 P.M. on Wednesday, Red Cross volunteers distributed 120 kits to area homes.

Among the multiple City agencies working at the Reception Center alongside the Red Cross to support these Queens families has been NYC Emergency Management, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, NYC Comptroller’s Office, FDNY, and the Office of the Mayor. 

Red Cross volunteer prepare to distribute cleanup kits. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

In Case You Missed It - Dec 2

Red Cross Reception Center opened at P.S. 223 following major sewer backup in Queens
(now moved to Courtyard Marriott).
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 112 adults and 39 children following 32 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 29, 2019

#GivingTuesday: Donate to Help Disaster Victims in Greater NY and Across the Country

Cassandra Philip among the 8000+ residents of
Greater NY that turned to the Red Cross so far this year
After disasters upended the lives of tens of thousands of people this year across the country, including more than 8000 here in Greater NY, the American Red Cross asks everyone to help provide emergency relief for future crises by donating at on Giving Tuesday, December 3. 

“Five to 20 times a day here in our NYC, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley, the generosity of our donors enables us to help someone affected by a disaster — and this year has been no exception,” said Susan Rounds, Interim CEO, American Red Cross in Greater New York. “Across the country, from flooding to hurricanes to fires, Red Cross volunteers were there every eight minutes when those suffering needed us most in the aftermath of disasters. On Giving Tuesday, please donate and help us provide emergency shelter, food, relief items and recovery assistance for people’s urgent disaster needs.”

HOW TO HELP People can #GiveWithMeaning on Giving Tuesday and throughout the holiday season by making a tax-deductible donation at in honor of loved ones:

  • Help disaster victims in the U.S.: A gift of $50 can deliver hot meals for five people or provide blankets for 10 people after a disaster, or a larger donation of $100 can provide a family of two with a full day’s worth of emergency shelter, including meals, snacks, blankets, cots and hygiene supplies.
  • Help military members and veterans: A donation of $50 can help connect veterans and their families to critical community services, such as food, housing, mental health support and rehabilitation. A larger gift of $145 can provide hospital kits, filled with toiletries and other essentials, for 20 service members.
  • Help save lives internationally: People can support our work with the Measles & Rubella Initiative, which provides vaccinations for children and educates families about the dangers of measles and rubella. A gift of $100 can help provide lifesaving vaccinations for 100 children facing an increased risk of measles and rubella around the world.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Rediscovered Memorial Pays Tribute to WWI Women Who Served

By Daniel Sieberg, American Red Cross in Greater NY 

The foot of the flagstaff memorial to those who served with the Red Cross in World War 1. It reads: 
"In memory of the members of the Overseas Service League who served with the Red Cross during the first and second World Wars."   
For eight decades, millions of New Yorkers and tourists alike in Central Park have visited a memorial to Red Cross volunteers who served in WWI - likely without ever realizing it. Perhaps because it’s “hidden” in plain sight. 

As the first global war escalated starting in 1914 and the U.S. became increasingly drawn in, the Red Cross was still a nascent organization searching for a strong identity but with an influential honorary chairman to help draw attention to its importance: President Woodrow Wilson. 

Whether in the U.S. or the European theater of war, hundreds of women volunteered and served with the Red Cross in WWI from medical care to running canteens to offering civilian aid. 

In 1925, more than six years after the end of WWI, a memorial of 24 trees and a flagstaff in the east side of Central Park in New York was conceived by the Overseas Service League to pay tribute to the number of women who had died (two more trees were added at a later date) - many of whom were members of the American Red Cross. 

From a report in the New York Times, we know a dedication ceremony took place where hundreds of people gathered to honor the occasion, complete with a color guard from Fort Jay, Governors Island. Lt.-Commander Nathan A. Seagle made the principal address and pronounced the benediction. President of the Overseas Service League, Mary Martin, laid multi-colored wreaths on the saplings. Indeed, according to a news report of the day, the entire grove was decorated with wreaths and sprays of poppies, irises, peonies, white lilacs and other blossoms. 

Over time, though, the impact and visibility of the memorial faded. The trees eventually blended into the surrounding foliage, their stories lost to the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest city parks in the world. 

1945. Marseille, France. The Coast Guard lands Red Cross worker
on the Riviera to catch up with the advancing allied forces in Southern France.
Credit: American Red Cross
Earlier this year, after the East Side WWI Centennial Commemoration (ESWWICC) rediscovered this tribute memorial to New York City women veterans, the American Red Cross joined them, the NYC Department of Veteran Affairs, and a cross-section of leading organizations and  elected representatives to bring this important site, also known as the Overseas Service League Flagstaff and Grove, out of obscurity and back to public recognition.

On November 6, 2019, just days before Veterans Day, under a clear autumn sky with a sun that burned shadows onto the paths, a re-commemoration ceremony marked by speeches delivered by more than a dozen non-profit, civic, community and government officials, made clear this site plays a critical and enduring role in reminding us all of the women who served (and continue to serve) their country.

“The American Red Cross began as the vision of an extraordinary woman,” said Susan Rounds, Interim CEO, American Red Cross in Greater New York, at the event. “Clara Barton risked her life to help wounded soldiers from the North and the South during the Civil War, selfless, humanitarian action that laid the foundation for the organization. Far ahead of her time, Clara forged a path for women. It was in this spirit that women volunteered with the Red Cross during World War 1.”

Greater NY Red Cross Interim CEO Susan Rounds speaks at a re-commemoration ceremony
alongside community, civic and local government partners   
Now that it has been brought back to the public eye, the hope is to make this tribute event an annual occurrence. The Overseas Service League Flagstaff and Grove is the only site in NYC that recognizes the women who served in overseas wars. 

And it’s a tribute to women who served that we should all look up to. 

If you’d like to visit the memorial yourself just head to the 69th Street walk entrance on the east side of the park - and find the flagpole, and for the Grove and trees, look to your right and walk the path up to 71st Street 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Three Questions: Raul Rivera Nuñez

By Maria Sievers, American Red Cross in Greater NY

"Three Questions" is an American Red Cross in Greater New York blog series featuring staff, volunteers, and partners who help carry out our humanitarian mission. Through these short interviews, we hope to shine a light on our different programs and get to know those who make this work possible.

Raul (second to the left) with his Red Cross team in Bahamas 
Raul Rivera Nuñez, who currently serves as Regional Director of Planning, Readiness, and Situational Awareness at the American Red Cross in Greater NY, first joined the organization in 2009. During his time here he has been deployed several times to national and international disasters. He recently got back from a 5-week deployment to the Bahamas where Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the country in early September. He defines this experience as one of the most challenging one he has ever had.

What kind of impact did the storm have?

Hurricane Dorian was one of the strongest to impact the islands. A month after the storm impact, there were still 600 hundred people missing.

You hear stories, unbelievable stories of what people had to do to survive. There was one about this man, that was trying not to get swept out by the storm and a piece of flying debris severed his arm. He lost his arm trying to hang on to a tree, so he didn’t get swept out by the storm.

During my time there I quickly became very impressed with the Bahamian people’s resiliency. They are incredibly resilient, resourceful and very warm, even after having gone through something as traumatic as this. As they share their hurricane survival experiences, they always end the story with an intent of determination, energy, adaptability, courage, among other admirable qualities.

What was your specific role in Bahamas?

I was doing a bilateral role, as a shelter/settlement team member. The American Red Cross and the Bahamas Red Cross had a previous relationship, which was established way before this disaster arrived. Me and two other folks [from the American Red Cross] got deployed to do assessment and recommendations. There were two components: One, how can a shelter experience the increase in the number of evacuees? Second, once the evacuees move on to transitional sheltering, what are some recommendations that they need to have the most positive experience possible? And three, also make recommendations for how the Bahamas Red Cross can be a greater stakeholder in the next disaster relief operation

Day to day I’m doing a lot of coordination, so I definitely need to talk to a lot of people, staying on top of the current developments and what the situation awareness is and just make that as part of our overall report. We are also assisting the cash distribution team, they are distributing cash to the most vulnerable people, so we lend a hand in assisting and setting that up. We are working long hours, I would say at least 12 hours per day.

What do people in the US not know about the situation in the Bahamas?

The Bahamas is a bunch of islands, it’s about 700 islands, so the logistics of working here is quite different than working on the mainland or any other type of scenario. Being a chain of islands, there are a limited number of ways that assistance can enter each island, for debris clean-up to be completed, and for how people can get back to assess home damage or do repairs, etc.

Livelihoods have also added complexity to the impact, as a great number of people will not have a job to get back to when they return to their respective islands. All in all, there was the immediate impact trauma that affected the Bahamian people; but also, as time goes by, there will be an longer-term impact on them. It will take time for them to get back to their island, time to get the opportunity to rebuild, time to find/train for a new job, and time to return to some decent level of normalcy.

All of the deployments are different because of the nature of the specific incident, but this one has been one of the most challenging ones.

Monday, November 25, 2019

In Case You Missed It - Nov 25

Judy Audevard and her dog Lulu feature our latest podcast episode 
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 115 adults and 40 children following 38 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

Monday, November 18, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Nov 18

Red Cross volunteers marched in the 100th NYC Veterans Parade (Photo: Lori-Ann Pizzarelli)
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 110 adults and 43 children following 56 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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

NY Red Cross Team Member Travels to Greece for Global Refugee Relief

Tiara Youmans (R) coordinates with a team member from the
Austrian Red Cross at a site in the Greek town of Vagiochori. 
Tiara Youmans first joined the American Red Cross in 2010 as a volunteer in Denver, Colorado. Over the last nine years she has traveled across the US and around the world in support of the Red Cross humanitarian mission. But her biggest challenge since joining the organization lies ahead: a two-month deployment to Northern Greece where she will help provide critical relief to refugees.

Youmans recently traveled to Europe with the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support a Cash Transfer Program that provides refugees with funds to give them a sense of autonomy and dignity as they seek to rebuild their lives. This program, implemented by the IFRC, was established by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHRC). Youmans is based in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, and travels regularly to sites in the mountains in the North of the country where of thousands of refugees from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa live.

“I’m really grateful to have the opportunity. I’ve been an International Delegate for the Red Cross since 2015 and I have only deployed once before to Haiti,” said Youmans. “This will be my first time working on a refugee and migrant situation rather than natural disasters.”

This crisis was spurred by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Greece back in 2015 (20 times more than the previous year). Though these numbers have gone down since, significant arrivals by land and sea have continued since. The implementation of the UNHCR cash program is one component of the Global Red Cross Red Crescent response to this crisis.

Speaking about her work, Youmans explains: “While emergency supplies are still very important, especially in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, more and more, we are leaning to cash assistance so that the beneficiaries are able to make their own decisions on their recovery.”

Youmans is part of a small roster of highly-specialized and experienced American Red Cross disaster professionals, International Delegates as they are called, who deploy and provide aid during global crises alongside Red Cross and/or Red Crescent team members from the host country and from around the world. Youmans is one of four International Delegates from the Greater NY Region who are trained to deploy in this capacity. In 2016, she deployed to Haiti to serve as a relief delegate following Hurricane Matthew.

In her role at the American Red Cross in Greater NY, Tiara Youmans serves as the Regional Director of Client Services and Recovery.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Memories from Solferino

By Elaine Biller, American Red Cross in Greater New York

Slumbering in the Italian countryside, nestled between rolling hills of vineyards and lakes, lies the sleepy town of Solferino. Like most towns that dot the Italian countryside, Solferino would not attract many visitors, being bypassed for its larger nearby cousins of Verona and Lake Garda. Yet, what makes Solferino stand apart from its rural neighbors is an infamous event that took place on June 24, 1859 that changed the course of world history. A heady reputation afforded Solferino that most people, including many Red Crossers are largely unaware of, that I myself was unaware of until I traveled to Solferino, Italy as part of an unofficial American Red Cross delegation. 

Since 2009, thousands of International Red Cross and Red Crescent members converge to celebrate the largest spontaneous humanitarian effort during wartime; and to celebrate the subsequent birth of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the formation of the Geneva Conventions which sets forth guidelines for the treatment of prisoners, wounded armed forces, and civilians during wartime engagements. Solferino is where the “idea began.”

Henri Dunant witnessed large scale casualties suffered by all countries represented in the conflict during Italy’s struggle for independence. Inspired by the village women from the area who carried water from the village down to the battlefield, and wounded soldiers several miles to nearby churches for medical treatment, Dunant joined their effort. Using his own money Dunant hired wagons, food and medical supplies engaging nearby towns in the relief operation. Dunant also helped convince army leaders to release all medical professional prisoners allowing them to assist the wounded, regardless of the uniform they were wearing. Due to the sheer number of casualties, the military leaders agreed. Thus, Dunant established the first humanitarian relief effort that did not discriminate on the basis of country, culture, race, or religious affiliation during wartime. Upon his return to his home in Geneva, Dunant went on to publish “ A Memory of Solferino” with his own money, and began a series of discussions which led to the establishment of the Geneva Conventions, and the signed treaties with many nations who agreed to follow Dunant’s principals. Dunant proposed the establishment of a voluntary relief organization that would carry out this treaty; whose sole mission was to alleviate the human suffering imposed by war, conflicts and natural disasters without discrimination based on borders, race, gender or religion. 

Henri Dunant’s financed his passion for this cause using personal finances. He went bankrupt yet still published essays persuading a humanitarian agenda for the fair treatment of prisoners of war, abolition of slavery, protection of jewish exiles and a neutral international organization to oversee this all. In 1895, Dunant’s writings were “rediscovered” sparking a renewed interest in his work on a global scale, leading to Dunant being awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize for what is described as “the supreme humanitarian achievement of the 19th century.”

Fast-forward to today when thousands of humanitarians come together in the foothills where this battle took place to honor the great man, his work, and the ongoing relief efforts of the societies, Red Cross and Red Crescent, that he helped create. To be a small part of such a great legacy can not be fully explained in words. Honored to be part of this celebration does not adequately fill out the experience. I will offer some insight fully acknowledging my lack, but hopefully fleshing out enough details to provide a glimpse into this celebration’s meaning. 

Meeting in the town’s piazza, celebrants come together. From a single torch, the light of the flame is passed from each participant until nearly ten thousand torches are lit. With each lighting, we are joined together in unity; passing on the symbol of hope and promise that our societies represent around the world. The light is shared shoulder to shoulder with soon to be new friends represented by almost 150 countries. I was one of about a dozen Americans from the mainland joining another dozen plus Americans stationed in Venice, Italy. With torches held aloft we began the same procession that the villagers took when they came to aid the wounded combatants that fateful day centuries ago. Winding our way through the countryside we walked shoulder to shoulder with Nationals from around the world. Conversations ensued, shirts and pins were exchanged, occasionally a song broke free from the crowd. Singing “Let it Be” with accents from around the globe made this rendition my favorite forever. Let it be. A simple message; let it be- a promise of peace, unity, safety in one’s own country, a promise that every human being is a human being deserving what we each strive for; dignity, clean water, a safe home, no migrant crisis, no world disasters… let it be.

We walked on for over ten miles. Sometimes a hush would come over the crowd. Was it the beauty of the sunset and the glow of torches that wrapped around the winding lanes for miles that brought the throng to quiet mullings? Was the enormity of the experience and the sheer joy of being a participant? Was it the humble thoughts on being a part of the greatest humanitarian relief organization in the world? Was it simply walking beside someone from another nation knowing that due to politics our countries had been in conflict, or were currently in conflict, yet here we walked connecting as citizens of the world believing in something greater? Or was it the knowing that death had devastated this countryside and the bones of so many were still lying in fertile fields? These were my thoughts, I do not know what others mulled as they walked. I do know however that something special was happening in the solitude. Then just as suddenly and as softly as the breeze that caressed the marchers, we were lifted again into celebration and song. We were The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies celebrating our greatest victory together… unflagging compassion, strength in unity and a renewed commitment of the visions put forth by Henri Dunant. As we wound our way back into town we were met by the townspeople with cheers and waving Red Cross banners. Children holding signs for peace brought me to tears. I finished my march weary and speechless. I extinguished my torch and walked the next few steps in darkness, then turning a corner I was met with a giant celebration bursting forth; a band playing and festivities around the campground celebrating the accomplishment of not only the participants but of the societies themselves. 

Solferino is a moment to be experienced. It carries you. It pushes you past beliefs and renews hope. It reminds us that we are one Red Cross and that our work around the world holds the promise that together, and only together, can we can be successful when we walk shoulder to shoulder.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Nov 11

Long Island Red Cross Volunteers in Montauk, as part of the Home Fire Campaign
(Photo: Lori-Ann Spaccarelli-Pizzarelli)
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 152 adults and 66 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

Monday, November 11, 2019

Bronx Veteran Turns to Red Cross After Tragedy

By Daniel Sieberg, American Red Cross in Greater NY

Carlos Blanco always dreamed of making a difference. And that’s exactly what he did for nearly three decades in the Army serving his country and helping others. But after an apartment fire in his Bronx home earlier this year, it was a team of Red Cross volunteers who were there for him when he needed it most.

During his nearly 30 years with the Army, Blanco experienced countless moments of sacrifice and service. He saw the suffering of others and says he needed to put aside all sense of fear and trepidation to fulfill his missions. He eventually worked as operations sergeant with the NY State Emergency Preparedness team and witnessed the effects of natural disasters firsthand including hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. And he says throughout it all he never felt afraid with his fellow members of the military alongside him. 

After a medical incident sent him to the hospital in 2016, he emerged from that experience with new challenges. He was living alone and approaching retirement. He started to wonder what lay ahead. He embarked on this new chapter in his life at the age of 60 with the intent of reinventing himself, spending some time working with his church, maybe even starting a business within the Latino community of the Bronx where he’d lived for most of his adult life. 

But all those plans were turned upside down the night of September 3, 2019 when he learned of an apartment fire in his home. Blanco himself was actually spending that night in nearby Westchester County watering plants and taking care of the home of a friend. He received a call in the middle of the night alerting him to what had happened - terror gripped his thoughts as he imagined his beloved pets trapped inside. 

“I immediately thought of my little guys,” said Blanco, welling with tears. “I call them my three amigos.” 

Those three amigos were his dog, Teddy, and two cats, Tigger and Simba. As with so many of our animal companions, they had become a stable force in his life; sadly they perished in the fire. For Blanco, it was an overwhelming emotional experience coupled with the loss of material items, his home and a sense of stability. 

When he arrived at the house that morning he encountered the firefighters - but also some unexpected and entirely welcome guests from the Red Cross. 

“Well, you know, I didn’t have to call the Red Cross - they were there,” said Blanco. “Knowing that in times like this - you feel like you stand alone. And what am I going to do, where am I going to live. And here they are.” 

He says he was provided everything he needed in a time of crisis - shelter, some funds on a debit card to buy clothes and food, and unwavering support to help him move forward. 

“People don’t even know how important an organization like the Red Cross can be,” said Blanco. “And what it represents - during people’s worst time - basically is hope. They don’t care who you are - they just know you need help.” 

Blanco is now rebuilding and moving forward with a renewed sense of optimism - appreciative of everything he has in life. And he’s ready to pay it back to others; he says a priority is now completing an application to become a Red Cross volunteer himself. 

“I know I can make a difference,” said Blanco. “Because they made a difference in my life.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

In Case You Missed It - Nov 4

Red Cross Command Center, ERV and Hummer at Touch-a-Truck event. 
(Photo: Lori-Ann Spaccarelli-Pizzarelli)

Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 78 adults and 23 children following 56 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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Rockland County Couple Pays it Forward as Part of the Red Cross Extended Family

By Daniel Sieberg

Linda and Brian McMullan with Northeast Division Vice President of the American Red Cross.
Linda McMullan doesn’t hesitate when asked what motivated her to get involved with the American Red Cross more than 18 years ago - a moment in time that transformed so many people around the world.

“After 9/11 there was a real coming together, a community spirit of neighbors helping each other and also a sense of, I think, in general people wanting to do something,” she said. “Feeling a little helpless about what happened and wanting to contribute.”

She began in 2001 by donating her time with administrative services through her local Red Cross chapter in New York state - answering phones, general support, as described in her words - amidst maintaining her day job with Rockland County Children and Family Services working in the programming and development unit.

Linda and her husband, Brian, have called Rockland County home for more than 30 years and both hold degrees in engineering sciences along with backgrounds in finance from places like Columbia University. And Linda says while she gravitated to volunteering immediately after 9/11 it was five years later when they began to both take the same training courses and treat the opportunity as something they could do as a couple. Brian says he would see Linda dash out in the middle of the night to assist with the evaluation of people’s homes following a fire and comfort the families involved and when he eventually decided to join her it became a transformational discovery.

“I got hooked almost from the first time we went out,” he said.

From that time on, Brian and Linda have together visited countless homes across the state and country, traveled as members of the Disaster Action Team (DAT) and ridden with numerous Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) to hard-hit locales related to crises including Hurricane Harvey, the Ohio River floods and more recently Hurricane Dorian. Emergency aid during their deployments can include everything from providing meals to help with healthcare and counseling needs to conducting damage assessments.

“It’s really like a family when you start getting involved with all the crazy dysfunctional parts of it as far as people’s interactions - but also very much a mission-oriented group with similar values,” said Linda with a smile. “And so I think that’s what hooks us into it - that you know people are there for the same reason.”

Along the way, they said they’ve met so many people in these places who are grateful for their involvement - though both Brian and Linda remain modest about their impact.

“It’s hard when it’s time to leave because usually you know that it’s going to be a long haul for the folks who were hit with any of this and you don’t feel like you were about to really put an end [to it] or resolve anything for them,” said Linda. “But there is this feeling of, well, maybe I did help a little bit and they’re able to move along a bit now.”

In every instance, they say they’re struck by the deep human connections possible with complete strangers enduring such traumatic experience in their life - and those moments never cease to leave a profound impression on them as she recalled one particular encounter.

“A woman kept coming to the ERV and getting meals for her family and came back another time and all of a sudden was just very emotional,” said Linda. “She started saying, ‘I did OK, but so many of my family and friends have been impacted by this and this is terrible.’ And she was distraught and wanted to pray with us. She wanted to hold hands and we’re not an organization that promotes any kind of particular religion or anything - but if this is a comfort to them certainly we can participate in something like that. So we joined hands and she was just thanking the Lord for bringing us there and keeping us safe.”

The McMullans are such a shining example of paying it forward in life - a demonstration of powerful empathy knowing that while they’re on the helper side of the equation during these natural disasters they could just as easily be the ones affected.

At times, Brian admits he’s wonderfully overwhelmed by the scale of the responses and how many responders pull together during times of need. He cites a particular example in Texas during Hurricane Harvey with hundreds of food trucks deployed from both sides of the Mississippi River that illustrates the staggering level of collaboration and teamwork required to reach everyone in need - particularly over a sustained period of many months and long after these disasters stop garnering national media attention.

“That’s a lot of trucks and a lot of food and a lot of people,” said Brian. “And just [over] the Houston area itself, which is about 90 miles in diameter, which is huge, they opened up 15 kitchens with an average of about 15 trucks in each kitchen and serving about 600 hot meals a day. You can do the math.”

The McMullans encourage others to push past their own state of uncertainty in terms of how to get involved and perhaps consider myriad ways that anyone’s skills, interests and experience could be applicable.

“If you enjoy feeding someone, if you have any expertise in counseling or in some religious [way] - if you’re a spiritual leader,” said Linda. “There’s all of these opportunities to use whatever it is that turns you on basically in a way that can help people. So it could be the Red Cross. It could be other agencies in your community that might be in the limelight at that particular time. But I think there’s such a rewarding feeling of being involved in something if you get over that initial inertia.”

The McMullan’s also stay busy with two children of their own and three grandchildren - with another on the way. And just as they’re proud of their own growing brood, they also share a sense of pride in helping grow the American Red Cross extended family and hope this interview inspires others.

“We’ve been blessed,” said Linda. “I’ve kept in contact with a number of people on Facebook and it’s like a family and you know who is having grandchildren or who’s going to another deployment here or there and you stay in touch with people who have the same mission in mind. We don’t want this to be about us - but we do it to help get the volunteers and the donors so we do it. There are so many different opportunities and ways to get involved.”

And like every pivotal moment in life, it begins with that first step.

“And,” Linda added, “just knowing that you might be able to make a little difference.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

In Case You Missed It - Oct 28

Red Cross volunteers came out to Co-op city in the Bronx to 
install free smoke alarms (photo: Vivian Moy)
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 119 adults and 35 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