Monday, June 17, 2019

Greater NY Red Cross Volunteers Answer the Call to Help

By Maria Sievers and Dana Gray, American Red Cross in Greater New York

With severe weather recently impacting multiple states across the country, the American Red Cross has been on the ground providing comfort and support.

Peter King, Douglas McNally, Alan Niewald and Denean Paulik are among several team members from the Greater New York area who have been deployed. Their experiences have been both challenging and rewarding.

Peter King

Picture of the flooding in St Louis County, Missouri
Peter King is a retired engineer from Long Island who is currently on a two-week deployment to Saint Louis County, Missouri, serving as a service associate in a shelter. In this role, he does a bit of everything: inventory, cleaning, talking to the people they are sheltering, etc.

The experience has been very touching so far, especially because some families have been separated as a result of the disaster.

“We met a man that was forced out of his apartment because of the flooding and he was apart from his son and grandson," said King. "We worked with him and we were able to reconnect them, and actually we got word this morning that he can come back to his apartment. We were substantial help to reconnect them. They were apart for a week.”

Peter has been a Red Cross volunteer for eight years and what he values most about the organization is the quality of the people and volunteers.

“People are very selfless, they give of their time, energy and effort," he said. "They ask for little or nothing in return. It’s gratifying to work with those kind of people."

Douglas McNally
Volunteer Douglas McNally during his deployment in Little Rock, Arkansas
Douglas McNally is a lawyer and social worker who has been a Red Cross volunteer since November 2018. He is from Long Island where he is in charge of coordinating mental health workers to assist following local emergencies. Last week he returned from Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was deployed for a week to help people affected by the Arkansas River flooding.

As Disaster Mental Health Team member he did a lot of driving across the state, working in shelters and visiting communities that were isolated as a result of the disaster. One town that caught his attention was Wright.

“It’s a small community, they all support each other, and they take care of their own. It was very remarkable to see”, said Douglas.

He met a retired homicide detective who had put his life savings in a home that was flooded.

McNally recalled: “We spent time with him and listened. That’s the main thing, they want you to listen to their story. That’s very therapeutic for someone, just to be able to tell us what’s going on. We also made sure they were hydrated, that they were wearing masks, because the mud that was in their home is probably toxic. We listened to them and assured them that Red Cross was in the community, and within half an hour a damage assessment team was there.”

Last year, Douglas was deployed to the California wildfires, and when he thinks about the lessons he has learned as a Red Cross volunteer, he explains, “I often find in a deployment that I get more than I give and that is true this time again. I met some remarkable people, who inspired me and make me realize how fortunate I am.”

Alan Niewald 
Volunteer Alan Niewald (right) manning the reception desk at the 
Saint Charles shelter next to fellow Red Cross volunteer

Alan Niewald worked in finance before retiring and joining the Red Cross as a volunteer. He deployed to Saint Charles, Missouri where he worked with the shelter manager as a supervisor.

The shelter where Alan worked provided comfort to those who have been displaced due to flooding in the area. One woman that the shelter assisted was provided a medical cot and special care for her diabetes.

The flooding in Missouri has caused damage to homes and the local area. Water levels have risen high enough to cover the local park and have left "the whole town buried in water."

Alan became a Red Cross volunteer this year.

Denean Paulik

Denean Paulik (left) receiving a donation for the Red Cross from
a local Arkansas organization
Last week, Denean Paulik returned from a week-long deployment to Fort Smith and Little Rock, Arkansas where she worked as a fundraising liaison.

Denean has done field work before at the local Greater New York region, but her work in Arkansas was her first deployment. This recent trip has been the most fulfilling experience for her since her time at the Red Cross.

When discussing her work out in the community meeting affected families, Denean said she is always shocked by one thing: “When I see these husbands and wives, they’re just calm,” said Paulik. “Obviously it’s very devastating, they’re going through a very hard day, but they’re not pointing fingers or blaming they’re just trying to get through the next moments. I think there’s such a grace in that and that really puts life in perspective.”

Denean started as the Senior Philanthropy Officer at the America Red Cross in Greater New York nearly two and a half years ago but has worked in fundraising since 2002.

Volunteers at the Red Cross headquarters in Fort Smith, Arkansas

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