Tuesday, June 2, 2020

In Case You Missed It - June 2

DJ David Guetta and NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray came out to support NYC Healthcare Heroes at Harlem Hospital.
Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 62 adults and 17 children following 33 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)


Last Week In Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Red Cross Brings Community Together To Help Long Island Resident Recover From Home Fire Amid COVID-19

Celia Vollmer (L) and Edras Hidalgo (R)
It’s an uncertain time. In addition to the daily doubts caused by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Josselyn experienced another emergency: a fire that has destroyed her home and injured her body.

Just eight months after she moved to New York and rented a tiny basement apartment with her son, the lamp near her suddenly caught on fire when she was sleeping. Josselyn tried to quell the fire by pouring as much water as possible on it. Although she managed to get the fire under control, all of her belongings were destroyed by smoke and water, and her right hand and right foot were burned in the process.

Josselyn doesn’t speak English, has no family in New York and was struggling financially, as she is out of work due to the pandemic. She was unsure where to seek assistance from her community because of the language barrier. At the advice of one of her neighbors, she called the American Red Cross on Long Island and explained her situation and fear to her caseworker, Edras Hidalgo, over the phone.

“It was hard to believe the whole picture and the kind of hardship that she and her son have gone through,” recalled Edras.

“I don’t know,” said Josselyn in Spanish. “I have no relatives [in New York]. I have nobody. I don’t know the area. I don’t have food for my son. Red Cross is the only source that I think somebody can help me.”

After hearing Josselyn’s situation, Edras was moved to action. “I kept asking myself: what would I do when this happened to my relative or my sister,” said Edras. He understood Josselyn needed more than just money. “When she said that she didn’t have food for her son, I knew how bad the situation was and what kind of hardships she has gone through.” After calming her down over the phone, Edras promptly called Celia Vollmer, the Disaster Action Team Captain, to find possible ways that the Red Cross can help Josselyn with its network.

Working together, Celia and Edras were able to connect Josselyn with Red Cross resources as well as partner resources to assist her with her recovery. For example, the Red Cross’ Disaster Health Services (DHS) Team provided Josselyn financial assistance to purchase medication and bandaging supplies for her injuries. A local school in the district was able to provide her son a tablet and some school supplies. The Cental Islip Civic Association offered food, and the local police department provided new furniture for the family. A few local police officers even provided her gift cards paid out of their own pockets.

“One of the cops was attempting to give her son an air hug because he had to follow the social distancing protocol,” Edras said, recalling the special way to spread love and warmth during this tough time.

To ensure everyone’s health and safety, each step of the way, this aid was coordinated via the phone, to maintain social distancing guidelines. Throughout the process, Edras served as both caseworker and as a translator for Josselyn.

“They see me as the Red Cross and as a part of the community. This is what links us to provide help and support altogether,” Edras said proudly. “It is rewarding to be Josselyn’s caseworker and to empower her and guide her through the recovery.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

In Case You Missed It - May 26

Red Cross and the Town of Hempstead working together to distribute masks to at-risk populations.
(Photo: Lori-Ann Pizzarelli)
Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 52 adults and 31 children following 33 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, May 20, 2020

With Graduation Approaching, Red Cross Club Leaders Adapt to COVID-19

By Chris Pyo, American Red Cross in Greater New York 


When Mahita Bandlamudi and Courtney Chambers first arrived at Hunter College in 2016, they had no idea how intertwined their college experiences would turn out to be.

Both were Human Biology majors with pre-med aspirations. Both were also intrigued at the prospect of giving back to their communities and began to look for opportunities to do so early in their freshmen years.

Now, as they prepare to graduate, they’re concluding their one-year tenures as co-presidents of the Hunter College Red Cross Club, which has blossomed into one of Hunter’s largest student organizations in the past couple of years. 

“I was actually in a Red Cross club at Bayside High School, and I joined that when I was 14 or 15,” said Bandlamudi. “I stayed active throughout my high school career in that club and got to serve as president, and then I came to Hunter and joined as well. I’ve basically been a part of the Red Cross for almost seven years now.”

On the other hand, Chambers came to the United States from Jamaica when he was 15, and while he didn’t have a Red Cross club to join in high school, he was introduced to community service through local organizations. When he entered Hunter, he instantly knew that he wanted to be involved with the club.

“I actually joined the club three days into college, and since then, I’ve been so motivated!” said Chambers. “In September of 2016, I was named the “Head Volunteer of the Month,” and from there, I motivated myself to work my way up.”

Both students have dedicated themselves to making the Hunter Red Cross club as engaging as possible. This year, there was an emphasis on participating in new Red Cross programs, such as the Home Fire Campaign and the Missing Maps program.

“In January, we had 60 volunteers spend time around the boroughs installing smoke alarms. “That day we installed over 300 of them” said Chambers. 


Both Bandlamudi and Chambers give a lot of credit to their executive board and Red Cross staff members for helping facilitate events and experiences for club members.

“The board is made up of 21 club members who show a lot of dedication and effort towards the club over time, and none of this would be possible without them” said Bandlamudi.

“We’re also truly thankful for the [Red Cross] staff members. They make time for us and help guide us through this entire process,” said Chambers.

Unfortunately, with the emergence of COVID-19, Mahita and Chambers have been forced to wrap up their academic years at home. Nonetheless, they have adjusted accordingly, ensuring that members still have opportunities to perform volunteer work.

“For the most part, we have canceled all in-person events,” said Chambers. “However, we have a few volunteers who participate in the Food Distribution project with the chapter; otherwise, we’ve been engaging with other online projects like Missing Maps.”

Aside from their work with the Red Cross, both students also have their post-graduation plans in their thoughts. Before the outbreak, Chambers was planning on doing either EMT or clinical research, while Bandlamudi was looking to work as a clinical research coordinator or at a primary care office. Now, they head into the future with a bit of uncertainty, as every college graduate seemingly will. However, there is no doubt that both of them will succeed at whatever they choose to pursue.

Although Bandlamudi and Chambers will not have the chance to walk across a physical graduation stage, they’ve certainly earned a massive round of applause from the Red Cross. Through their unwavering commitment to the Red Cross over the past four years, both students have displayed their love for making a positive impact on everyone around them, and they’ll continue to do so for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

In Case You Missed It - May 19

Red Cross Volunteers continue to support communities in need during pandemic. (Photo: Kevin Suttlehan)
Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 19 adults and 7 children following 33 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, May 13, 2020

In Case You Missed It - May 13

Red Crossers working with JASA to distribute frozen meals to seniors. (Photo: Gary Chin)
Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 102 adults and 23 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

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

In Case You Missed It - May 5

This small but mighty team broke a record today, handing out 900
NYC Health Heroes totes at Jamaica Hospital in 45 minutes.
Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 30 adults and 10 children following 26  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, April 28, 2020

"Three Questions" with Red Cross Volunteer Darya Matskin

"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.


When Darya Matskin is not working her day job as a psychologist, she’s serving in multiple capacities for the American Red Cross, primarily as a supervisor for disaster response, mass care and sheltering. The Brooklyn resident is wrapping up her first year with the Red Cross by working both in-person and remotely for the Red Cross.

How do you approach your volunteer work as a disaster responder, helping a family who has lost everything to a fire?

When I go out there, I really go through this crisis with them. I want them to step out of it as fast as they can, to let them just know that we’re there for them. It’s a huge relief, knowing that they’re not by themselves. Losing something that’s really close to their hearts, it can be so difficult. Just explaining to them that "You’re out, you’re here and safe with us," and knowing that they’re not alone.

How has Red Cross work changed since the COVID-19 crisis started, specifically your volunteer work?

Right now, we're doing remote casework where we’re still helping individuals with disaster relief, setting them up in hotels, and we still have teams going out to help people if the situation calls for it. We’re constantly on standby – my job right now is to work 12-hour shifts, so I’m working at home from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. I’m on three days, so 36 hours per week no matter what. I’m also continuing to do fieldwork, usually to drop off CAC’s [Client Assistance Cards with financial assistance] if it’s requested by the ECC [Emergency Communications Center]. On top of that, I’m helping distribute food in-person at hospitals for healthcare workers. Just whatever I can do to give back at the moment. You never know what’s going to happen.

What do you find most meaningful about about supporting NYC healthcare workers?

For me, it’s just a thank you to everybody working at the hospitals. I’m there to make sure they get their bag of supplies and a thank you. And what’s incredible is that the workers themselves are coming out and saying thank you. They all have smiles on their faces, and it’s so rewarding beyond words.

In Case You Missed it - April 28

Volunteers are heroes too! (Photo: Vivian Moy) 
Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 27 adults and 9 children following 34  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, April 21, 2020

Bronx Family Copes with Home Fire Amid COVID-19

Carol Aponte (L) and her two children Dasia and Eric
Living under the constant threat of a global pandemic means we have all needed to adapt to a new ‘normal’, and the anxiety that goes along with it. In the midst of this ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Carol Aponte experienced a second unimaginable emergency: a three-alarm fire that forced her from the Bronx home she had not left since the coronavirus crisis started weeks ago.

Aponte was born and raised in The Bronx and had lived in her apartment building near Pelham Parkway for about a year. Aponte recalled that the fire started a few floors above her. The flames eventually reached other parts of the building; her belongings were destroyed by smoke and water.

“It was a dangerous situation,” said Aponte. “I had to go. It was only five minutes. Five minutes. You’ve got to get what you can and get out.”

Aponte had just ordered pizza for the whole family on March 27, when the fire started. Her first instinct was to grab her sons, grandson and pets and escape the advancing smoke and flames. But as she corralled her dog, her cat disappeared somewhere inside the unit amidst the chaos. But Aponte knew she needed to get out. During her panic, she left her wallet behind, but she did remember other critical items: her medical mask and gloves - a sign of the times.

Aponte explained the fear she felt leaving the building: “I started running and running, and I passed by all my neighbors and I just kept going and going.” She was running to keep her family away from the fire scene and to maintain social distancing.

Several blocks from her home, Aponte placed her family in the safety of her brother’s care and made her way back to the scene. Waiting for her in front of her building was a Red Cross team member, at a safe distance, offering her guidance, reassurance and financial assistance. Because she could stay with her brother, she turned down the Red Cross offer of temporary housing.


“[Red Cross] gave me a sense of security in which everybody needs in this very moment, and not everybody has it,” said Aponte of the many staff she spoke to in person and over the phone after the fire.

The blaze in Aponte’s building was the second large fire in NYC that night. Later that evening, the Red Cross would help dozens of residents displaced by a multiple-alarm incident in Brooklyn. Since March 22, when the official coronavirus stay-at-home order across the region began (and through April 19), the organization has provided emergency relief to nearly 700 people following 130+ incidents, mostly home fires, across Greater NY. As this crisis has evolved, the Red Cross has adapted the way it responds to these local disasters with new safety measures including remote casework and registration, social distancing in the field, and the use of face masks.

One of the many volunteers providing remote disaster relief for the Red Cross in Greater New York from home is Charleen Turner: “As Red Crossers we help people who are experiencing a disaster. But we’re all experiencing this disaster,” said Turner, who worked closely with Aponte over the phone after the fire. “So we’re not only helping those experiencing it we are also in the middle of that ourselves, which is a very unique position.”

For Aponte, the days after the fire have been challenging, but there have been signs of hope. A few days after the emergency, with the help of Red Cross caseworker Charleen Turner, and a her building superintendent, who escorted her into her destroyed apartment, she was reunited with her cat, Boots.


“I felt like crying because I didn’t think he would come to me,’” she said. “I took a deep breath and an extreme exhale.”

Aponte has subsequently found a temporary apartment with the help of a friend and is comforted by the presence of her children, grandchild, and both of her pets. She says her family, friends, local church, and the Red Cross have been instrumental as she seeks to rebuild her life.

Among the many friends and strangers who helped her, Aponte expressed particular gratitude to Charleen Turner, her Red Cross caseworker. Recalling their multiple interactions, Aponte reflected: “She has so much empathy, made me feel that I am not alone.”

In Case You Missed It - April 21

Our team is proud to be part of the NYC Healthcare Heroes initiative! The program will provide at
least 300,000 packages to the more than 100,000 New York City healthcare professionals.
Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 56 adults and 15 children following 37  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, April 14, 2020

My Red Cross Life: #StayAtHome Edition

by Chris Pyo, American Red Cross in Greater NY

For the past couple of weeks, we've been sharing short stories on our Instagram (@redcrossny) about how our team members across the region have been adapting to the reality of working during the COVID-19 breakout. Thank you to all the Red Crossers who continue to make a difference, either remotely or in-person.



#MyRedCrossLife #StayAtHome Edition: Over these next few weeks we’ll be sharing short stories of our team members adapting to this new #COVID19 reality. Thank you to all Red Crossers who continue to make a difference from home or wherever they are. Phil Cogan joined the Red Cross as a volunteer in 2014 after he retired from FEMA. Since then, Phil has taken on many different roles with us including Disaster Responder and Public Affairs Representative. A few months prior to COVID-19, he transitioned to our Emergency Communications Center (ECC), taking emergency calls and helping to dispatch emergency relief after local disasters. Tge ECC is now run remotely. “Two or three times a week my apartment is an extension of the Red Cross Emergency Communication Center. The phone rings as it does with the other people who are working our ECC, which operates 24/ 7 … Being able to volunteer with the Red Cross has helped me overcome this feeling of helplessness that there's nothing that you can do. It has demonstrated to me that even by being at home, I can make a contribution to help others through the Red Cross.”
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#MyRedCrossLife#StayAtHome Edition: Over these next few weeks we’ll be sharing short stories of our team members adapting to this new #COVID19 reality. Thank you to all Red Crossers who continue to make a difference from home or wherever they are. Charleen Turner joined the Red Cross as a volunteer after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Among her many roles since then, Charleen has done virtual casework following large-scale emergencies outside our region, and served as a disaster responder, taking shifts every week helping residents at the scene of local disasters. As she shelters in place alone in her home in Huntington, N.Y., she supports families left homeless by fires and other disasters virtually, coordinating emergency relief and providing reassurance over the phone. In this role she takes a few 12-hour shifts each week. “The thing that’s interesting is, usually, we swoop in as Red Crossers and we help people who are experiencing a disaster. But now, we’re all experiencing this, so we’re not only helping others in need, but we’re also in the middle of it ourselves, which is a very unique position. We’re coping with our own fears, which we totally have to do … I can’t imagine what they’re going through [after a fire]. For us to be able to put our own concerns aside and do this work, makes [our own situation] not so bad. You are helping people and also helping yourself at the same.”
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#MyRedCrossLife #StayAtHome Edition: Over these next few weeks we’ll be sharing short stories of our team members adapting to this new #COVID19 reality. Thank you to all Red Crossers who continue to make a difference from home or wherever they are! Lori Galen, an eight-year volunteer with the Greater New York Region, serves in multiple capacities. As a duty officer, she is responsible for dispatching Red Cross volunteers to meet with families impacted by home fires and other disasters in order to provide immediate emergency assistance. “The pandemic definitely changed the way I do my duty officer job, that’s for sure. I'm on shift Monday 7am - 7pm and Wednesday 7am - 7am. Before COVID-19, I didn't interview the client [resident impacted by disaster] directly. I sent volunteer responders to the scene and they handled interviewing. Now, I get the call from our Emergency Communications Center, make contact with the person in charge at the scene and get client contact information and livability [damage]. I call the client and interview them over the phone. I then arrange for a drop off spot where our responder can leave a client assistance card [financial assistance] and paperwork...Personally, there’ve been times where I’m watching the news and I’m crying, which is to be expected in this type of situation. I’ve started my garden. I planted a whole bunch of vegetables inside – I have five different types of vegetables that I planted inside. I have the trays set up with egg cartons in them and the seeds in each little pocket. I have three different types of tomatoes, cucumbers and string beans. Otherwise, I’m checking in with my parents, checking in with all my friends on Long Island, another friend in Tennessee, and so on and so forth.”
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#MyRedCrossLife #StayAtHome Edition: Over these next few weeks we’ll be sharing short stories of our team members adapting to this new #COVID19 reality. Thank you to all Red Crossers who continue to make a difference from home or wherever they are! Dr. Thomas Hlenki is an independent mental health practitioner in Long Island who also serves as Disaster Mental Health Lead for the Red Cross on Long Island. “My job with the Red Cross is to anticipate what are or what might be the mental health needs of our community [after disasters] and our workforce. Last week we initiated the availability of our team to take calls from the Long Island Red Cross workforce and offer support and coping strategies. We also asked leadership to identify volunteers and staff that are isolated due to COVID 19 and might benefit from a friendly support call. We’ll check-in and see how they're doing and give them some tips or some referrals if necessary, but most importantly we want to say we're thinking about them, that they matter. In addition, we will also be participating in a weekly wellness note to the workforce. Disaster Mental Health throughout our region as well as nationally are supporting Red Cross team members in a variety of significant ways...During these, difficult times, I'm coping well. I've been busy with my practice, everything has switched to Skype and phone. I have had some healthy distractions like baking and gardening. I've been very vigilant about staying away from the active news cycle, it's been helpful for me to do that.”
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#MyRedCrossLife #StayAtHome Edition: Over these next few weeks we’ll be sharing short stories of our team members adapting to this new #COVID19 reality. Thank you to all Red Crossers who continue to make a difference from home or wherever they are! Kelly Molina (@kellymolina18) is a Senior at @baruch_college majoring in corporate communications and minoring in marketing. She serves as a Social Media Intern at @redcrossny. “I work full-time as a marketing assistant, along with my Red Cross internship and the two classes I’m taking in my final semester of college, and everything is remote now. With my Red Cross work, my priority is sharing safety and coping resources about #Coronavirus and the need for blood donations on social media…My routine has changed completely now; for instance, last week when I was staying home, I always felt so sleepy, and I was a little sick, although I’m feeling much better now. You feel like your mood changes and you get bored easily. But we’re all taking precautions, especially my family, because we live near Elmhurst Hospital, where there have been a lot of outbreaks.”
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