Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Eight Weeks on Deployment with a Focus on Being Kind


Cedric Davoren is the Mass Care and Logistics Manager for the Metro NY North Chapter. In this role, Cedric leads a dedicated team of men and women to support disaster response with the supplies and resources needed to support families affected by emergencies big and small.

This past September, when historic and devastating wildfires broke out in Oregon, Cedric deployed for a traditional two-week deployment that quickly extended to two months.

On September 15, Cedric headed out to Oregon – which he describes as a beautiful place – to be the Logistics lead for four districts. During a Disaster Relief Operation (DRO), Disaster Logistics oversees transportation, facilities, supplies, equipment and technical support. The team is focused on ensuring safety and security for all disaster relief activities so that attention can be given to service delivery. And as the definition states, Cedric did a little bit of everything.

“I made sure we got resources to the people who needed it,” he said.

This was not Cedric’s first deployment, but due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it was different. Many tasks were handled virtually with only about 150 logistics and mass care team members on the ground, just a fraction of what a disaster of this size would usually deploy.

Cedric is proud his colleagues from the Northeast Division of the Red Cross played a big role in helping in the Cascades Region.

“Our Division was a big asset. We had folks from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Philly – a really good crew and a really great push to help across the country,” he said.




Cedric also had the chance to work with some of his colleagues from the Greater New York Region. Travis Tam from the GNY Volunteer Services Department teamed up with Cedric to start an event-based volunteer (EBV) program. They recruited and trained 25 residents who lived nearby and wanted to help.

While away, Cedric kept in touch with his family and friends via social media. Through his daily posts, he would share photos of Oregon as well as innovative service delivery tactics that the team developed to make sure everyone, both Red Cross team members and impacted residents, stayed safe.


In one post he shared, “We had another great day at the Immediate Assistance Roadshow. The program is to assist the individuals and families that were affected by the wildfires. We did a drive through where the resident would call the caseworker at their station … and then attach their documents to a clipboard. Logistics came up with the idea with the hook and clipboard to assist in social distancing. Doing it this way made it really easier for us to assist in a timely manner.”

One day of his eight-week deployment that Cedric will always remember involved a man who was laying on the ground near the office and seemed to be in distress. A volunteer called 9-1-1 and before the police arrived, Cedric spoke with the gentleman to understand what was going on. He offered some water and snacks to help make him feel comfortable. The police officer noted the level of kindness Cedric displayed and said, “Thank you. Not everyone would have done that, shown that kindness.”

In retrospect Cedric says, “You have to be kind. We talked a lot about being kind every day during this deployment. People lost so much [in the wildfires], and it is so hard to adapt after a disaster like this.”

On November 15, after eight weeks away, Cedric returned home. He was met at the airport by a volunteer, and the first thing he did: go sit in his office in Middletown, NY.

“I was glad to be back. I missed everyone. The team made me a card. I feel so blessed to have the support of the men and women of the Metro New York North chapter. I could go to Oregon for so long because I knew the volunteers here are well trained and dedicated. I can’t find men and women like this team anywhere else,” said Cedric.

Thank you, Cedric, for all that you do to support the mission of the American Red Cross.

To sign up to become a logistics and mass care volunteer, visit www.redcross.org/gnyvolunteer or contact your volunteer manager.

 

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Disaster Action Teams Provide Help, Hope and Holiday Cheer on Long Island

by Celia Vollmer

American Red Cross Disaster Action Teams on Long Island have responded to more than six fires in the last few weeks in the Brentwood/Bay Shore area, including one today on Christmas Eve. During this season of giving, our teams have tried to spread some holiday cheer to the families as we worked with them after their emergencies.


The first fire was on St. Peters Drive. I responded alongside Gary Nilsen, Steven Scheer and Neela Lockel. The home was destroyed leaving three families displaced. I was on my way to a toy drive hosted by  Legislator Sammy Gonzalez when the call came in. After I spoke with the family and completed disaster assessment, I asked the parents of the child on scene if they would come over to my vehicle and select toys from my car. He chose one item for himself and one for his brother. When I encouraged him to take whatever he wanted, he responded, "Save some for the other kids.” I told him I would buy more toys for the others and again suggested he should take at least three or four items for each of them. After the family was on their way, I continued to the toy drive to drop off the rest of the toys.

DAT Capt. Edras Hidalgo responded to another fire in Bay Shore, where the resident dragged a tree out of the home to the curb so his family could have a Christmas. Four more fires in the area occurred over the past two weeks. 


As soon as the first fire occurred, local residents put out posts on social media asking for clothing and food for the families. The response was overwhelming. I reached out to some of our community partners for gifts for the families for the holidays. It hit home that these children would not be home for the holidays, and their parents articulated that everything they bought for the holidays was destroyed in the fire.

The Suffolk County Police Department Deputy Police Commissioner, Risco Mention-Lewis quickly contacted me and asked for the ages and sizes of the clients, and the SCPD went shopping. SCPD made sure each of the children received new clothing and toys. Other local organizations did the same including Uplift Brentwood, Brentwood School District Staff, PTA’s, Jibaritos with Troops and Red Cross volunteers.


DAT Captain Hidalgo and his wife, Daysi Ramirez de Hidalgo, wrapped and organized the gifts by family, and then delivered the gifts over the past few days along with Senior Disaster Program Manager Liz Barker and our community groups. The Hidalgo Family did the same for other families in need in our community, truly sharing in our mantra "Hearts Open, All In."

Edras received expression of thanks from one family for the “life changing” work of our client case workers and often-unsung heroes, Disaster Mental Health. 

We are grateful for the communities coming together to support one another during this holiday season I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.






Monday, December 21, 2020

In Case You Missed It

Red Crossers laying down wreaths for National Wreaths Across America Day. (Photos: Vivian Moy)
 
Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 74 adults and 37 children for 51 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Monday, December 14, 2020

In Case You Missed It

Businesses and apartments destroyed after a 6-alarm fire in Richmond Hill, Queens.
(Photo: 
Jenna DeAngelis)

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 152 adults and 45 children for 43 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Monday, December 7, 2020

In Case You Missed It

Battle of the Badges Blood Drive in Greenwich, CT.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 179 adults and 36 children for 40 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Monday, November 30, 2020

In Case You Missed It


Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 85 adults and 10 children for 33 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Giving Thanks To Those Who Help Others


by Mary Barneby, Regional CEO, American Red Cross in Greater NY 


During this season of gratitude, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to all our neighbors who make helping others a priority in their lives. Their commitment to service takes on added significance as our communities face this global pandemic together.

I extend a special salute to our region’s health care heroes who continue to sacrifice so much to help our region get through this crisis.

Daily I am humbled by our Red Cross volunteers, who share of themselves to help the most vulnerable prepare for and recover from life-changing disasters—like fires, floods and building collapses—locally and nationally. This year, following historic wildfires out West and relentless hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, many traveled far from home to deliver hope and help to thousands of families.

Thank you to our partners who share with us a common purpose and community spirit that extends our reach and helps connect more individuals with critical humanitarian support.

And thank you to our supporters who allow the Red Cross to deliver emergency relief 24/7, 365 days-a-year.

Wishing you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Let’s continue to look out for one another.



Tuesday, November 24, 2020

In Case You Missed It

This year's Clara Barton Award Recipients: (L to R) Diane Calesso, Shirley Leung, Dr. Thomas Hlenski

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 91 adults and 37 children for 43 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Friday, November 20, 2020

PODCAST: COVID Conversations

When the pandemic started taking hold here in greater NY, we began recording a new season of our podcast featuring a diverse group of Red Cross volunteers and employees who discuss the impact that the pandemic is having on the communities we serve. The idea was to recognize the stress and anxiety so many of us are feeling and to shine a light on those who are doing all they can to help. Listeners will hear stories of hope and learn about ways to cope with the emotional impact of COVID-19. Thank you to all who have shared with us so far. Let's continue to look out for one another. 

Tune in by scrolling below. You can listen and subscribe on Podbean. Episodes also available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play by searching “Red Cross NY.”










Thursday, November 19, 2020

Hands-Only CPR: Manhattan Woman Saves Father’s Life

By Chris Pyo, American Red Cross in Greater NY


The first time Katharine Ristich ever had to perform chest compressions on someone, it was nearly 11 years after she had first been trained in it.

It was also on her 81-year-old father.

“You see your father’s face turning purple, you know you have to do something,” said Ristich, who moved in with her father to take care of him in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “And I just immediately sprang into action.”

Ristich, who works as a medical editor, initially volunteered with the Red Cross during the 2009 New York City Marathon, where she went through a four-hour training course which covered staffing certain portions of the race, how to handle runners with injuries, and perhaps most importantly in hindsight, hands-only CPR.

Later, Ristich volunteered her time at shelters run by the Red Cross and New York City during both Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and also served as a blood services volunteer from time to time, where she interviewed prospective blood donors to ensure that they were eligible to give blood. She was drawn to volunteer due to a family connection to the organization: her great-grandfather Vasa Isailović assisted displaced persons in 1945 in his role as a district leader with the Serbian Red Cross.


All of this served as vital preparation for perhaps one of the most frightening situations any person could find themselves in.

On July 2, Ristich was sitting in her father’s home in Manhattan when suddenly, her father choked on a piece of bread and ran straight to the bathroom.

“At first, I thought he was going there to vomit, because he didn’t make a sign that he was choking,” said Ristich. “But then I didn’t hear anything, so I went to the bathroom and I saw that he was trying to perform the Heimlich maneuver on himself, so I stepped in and tried to perform the maneuver.

Ristich’s father’s face eventually turned purple and he quickly collapsed, taking Ristich to the ground with him. From there, she immediately went straight into CPR, performing chest compressions until her father became responsive once again.

“From collapse to recovery, it was about three minutes. I started doing the CPR, and I was shouting ‘Daddy, daddy,’ over and over again, so that if and when he came to, he would respond, and if he knew that he was talking, then I could prop him up and wait for emergency responders to arrive,” recalled Ristich.

A day after this incident, Ristich’s father was resting comfortably at home setting up a new computer.


Ristich is immensely grateful to the Red Cross for teaching her how to perform chest compressions, which ended up helping her save her own father’s life.

"For traditional CPR, I had gone through training before in high school, and at the time, I remember thinking, ‘How am I ever going to remember to do all this if there’s a real emergency?’ So, it’s great that I learned from the Red Cross the hands-only version of CPR.”

Earlier this year, Katharine was awarded the Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Action for lifesaving efforts.

To learn Hands-Only CPR click here. To register for other lifesaving classes click here.

 

"Three Questions" with Ignacio Mantilla

by Xavia Malcolm, 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.

Manhattan resident Ignacio Mantilla began volunteering with the American Red Cross in April of this year after losing his job. He chose to dedicate his time with the Red Cross because its mission aligned with his goals to make a difference, and in his words, "bring light to people's lives." Last September, Ignacio deployed to the wildfires in Oregon to support relief efforts there, an experience that reminded him just how important the smallest act of kindness can be. After we spoke to him, Mantilla returned to Oregon for a second deployment where he is currently. 


What made you decide to deploy to the wildfires? 

I was looking for something to do, something productive, something that was meaningful for my life and the life of everybody else, all the people. I've been aware of the fires, and I know that they have been going on for a bit. And I think when I got presented the opportunity of deploying to Oregon, I thought it was a great idea. From my understanding, they [Red Cross] were in somewhat of an urgent need of volunteers here. I just thought that this was a great opportunity for me to jump in and bring my services to the community here. 

What was the scene like when you arrived in Oregon? 

It’s quite an experience to witness it, I think that we see images on TV that portray the destruction and we feel bad about it, but it's a completely different experience seeing it firsthand. And that just made me more empathetic with the experience that people have been going through here. Once I started talking with people there, I got a deeper connection with them. It’s very heartbreaking when they come in and they start telling you their story and you know what they lost. But it's so rewarding, though, when they step away, once we finished the process and register them. Their energy changes. They feel like they have some sort of hope and someone's there to help them. For me, that experience is worth taking the trip from New York all the way here and just making people feel a little bit more at ease.

Is there a story from your experience in Oregon that sticks with you and reminds you of the difference you were making?

I think every day I get reminded of the difference that we make. But there was this particular moment the very first few days that I got here. [At a relief center] my manager and I were talking about our work, and this lady walked up to our desk, and I introduced myself. And I asked her, “What can I do? How can we help you?” She was distressed. She was tired. And it seemed like she was holding on to the last real hope that she had. So we spoke with her, we took our time to calm her down. We gave her some water. And at that moment when she started telling us what she's been going through, there was that connection. By the time we got her into a hotel room, she was a completely different person and she was so thankful. I’m never going to forget that. She was going through a really hard time and being able to provide some sort of support was very meaningful to her. It definitely meant a lot to me that we managed to put a smile on her face. And I'm never gonna forget that experience. 



Monday, November 16, 2020

In Case You Missed It

Photo: Vivian Moy

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 83 adults and 31 children for 32 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Monday, November 9, 2020

In Case You Missed It

Volunteer Vito Reciniello responding in North California after a devastating wildfire.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 107 adults and 19 children for 55 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Salute to Service


On this Veterans Day 2020, I salute veterans, currently active men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. Their sacrifices are extraordinary in “ordinary” times, but COVID-19 has brought more anxiety and uncertainty to their unique situations. 

For nearly 140 years, the American Red Cross has been there for these brave families, to provide compassionate support to address critical needs at every stage of service. As part of our Service to the Armed Forces program, Red Cross volunteers provide home comforts and critical services on bases and in military hospitals across the country and around the world; they support military families during deployments and during emergencies; and they continue serving our nation’s veterans after their service ends, both in-person and virtually.

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, the Red Cross team has been working around the clock to address an array of emerging challenges—including those related to health concerns, longer periods of time away from loved ones and increased stress -- that the virus has placed on veterans, service members and their families. To that end, the Red Cross has adapted our crisis counselling, family workshops to a virtual setting, and improved supply distribution to ensure health protocols.

Each day across the greater New York area, we help support military families. Nationally, since 9/11 we have served more than one million military families. During this time of crisis, we stand ready to continue to support the next million.

To all active and retired service members and their families, please know that on Veterans Day and every day, our gratitude for your sacrifices remains as strong as ever.

Mary Barneby
Regional CEO, American Red Cross in Greater NY 









Wednesday, November 4, 2020

“Three Questions” with Deepti Bherwani

By Chris Pyo, 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.

Deepti Bherwani is a Marketing Program Manager with the American Red Cross in Greater NY who also volunteers as a Disaster Responder, helping residents, including young children, impacted by local disasters in the region. Spurred on by this volunteer work, Deepti, a mother of a five-year-old boy, recently spearheaded the development of a new supply kit specifically geared towards children. In our conversation with her below she discusses the importance of these ‘Kid Kits.’ 


First and foremost, what is a Kid Kit?

The American Red Cross Kid Kit is a new relief pack provided by Red Cross responders to help support children during times of emergency. Every day, our New York City chapter responds to the scene of five to 20 local disasters, most often home fires. At the scene, the Red Cross provides emergency relief to these families, and with this new program, Red Cross responders will distribute “Kid Kits” to families with young children impacted by disasters. The kits, appropriate for kids ages 1 through 10, include a drawstring bag, coloring book, crayons, stress ball, stuffed animal, puzzles, and other items of that nature, in order to help distract these children from the events happening around them. 


How did you come up with the idea?

On one particular response where I went to a home fire, we went to this multi-story building. My Red Cross colleagues and I went to assess the damage on the different floors. While I was going through the rooms and doing our disaster evaluation, there was a room with toys, figurines, and everything was burnt and soaked with water. At that moment, I was trying to assess the situation and sort of absorb everything. Later, I found out there was a 7 or 8-year-old child whose mother was at work at the time of the disaster. He was very restless – really wanted to go in and get his toys, and he asked us for something to play with. We carry stuffed animals to distribute whenever we go into the field and encounter children, but this kid was 7 or 8. Unfortunately, we didn’t have anything else to offer him. Of course, we assisted the family with housing, emergency funds and other assistance, but when I got back home, one thing that came into my mind at the time was that it took the family many years to collect everything in their household, and all of a sudden, it’s all gone. That includes all the toys that belonged to the little boy, that I saw burnt and drenched. That's when I thought of the Kid Kit idea.

Can you speak more specifically about the unique impact home fires have on kids?

There are two important factors to consider. First, the child has often lost everything to a fire or other disaster. Second, the parent is actually trying to process what has happened, so they need time to really think through their next steps, which the child is not allowing them to do because they’re also in need of attention. Since we cater to so many young children, we need to give them something more substantial. That's why I think the Kit Kits are so important.

Monday, November 2, 2020

In Case You Missed It

Celebrated Volunteer Hector Pereira helping to get water to those in need.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 56 adults and 21 children for 30 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities


Monday, October 26, 2020

In Case You Missed It

60 year Red Cross volunteer Ross Ogden in Hartford, Connecticut circa 1982.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 42 adults and 10 children following 32 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

"Three Questions" With Garrison Harward

By Alessandro Malave, American Red Cross in Greater New York

"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.

Brooklyn resident Garrison Harward is a volunteer with the American Red Cross in Greater NY, serving as a disaster responder, helping residents impacted by local disasters across the five boroughs. Originally from California, Harward moved to NYC in 2013 and first joined the Red Cross after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto. As part of his three-week deployment there he traveled across the island helping to distribute solar panels and generators. Since COVID-19, Harward has taken on more volunteer hours and added responsibilities with the NY Red Cross.


How and why did you begin volunteering with the Red Cross?

I think I had a really unique entry into the Red Cross. I was a Peace Corps volunteer. I served in Senegal for two years after college. Through the former “Return the Peace Corps” volunteer network, I learned that the Red Cross needed more people to help in Puerto Rico who were used to working in pretty extreme conditions. So my very first interaction with the Red Cross was when I deployed to Puerto Rico. And that's the reason that I kept volunteering with the Red Cross because I had such a positive experience there.

Can you talk about your work responding to disasters during COVID-19?

It's been busy, actually. There are lots of fires, there are still unsafe apartments that people can't stay in, and there are also City services to get people into better situations. We're a part of that system. I've been doing lots and lots of deliveries [of relief items] as well as financial assistance. That often has to be delivered to the clients [impacted residents]. For a lot of people, that financial assistance can be the difference between them being able to get where they’re going to be staying or not. Or sometimes it’s whether or not people are going to eat that night.

Can you talk about teamwork during the pandemic?

There's a lot of good coordination happening, and a lot of people problem solving and willing to help. It's just cool to be in that environment. I've done a couple of overnight sessions at disaster scenes. There was a building collapse, and I was in an ERV [Emergency Response Vehicle] overnight, just to be there for Red Cross in case residents needed help. And then, I got to go into the OEM [NYC Emergency Management] Command Center. This was pretty cool. Being the Red Cross representative for that response, that all these different agencies are also a part of, it was great. It was so cool to be a part of the whole system that's trying to help people out.





Monday, October 19, 2020

In Case You Missed It

Volunteer Vivian Moy, recipient of the NY State Senate Commendation Award

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 51 adults and 29 children for 39 local disaster responses. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review


Upcoming Events and Activities