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

Monday, October 12, 2020

In Case You Missed It

Red Cross distributing emergency supplies to California residents as part of Wildfire relief. (Photo: Ronnie Rigos)

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 76 adults and 26 children for 37 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 5, 2020

In Case You Missed It

Evacuees in Vacaville, Calif., in August after wildfires tore through the countryside nearby.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 80 adults and 28 children following 36 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

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Always Seeking New Ways to Help Others

by Alessandro Malave, American Red Cross in Greater NY


Natacha Gomez has always found unique ways to give back and help others. She became a Red Cross volunteer this past last July and just three months later, jumped at the opportunity to deploy to Louisiana to help prepare local shelters for the impending landfall of Hurricane Laura.

Originally from Haiti, where she has lived on and off for most of her life, Gomez remembers her parents prioritizing community service at an early age. Recalling some advice she received as a child, she said: “They told me that unless you put yourself in someone else's shoes you cannot help that person.”

No stranger to disaster, the impact of the 2010 Haitian earthquake was deeply personal to Gomez.

“We really felt the impact,” Gomez said. “We’re from the Northern part of Haiti, and friends of mine and family where lost. I don't think I will ever forget them.”

The year before the earthquake, Gomez created a women’s empowerment organization. She, along with her team members, worked to help women recognize their own value, worth and strength. Gomez still serves as an ambassador for the program today.

A trained chef, Gomez has also used her skill and passion for cooking to help others. A year ago, after the Bahamas was devastated by Hurricane Dorian, she joined World Central Kitchen (WCK), a nonprofit (and Red Cross partner) founded by Chef José Andrés (pictured below next to Natacha) that provides meals to disaster survivors around the world. Her role was to cook meals for the large Haitian community on the island that was badly affected by the storm.


“I think that I was showing love by cooking for the kitchen,” Gomez said. She helped prepare 25,000 daily meals for this particularly vulnerable community for several months.

After a second WCK assignment, this time in Southern Texas supporting migrants, Gomez moved to New York. Motivated by the suffering caused by COVID-19, she joined the American Red Cross in Greater NY as a volunteer and quickly took as much training as possible.

“What I should have done in six months I did in one month,” Gomez laughed.

By the time she completed her training to serve as a Disaster Responder, able to manage emergency relief after a local incident in NYC, Hurricane Laura was making its way towards the Gulf Coast. The Red Cross put out a call to volunteers to travel down South to help and Gomez’ desire to put boots on the ground and turn her experience, training and compassion into action led her to raise her hand and deploy, despite COVID-19. She told herself: ‘there is COVID, but these people [impacted by Hurricane Laura] will also have needs.’


In Louisiana, she helped set up shelters for evacuees, some days traveling hundreds of miles between relief sites. On the night of August 23, when the massive storm made landfall, Gomez and her team were sleeping in a church. There was a lot of wind, but luckily, they were not flooded.

After landfall, Gomez and her fellow volunteers worked long days across multiple locations directing people to shelters. They encountered waves of residents every day and worked hard to guide them toward safe locations where they would find relief.

Back in New York after her 8-day deployment, Gomez looks forward to her new volunteer role helping New Yorkers impacted by local disasters.

“It’s the best feeling in the world being able to wake up and help someone else,” Gomez exclaims. “I am grateful every day to be alive.”



Monday, September 28, 2020

In Case You Missed It


Volunteers aid those in need of care at our non-congregate shelter in Spring, TX. 

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 80 adults and 32 children following 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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

From the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross to the American Red Cross in Greater NY

Carletha is currently helping wildfire 
evacuees at a hotel in Portland, Oregon

Carletha Woodley-Alves has been a Red Cross volunteer since almost as early as she can remember. When she was a young girl living in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a small Caribbean nation, she joined the local Red Cross as part of an elementary school program. She continued on with the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross Society through the rest of her childhood and part of her early adulthood. She moved to Brooklyn in 2001 and joined the American Red Cross in Greater NY a few weeks later.

A few weeks ago, when the Red Cross put out a call for volunteers to deploy to the devastating wildfires out West, she put her thoughts about COVID-19 aside. As she said:

“I think about the people who need help even though it’s in the middle of a pandemic. We need to get them the help and support their needs. I decided that I’m not going to let the pandemic stop me from doing what I enjoy doing and helping people … It makes me emotional when I see people in those situations. I give my life for people, I don’t care who you are, everyone has a right to be treated with respect and dignity. I always try my best to pass that on to everyone.” 

Carletha is currently in Portland providing relief and compassion to evacuees placed in hotels.