Monday, February 24, 2020

In Case You Missed It - Feb 24

Our volunteer providing emotional support to one of the individuals
by the Port Jervis Fire (Photo Courtesy - Orlando Pentrelli)

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 133 adults and 42 children following 41 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, February 17, 2020

In Case You Missed It - Feb 17

Emergency Preparedness Team  who officially launched our newest children’s program called
Prepare with Pedro in PS 23, in the Bronx. (Photo: John Waldman)

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 128 adults and 52 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

    Friday, February 14, 2020

    Brooklyn Volunteer Honored by International Red Cross

    by Daniel Sieberg, American Red Cross in Greater NY

    In December of last year, longtime Red Cross volunteer and Brooklyn native Georgine Gorra got some shocking (yet wonderful) news: She would be among a select group of volunteers from around the world honored by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the umbrella organization representing humanitarians in 192 countries.

    “I know so many people who are volunteers. I know extraordinary human beings. We’re all the same. I was quite taken aback by it [the award]. Took me a while to accept that I got it,” she said, shortly after being awarded the IFRC National Society Outstanding Volunteer honor.

    Gorra, who grew up near the Verrazano Bridge, says her family was deeply involved in WWII - her father and uncles all served - though she describes it as a quiet sense of pride and service that stuck with her.

    The concept of service to her own community was also instilled in her at a very young age, as she often witnessed her neighbors helping each other on a daily basis. She says she knew everyone in her community and that every single person helped each other regardless of their backgrounds. If someone passed away, neighbors left food at the door. If someone was struggling, the same thing happened.

    Like many New Yorkers, Gorra was driven to volunteerism with the American Red Cross by the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and became increasingly more involved; she now volunteers her time across three areas of service including Service to the Armed Forces, Volunteer Services and Disaster Mental Health. She often balanced this volunteer work with her day job as a licensed practitioner of social work, a position she held for 35 years before retiring seven years ago.

    “I believe in the human spirit and the human being’s ability to bounce back,” said Gorra. “So, I found in the Red Cross a group of people who were very like-minded. The cornerstone of the Red Cross is compassion.”

    While she’s traveled to numerous regions and has met countless people affected by disaster and trauma, Gorra says it isn’t one event that’s more or less catastrophic than the other. For her, any such incident involves harm to humanity - whether it involves one person or a hundred.

    Speaking about the complex emotions that disaster survivors cope with, Gorra said: “They’re in shock. Later on they may become angry. Or depressed even. It’s important to just let people start to heal and ensure that people are connected to one another - whether with their church, their family, their synagogue. And the Red Cross always tries to go the extra yard.”

    At 70, Gorra has hope for the future of service and giving back. After officially receiving her IFRC award in December, she had the honor of speaking to a group of young people at the United Nations. The theme of her presentation was service.

    “Although most people volunteer when they retire, I think that young people would do it,” said Gorra. “We just need to give them the invitation.”

    Three Questions: Ioana Opris Deploys to Puerto Rico

    "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. 

    Ioana Opris, Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager at the American Red Cross in Greater New York, traveled to Puerto Rico last month, where 1,000+ earthquakes have damaged and destroyed homes and disrupted tens of thousands of lives since December. During her two-week deployment to the island, Ioana worked in the Information and Planning section.

    Ioana has been part of the Red Cross family for over three years. She started with volunteer roles on the Disaster Response and Information and Planning teams, before taking on her current position as an employee in Workforce Engagement.

    This was her fourth deployment with the American Red Cross. Her first was following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. That was followed by assignments in North Carolina (Hurricane Florence) and Northern California (Camp Fire).

    Ioana, who lives in West Harlem, is originally from Romania and speaks Spanish, French, Romanian and English.

    Ioana and Dr. Diego Zavala, Volunteer Information and Planning Lead who
    served as Assistant Director of Information and Planning for this operation
    Interviewed by Maria Sievers, American Red Cross in Greater NY

    Can you talk about the impact of the earthquakes? 

    The magnitude 6.4 earthquake that struck Puerto Rico on January 7th and caused the damage that initiated this Red Cross Disaster Relief Operation was part of a series of tremors that began on December 28th. Aftershocks have continued since, with greatest impacts felt in the southwestern portion of the island.

    The impact is complex and there are several components: Initially, people have sustained physical damage to their residences and that is a huge loss for families and communities. Unlike a hurricane or an incident that happens and then it’s done, the impact of the earthquakes is fluid, and there is the potential for additional damage to homes as aftershocks continue. 

    There is a significant emotional toll due to living under the stress of continuing earthquakes, and people fear returning to their homes. Many Puerto Ricans are staying in government-run shelters, but others are choosing to stay outside their homes and have set up temporary living arrangements outdoors. It’s tough, because as the aftershocks continue, they create a constant reminder of fear now associated with going home. The needs for emotional support, mental health care and disaster spiritual care are significant.

    And to put things in context, the island is still recovering from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. That has a compounding implication, not only materially but in terms of people’s emotional well-being.

    What was your specific role in Puerto Rico?

    I deployed as the Deputy Assistant Director of Information and Planning. The Information and Planning section covers different areas including coordination of the planning process, information management and dissemination, situational awareness, and disaster assessment. We produce documents that are not only used to plan our future actions, but also reports and products to capture data on our completed actions and current operations. We manage the process of collecting, analyzing and visualizing information and data to support internal decision-making as well as to coordinate with external partners, including government agencies.

    One of the ways in which we collect situational awareness from the field is through our Disaster Assessment Teams. They collect information on damages to homes which is then used to support our clients in their recovery process and helps the Red Cross allocate resources. We also use this information to get a clearer picture of where impacts are concentrated and target our service delivery.

    My primary role has been to support the Assistant Director of Planning for the local Red Cross operation. He is part of the Info and Planning team in Puerto Rico, and he and I had worked together on the response to Hurricane Maria. The secondary purpose of my deployment was to assist in building capacity for the local chapter. Response to a disaster always starts and ends locally. So, a lot of the work that we are doing here is making sure that the local team has what they need to develop their own capacity while we train even more volunteers to improve their overall planning capacity. They’ve all been doing an amazing job.

    Can you share some insight on the Puerto Rican people?

    Puerto Ricans are very welcoming to the Red Cross. When our teams are going out in the community they are greeted with warmth and by people who want to share their stories. In disaster, we see people who are experiencing some of the worst days of their lives, and it’s just amazing how welcoming, kind and grateful Puerto Ricans are to us for even coming. People welcome the supplies and services we are providing, but the hope spread by our teams is also so appreciated.

    One thing that I see every day in headquarters is that the volunteers in Puerto Rico are absolutely incredible. There are very few deployed staff here compared to [local] volunteers, and local volunteers have been carrying this mission and they have been incredible to work with. They amaze and inspire me every time I work with them.

    Ioana (seated second from the left) and her
    Information and Planning team in Puerto Rico

    Red Cross and Bronx Students “Prepare with Pedro”

    by Chris Pyo, American Red Cross in Greater NY

    Red Cross volunteers Alice Farhat and Alex Poku
    On Wednesday, February 12, 2020, the American Red Cross in Greater New York launched Prepare with Pedro, a new safety program for elementary school students. As part of the event, Red Cross volunteer instructors traveled to P.S. 23 in the Tremont section of the Bronx to teach more than 200 kids (K through second grade) the steps they need to take in the event of a fire.

    Among the team members who facilitated the training was Red Cross volunteer and preparedness expert Alexander Poku. “Even with kids as young as these children are, it’s important that we teach them about fire safety procedures as early as possible and have them pass the information we give them on to their parents” said Poku. “New Yorkers could face these dangers every single day, and the more we can do to educate children on how to practice safety in different scenarios, the better protected they are.”

    “Prepare with Pedro” is an expansion of an existing Red Cross preparedness program for children 8 to ten years old. This new initiative features a cartoon penguin named Pedro who guides the kids through a series of fun and informative stories about emergency preparedness. Different modules feature different disasters, including home fires, hurricanes, floods and other emergencies. The Red Cross chose to bring the fire safety module to the school in the Bronx due to the high number of home fires that occur in the borough.

    During the sessions, students were engaged in a number of activities to help them understand what to do and what not to do in the event of a fire (i.e. get low to the ground, never go back inside, get to safe place outside) and how to stay as calm as possible by taking deep breaths.

    Monday, February 10, 2020

    In Case You Missed It - Feb 10

    Image may contain: 6 people, people standing, child, tree, sky and outdoor
     Red Cross volunteers came out to Long Island to install free smoke alarms 

    Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 160 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
    • In light of the movie 1917 winning three Oscars last night, our friends at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shared this post about their work in 1917 delivering letters between soldiers and brothers... and mothers, sisters, lovers, fathers, children.
    • Over the weekend, Red Cross volunteers installed 105 alarms on Long Island. Thank you to this amazing group of people who dedicated their time to save lives!
    • Last Friday, speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl E. Heastie recorded his second PSA to help us reach his constituents and advance our home fire safety campaign.
    • Last Tuesday, Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Under-Secretary General for Partnerships at the IFRC, was in NYC to speak at Fordham University’s Humanitarian Lectures Series.
    • Last week, we shared images taken by our photographer Catalina Rodriguez. She recently captured the work of volunteers Mitch Kassel and Kimberly Taylor on shift with the Red Cross. Together, they assisted several residents in Queens and Brooklyn.
    • Early last week, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul lead a delegation from New York to Puerto Rico to provide support and assistance in earthquake-affected areas. As part of her trip, she met with Red Cross teams on the ground helping impacted residents.

    Upcoming Events and Opportunities

    Monday, February 3, 2020

    In Case You Missed It - Feb 3

    60+ Red Cross team members at the NY State Capitol alongside local elected officials including Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, Senator Timothy Kennedy, Senator Joseph Robach, Assemblyman Al Stripe, and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

    From January 27 to February 2, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 134 adults and 43 children following 46 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, January 28, 2020

    Congrats to our 2020 Legislators of the Year

    American Red Cross in New York State Recognizes
    Legislators of the Year

    January 28, 2020 Albany, NY – The American Red Cross in New York State today celebrated six legislators for their commitment to building more resilient communities. The Red Cross in New York State is composed of three regions – Greater New York, Eastern New York, and Western New York – and legislators from each region were presented this honor: Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, Sen. Timothy Kennedy, Sen. Joseph Robach, Asm. Al Stirpe, Asm. Angelo Santabarbara and Asm. Marcos Crespo.

    “We are so grateful for the partnership we share with our legislators across the state. Their commitment to improve the lives of their constituents aligns with the Red Cross’ mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. They each share in our humanitarian spirit and we are honored to recognize them for their efforts to help build more resilient communities,” said Susan Rounds, Gary Striar, and Alan H. Turner II, the three CEOs of the American Red Cross Regions in New York State.

    2020 Legislator of the Year Background

    In the Greater New York Region, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins was recognized for her involvement in the Missing Types Campaign, an annual effort by the Red Cross to raise the awareness of the need for blood donations. In addition, Leader Stewart Cousins also rolled up her sleeves to install smoke alarms in Yonkers, NY, during the Red Cross’ 2019 South the Alarm Campaign. The Sound the Alarm campaign helps to raise awareness of the importance of having working smoke alarms.

    Also, in the Greater New York Region, Asm. Marcos Crespo was recognized for his support of humanitarian relief efforts on Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, including the work of the Red Cross. Asm. Crespo also served as a Red Cross Champion for the Sound the Alarm campaign in the Bronx, helping protect local residents from the dangers of home fires.

    In the Eastern New York Region, Asm. Angelo Santabarbara was recognized for his longtime support of the American Red Cross and his frequent participation in events. Asm. Santabarbara served in the United States Army Reserve for eight years and has remained involved with local veterans’ service organizations since his honorable discharge in 1998. He is the founder of the first AMVETS Post in his hometown of Rotterdam and served as Post Commander from 2012-2015. Asm. Santabarbara has participated in several Red Cross telethons to support disaster relief and is currently partnering with the Region for its Sound the Alarm signature smoke alarm installation event in Amsterdam this Spring.

    In the Western New York Region, Senator Tim Kennedy was recognized for his support of the Sound the Alarm campaign, which has saved 699 lives across the country, including 25 in the Western and Central New York Region, by installing free smoke alarms. Sen. Kennedy also works to prepare his constituents to respond to disasters by hosting several Citizens Preparedness Corps trainings in his district. Finally, Sen. Kennedy has been a constant advocate for the importance of blood donation.

    The Western New York Region also recognized Senator Joseph Robach for his longtime support and his participation in several telethons after a series of severe hurricanes, including for victims of Hurricane Maria. His personal presence and efforts helped pack three trucks of supplies and raise almost $50,000 for disaster victims. Sen. Robach is also recognized for his longstanding commitment to the well-being of our local military heroes. By sharing information on Red Cross Services to Armed Forces program with his constituents, and attending the annual Greater Rochester Military Reconnection Brunch, he has helped ensure our heroes receive the support and recognition they deserve. 

    The Western New York Region also recognized Asm. Al Stirpe for his annual sponsorship of a community blood drive in July – one of the largest drives in Central York. In 2019, the drive brought in 146 units, and since 2007 he has helped the Red Cross collect nearly 1,500 units of lifesaving blood. In addition, Adm. Stirpe has helped raise awareness of a campaign that has saved 699 lives across the country, including 25 in Western and Central New York, by installing free smoke alarms.

    This is the second year the American Red Cross in New York State has recognized New York State legislators for their work alongside the Red Cross. In 2019, the legislators of the year were Asm. Richard Gottfried, Asm. Crystal People Stokes, Sen. Thomas O’Mara and Asm. John McDonald.

    During its most recent fiscal year (July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019) the Red Cross performed the following services in New York State:

    ·         Responded to 3,727 local emergencies and assisted 8,454 families;
    ·         Provided fire safety education in 14,349 households;
    ·         Installed 41,119 new smoke alarms;
    ·         Collected 202,399 units of blood through 3,419 blood drives;
    ·         Educated 11,437 grade school children in emergency preparedness;
    ·         Assisted more than 7,370 members of the military and their families;
    ·         Maintained readiness of 9,611 volunteers;
    ·         Trained 27,222 people through the NYS Citizens Preparedness Corps program.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.