|Celia Vollmer (L) and Edras Hidalgo (R)|
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.”