"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.
Maria Anguiano is a Red Cross volunteer from Queens, N.Y. who has been a very active member of our disaster response team. She originally joined us as a member of MIRA USA, a non-profit organization that promotes the social integration of immigrants in the United States. Since the pandemic, she began supporting our different COVID-19 missions including the NYC Healthcare Heroes initiative. When she is not volunteering with the Red Cross, Maria works as a DJ and an event planner. Maria was born in Puebla, Mexico and came to the U.S. when she was eight.
How do you approach your volunteer work as a DAT (disaster action team) responder, helping families recover from fires?
It is an unfortunate situation to see someone who has just lost everything to a fire or learn of a loss of life. Seeing these families in such a situation is difficult. It is even harder to see little kids around. Especially in the wintertime, it is heartbreaking to see that they have nothing, and they are shivering and shaking. Most of them do not know that we, the Red Cross, respond to home fires. When seeing the little kids’ innocent faces…and happiness receiving our Oreos, stuffed animals or other assistance, I feel I am making a difference. More importantly, I realized how beautiful the Red Cross mission is and what the Red Cross is doing — to step up to help those in need.
On top of that, it was also very impactful for me to understand that language is often the biggest barrier in the disaster response. Coming from the Hispanic community, I am able to make Spanish-speaking people feel more comfortable at the scene. I realized that I am able to help the Red Cross to better connect with the Latino community.
How has your Red Cross volunteer work changed since the COVID-19 crisis started?
I am blessed to be part of the whole COVID mission. I have been to the hospitals as much as I can, to hand out supplies to healthcare workers. I am out at the field almost every day, and sometimes, I even do two shifts per day. Sometimes I do JASA [food distribution to elderly NYers] as well, delivering frozen meals to 1200 apartments of the senior housing complex in Far Rockaway. I also helped with The Salvation Army, picking up and delivering pizzas for vulnerable families. Two weeks ago, I was able to help the community of Hempstead where I go to church. We picked up meals and boxes and delivered them to different homes.
How does it feel to be giving back during coronavirus?
Unfortunately, at the same time, my parents were in the hospital because of COVID, and my dad was in a coma, I had to take care of them prior, during, and after the hospital. That period was tough for me, but I am relieved that they are okay now. It was emotional when I saw the hospital workers who helped my parents and I thought I had to give back to them. I was tearing and I genuinely appreciated their efforts. Between their shifts, you can feel that they are tired, drained and they have no energy but are saying “thank you” to us. “No, thank you! Don’t worry, we got a lot of goodies for you,” I said. I am truly grateful for being able to give back to the healthcare workers and being part of the Red Cross mission.