Interviewed by Catherine Hegeman, 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.
Linda Latona, a social worker from Mamaroneck, New York, has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross Metro NY North Chapter since 2016. She initially joined the Red Cross as a way to support her community and offer relief in times of disaster. In her roles as a Disaster Action Team member and a Disaster Mental Health volunteer, Linda offers her experience and compassion following emergencies large and small.
What is it like being called to a disaster when you are on-call in the middle of the night?
Being woken up to go out and be there for someone, during their worst moment, just to be present and compassionate and to give them a little bit of comfort, it means a lot to me.
When we go on a DAT call, we give a little bit of money, enough to get through a few days. We give clients a safe place to sleep, some food to eat, a chance to just replenish and catch their breath as they move to their next steps to recovery.
I lose some sleep, but I can catch up on my sleep.
What is your most memorable disaster response with the Red Cross?
I would say that would be the overnight Ida shelter. We set up a shelter at Mamaroneck High School.
The police and the rescuers brought in evacuees, who had been rescued by boats. Some of these people were pulled through windows, some were floating in their cars and others hanging off of stop signs and trees. They were being swept away by the flood currents. We were initially anticipating about 30 people. Ultimately 150 came. They just kept coming. And they kept coming with stories of more and more traumatic, life-threatening rescues.
I checked in with each and every one of them.
Why do you feel compelled to continue your volunteer work with the Red Cross?
It works for me. I can give as much or as little as I can. When there is a need and I can help, I serve. And I serve with people who inspire me to keep serving. If I can do anything to provide comfort to someone experiencing a disaster, in the worst moment of their life, with co-volunteers that I admire, then that makes sense to keep volunteering.