by Carl Manning
Ahmed, who makes a living as a New York City taxi driver, arrived in the United States from his native Bangladesh in 1997. For the last year, he has lived with his wife and his 8-year-old son in a basement apartment in the Forest Hills section of Queens.
In March 2012, after dropping his son off at school, Ahmed was working his day shift when he received a frantic phone call from his wife. There was a fire in their apartment building and their home had been flooded with water and smoke. It would be uninhabitable.
When Ahmed arrived home, the police asked if his family had a place to stay. That’s when the reality sank in. He said he was supposed to be the family provider, but at that moment he couldn’t even provide them a place to live.
Ahmed didn’t have the money to stay at a hotel, his father and brother didn’t have room to take the family in and he couldn’t count on the landlord to help out.
“Everybody I know lives in tiny places and it is no good to go there and bother them,” Ahmed said. “Everything was gone. There was water like a shower on my TV, my computer, my mattress. The whole house smelled.”
As he worried about what to do next, Red Cross volunteers showed up at the scene and provided Ahmed and his family with immediate assistance—food, clothing and a place to stay.
“One night I was in my bed and the next night I was in the hotel,” he recalled. “During that time I got a gift from God. We made it. These people helped us … this is really appreciated.”
But the Red Cross assistance didn’t end there.
Ahmed met with caseworkers who helped with his long-term recovery needs. Ahmed said he didn’t realize the Red Cross helped fire victims, and he’s glad they were there when he needed them.
“The most important thing the Red Cross did for me was to assure me that I didn’t have to live on the street,” he said. “We didn’t beg anybody. We were able to keep our dignity.”
Monday, May 20, 2013
Friday, May 10, 2013
By Gemma Haywood
Chelsea residents Ana, 27, and Miguel, 36, had been planning a romantic evening at home March 27: sharing a bottle of wine and celebrating their first year as a couple. Instead, they found themselves picking through what remained of their belongings after a fire destroyed their home.
Thankfully for them, the American Red Cross was on scene to help, providing emergency relief that would help them get through this trying time.
“The Red Cross was awesome to us,” recalled Miguel, “all of them!”
The fire happened in the middle of the day, when the couple was at work. It started in the Laundromat on the first floor of their 15th Street building, but spread quickly to their second floor apartment. By the time they were notified, little could be done.
Miguel was the first to arrive and was escorted to the burnt-out apartment by police and firefighters. Ana arrived soon after.
“When we got home all of our stuff was lying in the backyard. Glass was shattered everywhere, water everywhere, all of our clothing, our sofa, TV, computers, everything—a complete loss,” she said.
Standing on the sidewalk with just a few bags of salvaged belongings, Ana and Miguel learned that the Red Cross could provide them with assistance. In fact two Red Cross disaster response teams had arrived on the scene to help not only Ana and Miguel, but all of the building’s residents, who were ordered to vacate the building.
“They found somewhere for us to stay for a couple of nights; they gave us emergency funds to get some food; and they asked us to talk to a caseworker so we can find some help to follow up the case.”
Two days later, Ana and Miguel came in to the Red Cross Manhattan offices. Their meeting with a Red Cross caseworker empowered the couple to get the help they needed, including referrals for longer-term housing.
“The caseworker has been giving us good advice on what to do and what not to do. And how to proceed,” explained Miguel. “All the information she has given us has been so helpful.”
Ana and Miguel never thought they might one day need the help of the Red Cross. They were familiar with the humanitarian relief and recovery work of the Red Cross for major disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. Ana was also a regular blood donor for the Red Cross. But neither was aware of the Red Cross disaster response activity in the Greater New York region.
“You don’t think if you have a problem like this in your home, that the Red Cross can help you,” said Ana. “But now we know.”
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
During the day, SAF volunteers provided information on SAF services and Red Cross preparedness information to nearly 1,000 Marines and their families.
Photo, L to R: Jason Slibeck, Heather Goodchild, Tony Delgado, Inna Fainbain and Jim Shevlin
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
During “Raid Cross” the students played roles such as soldier, humanitarian aid worker, and prisoner of war in in simulations designed to teach young people about IHL, or the rules of war. This gave them the opportunity to make tough decisions and experience a small sense of what it is like to participate in a conflict. The segment will air in early fall.
Photo by Evan Marcy: Red Cross Club members participate in a "Raid Cross" exercise this past February.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
With their rental now unlivable, Gralla’s wife and four of his children then stayed with relatives. Gralla himself, along with a special-needs child, took refuge in a Red Cross shelter near where they’d lived.
“It was very nice there,” he said. “We had a place to sleep, it was heated, we had Kosher food.”
About three weeks later, the family moved to temporary lodgings in a FEMA hotel.
On April 30, Gralla accepted a check from the Red Cross that will allow the family to move into a brand new rental in Far Rockaway.
“Red Cross helped with the rent, security and moving expenses,” said Gralla. “I thank them very much for that. It’s wonderful, wonderful help. We can get back on our feet now.”
Photo: Superstorm Sandy survivor Edward Gralla accepts a recovery check from Kathy Massar, Red Cross casework supervisor from the Northeast California chapter, and Robert Callender, Manager, Move in Assistance program for Queens, from the Greater Carolinas chapter in Charlotte, N.C.
Monday, April 22, 2013
In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 21-27, 2013), I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for working tirelessly to fulfill the American Red Cross mission.
National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities; day in and day out, you do all that and more.
Our region has more than 7,000 volunteers from all walks of life. You come together with one common purpose—to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Considering that our region is the nation’s largest—home to more than 13 million people—that is a tremendous task.
Red Cross volunteers like you are always ready to step in and help people down the street, across the nation and around the world.
Last year, you helped us bring lifesaving safety courses such as first aid, CPR, babysitting and care giving to more than 100,000 people. You helped us serve veterans, members of the military and their families. You supported our critical mission-related work through general office support. And you helped us provide food, shelter, comfort and hope to more than 12,000 area residents affected by over 2,300 local disasters. From house fires to floods—you were there.
Last, but hardly least, you stepped in and gave your time, energy and compassion for days, weeks and months to help thousands of people affected by Superstorm Sandy, and continue to do so.
On behalf of everyone throughout our region, I send a heartfelt “Thank You!”
Friday, April 19, 2013
This past March, which was Red Cross Month, a time when the accomplishments of the American Red Cross are recognized, along with the accomplishments of the organization’s remarkable volunteers, members of JetBlue’s all-volunteer Ready Team stepped up to help the Greater New York Red Cross help others.
“JetBlue continues to be a strong partner, not only in deploying employees to help when disaster strikes, but on day-to-day regional needs,” said Marcela Espinoza, Greater New York regional director of volunteer and youth services. “Last month they assisted at three events so that people affected by Superstorm Sandy and people affected by home fires could take the critical first steps on the road to rebuilding their lives.”
The first event took place on March 19, when 18 Ready Team members came to JetBlue Headquarters in Long Island City to assemble 200 personal hygiene comfort kits containing toothpaste, toothbrush, combs, shampoo and other essentials. Red Cross disaster responders will distribute these kits to people displaced by fires and other emergencies.
The next event, dubbed a “muck out,” took place March 28. Eight JetBlue volunteers travelled to the Rockaways to assist Sandy affected residents. Activities included removing sand and debris, discarding damaged furniture and appliances, tearing out soggy drywall and insulation, vacuuming and more.
“The Muck Out highlighted the true meaning of caring as our volunteers assisted families who suffered such loss in the wake of Hurricane Sandy,” said Athena Amideneau, JetBlue Analyst, Care & Emergency Response, who oversees the Ready Team.
Finally, on March 26, in just four hours, 11 JetBlue volunteers reached out to more than 1,200 Red Cross volunteers by phone, reminding them to update their profiles on Greater New York’s new volunteer management system, Volunteer Connection.
“Once again, JetBlue proved its dedicated support of the Red Cross,” said Espinoza. “We would not be able to fulfill our mission were it not for committed partners like JetBlue, whose employees give their time and energy to help those in need.”