Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Childhood Bereavement Expert David Schonfeld Addresses Disaster Mental Health Workers

Dr. David Schonfeld addresses attendees
One of the callings of American Red Cross disaster mental health workers is to give children affected by disaster support and guidance at one of the most difficult times in their lives—suffering the loss of a parent or close family member in a fire or other disaster.  

On Oct. 18, a total of 90 Red Cross disaster mental health volunteers and members of partner organizations joined Dr. David Schonfeld, a prominent figure in the field of childhood bereavement, at Greater New York Red Cross regional headquarters in Manhattan. Dr. Schonfeld led a best practices conversation about supporting the mental health needs of individuals in the aftermath of a disaster in which a child has perished.

He applauded the passion of the Red Cross volunteers. “They are an incredible resource for those affected by emergencies,” he said. “Their selfless compassion and skills provide relief and comfort during times of unbearable tragedy. It was amazing to see their dedication first hand and to engage with them in a discussion about best practices for supporting those who lose a loved one.”

Diane Ryan, lead specialist, Disaster Mental Health Services for the Greater New York region said that while Red Cross DMH volunteers are themselves licensed practitioners, they were enriched by Dr. Schonfeld’s discussion.

“Our disaster mental health volunteers mobilize quickly whenever there is a loss of a child due to disaster—a fire, flood or other incident,” Ryan said. “They are the compassionate presence for those who are suffering. The presentation today provided additional tools for this challenging work.” 

New York Life co-hosted the event.

“New York Life is proud to partner with the Red Cross and its disaster mental health volunteers to provide advanced level training on childhood bereavement,” said Maria Collins, MSW, Vice President, New York Life Foundation.  “Today’s discussion supports our vision and awareness raising efforts around childhood bereavement. We couldn’t be more pleased to be here and to take part in such a meaningful dialog.”

Right Place, Right Time

In support of our #RedTieHeroes initiative, American Red Cross partner JPMorgan Chase recently reached out to their employees nationwide and asked them to submit stories of heroic coworkers who embody the humanitarian spirit of the Red Cross. Below is one of those stories.

submitted by Denise Edwards, JPMorgan Chase Employee
Deborah O'Toole
Deborah O'Toole began her career at Chase as a contract employee while pursuing training as a medical assistant back in 2009. After two years she completed her training, but decided to stay on with Chase in a permanent position because she enjoyed the work, the company and the people.

One morning in May of this year, between 7:00 and 7:30 am, Deborah and another Chase employee were in the deli/cafe getting breakfast. The deli is independently owned and patronized by the companies and employees that utilize the business campus where our offices are located. Another Chase employee came in wearing stiletto heels.

While standing in line and moving along she slipped and fell. When she fell one of her legs landed on top of one of her heels, which punctured her leg, and she began to bleed profusely. No one knew what to do.

Deborah came to the rescue, had her lie down and applied pressure to the puncture, kept it clean and calmly instructed everyone as to what to do.

The deli staff was panicked; the injured employee was going into shock. They called an ambulance and the other Chase employee went outside, flagged it down and directed the paramedics into the deli. They came, took over and transported the injured employee to the hospital.

We often hear of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in this particular case Deborah was in the right place at the right time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In Case You Missed It- October 21

Swiss Re Employees rebuilding a Sandy damaged home in Brooklyn. 

Since October 1, the Greater New York Red Cross has responded to 127 emergencies and provided aid to 334 adults and children.



Representative Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn with GNY  Director of Community Relations Alex Lutz.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Representative Yvette Clarke Meets with the Red Cross

On Oct. 15th, Alex Lutz, Greater New York Red Cross senior regional director of community relations, met with Rep. Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn’s 9th congressional district, to update her on the chapter’s continuing Superstorm Sandy recovery activities in her district.

Rep. Clarke’s district was one of the hardest hit by the storm, especially in communities such as Gerritsen Beach and Sheepshead Bay. Rep. Clarke expressed her gratitude and support for the Red Cross and its personnel who continue to assist those in need almost two years after Sandy made landfall in New York City.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Case You Missed It- October 13

Volunteers from the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces during Veterans StandDown supporting local veterans at the Northport VA medical facility. 

During the last week, the Greater New York Red Cross responded to 43 emergencies and provided aid to 74 adults and 29 children.

NY Red Cross volunteers during an evacuation drill in Hawthorne, NY, on Oct. 7. 

Through the Dust: A First Step Towards Hope

By Elaine Biller, Long Island Red Cross Volunteer

September 11 will always begin by drawing me backward. I revisit that day remembering, “This is what I was doing when…” as hours on the clock tick by: one plane, then the next, one building, and then the second. Waiting for phone calls, some I received, until the phone went silent. Hours stretched into days as a smoky haze trailed clouds floating east along the North Shore of Long Island. I remember keeping my children inside the house because I was afraid of what was in the smoke. Afraid.

I said I grew up in the towers; Tower Two was where my father worked. I visited him often, taking the elevator up to the sky lobby then on to his office. Later we wandered through the Winter Garden and the shops and every visit included a stop at the dock to see if the yacht the ‘Stars and Stripes,’ was there or was it out exploring the world. Those days with my father were precious; I was glad he never saw “his” towers come down.

I waited at home watching the news trying to make sense of the carnage. Nothing grounded me. I watched the television for hours trying to grab a glimpse of something, anything that I knew. My unrest grew along with my incomprehension of what had happened 60 miles from my home.

Shortly after the LIRR resumed service to mid-town I headed toward the towers with a friend. As we walked, a sense of surreal enveloped us as the numbers on the blocks fell lower and lower; images of crushed fire trucks on flat beds, emergency service vehicles covered in a dusty haze, armored military vehicles patrolling the streets and sanitation trucks, hundreds of them, stretching for miles down the West Side Highway, still come to me as snippets of recollections.

I lost my bearings scanning the skyline for the towers, my compass. It was then I saw an impromptu distribution site set-up along the highway by a New Yorker with a passion to reach out to his city. Citizens began bringing water, socks, dust masks, gloves, and homemade baked goods.

The smells still haunt me today, sweet chocolate chip competing against the acrid smoke that filled the air. It is the smells I remember, and that I long to forget. All day I lingered at this site, feeding workers who stopped after their shift at ground zero. They stopped for water; we gave them a cookie and a hug.

One photographer gave me a framed picture as thanks. It was of the towers, and we both held the photo, and each other, and cried.

Sometime later a police officer stopped and asked if there were batteries. There were. He reported this back to his command but could not leave his post so the batteries sat there for thirty minutes.

I could not bear to see them sitting less than a mile from where they were needed so I offered to run them up to whoever had asked for them. The officer radioed to his commander and with a backpack loaded with batteries I ran toward my towers. There are no words to express what I saw, or felt, nor can I speak of the journey I took over and over that day to bring more batteries up to the rescuers, then water to the officers who guarded the perimeter for double, even triple shifts, passing by a doctor who sat on a curb while he held up an x-ray into the daylight’s rays as in disbelief of what he had seen on his screen inside. I am only one of many with stories and no words to express them.

With each trip I wished I could do more. I squinted through the smoke, breathing at this point through a dust mask as advised by the officer I gave the batteries to, watching heroes at work looking for survivors at ground zero.

One truck stood out, a disaster services truck with a large red cross. It was inconceivable to me, here was my city, here were my friends, I should be there, I should do more, I had so much more to give. That red cross gave me hope. It is difficult to not describe the moment in cliche but through it all—dust, debris, chaos and pain, there was familiarity; the Red Cross.

There is not a time that I can recall that the American Red Cross has not been in my life. I learned to swim with the Red Cross; then I became an instructor; then a lifeguard. I took first aid and CPR classes, and my own children learned to swim the same way. I decided that day that was how I was going to make a difference; I would volunteer with the American Red Cross.

It is this moment I bring with me when I reach out to a family who has just lost everything in a fire, or a hurricane or any type of disaster for I know The Red Cross is a first step back toward hope, just like it was for my own healing that day back in September 2001.