Friday, May 10, 2013

Chelsea Couple Turns to Red Cross Volunteers After Fire


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.

Recalling the efforts of the Red Cross teams, Ana said they did everything very quickly.

“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.”

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