Archive for October, 2009

Six Red Cross responders who arrived on the scene of a fire at a senior apartment complex at 66 N. Debaun Avenue in Airmont, New York at 1:45 a.m., arranged for temporary overnight housing at a local hotel for 19 residents displaced by the fire. They also provided 9 people with emergency assistance for food. The fire, which was confined to the first floor apartment where it began, was said to be started by a cat that knocked over some candles.

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The American Red Cross in Greater New York (ARC/GNY) will be participating in the 40th ING New York City Marathon for the first time with a team comprised of 15 runners led by the Chapter’s CEO and first-time marathon runner Theresa Bischoff.  Team Red Cross has pledged to raise at least $50,000 to support the vital work of the American Red Cross in Greater New York––helping New Yorkers prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

Mike Curtin, 36, of Brewster, NY joined Team Red Cross for several reasons––to thank the Red Cross for supporting him in his time of need and to fulfill one of his personal goals.  In 1995 when Mike, a then 23 year-old soldier serving in the US Army at Fort Bragg, NC, was about to be deployed to Somalia, his father died suddenly at the age of 52 from a heart attack.   As her son was not granted leave nor could he afford the trip home to be with his loved ones, his mother called the local Red Cross Chapter to get help.  The Services to the Armed Forces unit of the Red Cross was immediately there––Mike was escorted to the airport, put on a plane back to New York for his father’s funeral in a matter of hours and picked up on the other end to ensure that he was properly reunited with his family.

Mike decided that it was time to give back when he heard about Team Red Cross’ November 1st foray into the ING New York City Marathon 2009.  He became a runner about 2 years ago to drop some weight, felt this was his year to go the distance, and knew he wanted to run his first marathon as a “Red Crosser.” “Red Cross and running saved my life,” said Mike Curtin.  “When I needed help the most, the Red Cross was there. This is my way of giving back.”

Mike runs 8 – 10 miles a day, 5 days a week and another 18 – 20 miles a day on the weekends training for the marathon. In order to run on Sunday, November 1, Mike has pledged to raise at least $2,500 for the American Red Cross in Greater New York.  He has raised $2,150 so far, and is committed to meeting or surpassing his financial goal before he crosses the finish line in this year’s marathon.

To support Mike, or for more information about the Red Cross marathon team visit www.nyredcross.org.

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During a disaster, children may feel ill at ease in a shelter. Their daily routine is disrupted. The Red Cross has special help for children during this traumatic time, such as special areas for families to sleep, and space in the shelter for family interaction and child care.

During the ongoing relief effort in American Samoa, the Red Cross and Save the Children worked together to set up a play area in the convention center where families lined up to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance. Special supplies were sent in, including diapers, baby formula, dolls and school supplies. Red Cross mental health and spiritual care specialists helped children deal with the loss of family members and classmates.

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“Our Buddha is the symbol who cares for the world, regardless of religion, sex or age,” said Yuru Chou, an American Red Cross in Greater New York (ARC/GNY) volunteer and an employee at the non-profit, volunteer-based Tzu Chi Foundation, located in Flushing, New York.

Yuru was explaining the philosophy and mission of the Foundation, which was created in the wake of a devastating typhoon that struck Taiwan in July 1966. Today, Tzu Chi is an international organization with more than five million supporters worldwide. Its Queens-area volunteers number approximately 300.

Community-based Response

While many Buddhist societies are devoted to personal enlightenment and meditation, Tzu Chi focuses on community service and outreach; specifically, case management, medical, educational and disaster relief.

Its mission is closely aligned with that of the Red Cross. That’s why Yuru, secretary to George Chang, Executive Director of the Tzu Chi Foundation USA, was drawn to ARC/GNY in 2006, after meeting a Red Cross volunteer at an interfaith disaster gathering. She and the volunteer discussed how the Greater New York Chapter and Tzu Chi might work together to benefit the community.

That summer, 25 Tzu Chi members became disaster-trained as part of ARC/GNY’s Ready When the Time Comes program, which instructs volunteer teams from local companies and community groups in Red Cross disaster relief. Yuru and Tzu Chi volunteer Ray Chen went on to become members of ARC/GNY–Queens’ Monday night Disaster Action Team.

An Ongoing Partnership

Since 2006, the Foundation has worked closely with ARC/GNY on numerous community relief efforts:

  • After the August 2007 tornado that devastated parts of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, five Tzu Chi volunteers helped ARC/GNY personnel communicate with affected residents, the majority of whom were Mandarin and Cantonese speakers.
  • In March 2008, more than 20 Tzu Chi volunteers assisted with the Chapter’s crane collapse relief effort.
  • In February 2009, when more than 100 people—many of them non-English speakers—were displaced from 22 James Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown by a 5-alarm fire, 10 Tzu Chi volunteers translated for ARC/GNY caseworkers and provided 200 lunch boxes at the Red Cross service center.
  • Three months later, in August 2009, three Tzu Chi volunteers came to Greater New York Chapter headquarters to translate for Mandarin-speaking residents displaced by a vacate order for 128 Hester Street, a run-down Chinatown tenement. Three volunteers were also at the scene to help with translation. “We helped people get information from the Red Cross about community resources,” said Tzu Chi volunteer William Liu of his work with ARC/GNY in August. “We like the Red Cross because it’s on the front lines of disaster relief.”

Preparedness Efforts

Tzu Chi also holds Red Cross CPR classes at its Flushing office. “Two of our RNs are Red Cross-certified instructors; they teach CPR in Mandarin,” said Yuru. “People need to prepare for emergencies beforehand,” she added. “We try to publicize the need to be prepared. By working together with the Red Cross, we hope to increase the level of preparedness and serve more of the community. Taking time to care for the community is not a burden for daily life—it’s good karma for you and your family.”


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Although they rarely make front-page news, home fires, which displace thousands of people, and can cause serious injury and/or death, represent the vast majority of disasters that affect the residents of Greater New York each year. Between January and September 2009, the American Red Cross in Greater New York (ARC/GNY) responded to 1,327 home fires in the five boroughs of New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley, and helped more than 7,300 adults and children affected by those fires with financial assistance, emergency housing and emotional support.

The good news about home fires––while they represent the greatest number of the Chapter’s responses, they are one of the most preventable. ARC/GNY urges families to prepare and take action to prevent home fires during National Fire Prevention Week, October 5–9. This preparation doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment or training, and Fire Prevention Week is a great time to get started. In addition to having working smoke alarms on each level of your home, one of the easiest ways to prevent a tragedy is to develop and practice a home fire escape plan so that every family member knows how to escape quickly and safely.

For more information on how you can get prepared, please read our Fire Safety Guide. You can also follow us on Twitter to learn about the many fires the Chapter responds to daily.

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The Asia Pacific region has been hit by a series of calamitous natural disasters over the past seven days leaving tremendous destruction across four areas. The global Red Cross network has been among the first responders to provide relief and emotional support to traumatized families as well as first aid to the sick and injured.

In Indonesia, two devastating earthquakes 24 hours apart have left nearly 1,000 dead and many others trapped. The Indonesian Red Cross has dispatched hundreds of volunteers, including 45 doctors, to the quake zone to offer first aid services, shelter and other assistance for those in need, and is moving thousands of relief supplies to Padang.

On September 29, an 8.3-magnitude earthquake, followed by a tsunami, affected the Pacific islands of Samoa, Tonga and America Samoa, a United States territory. The American Red Cross is providing food, shelter, water and other needed supplies in American Samoa, as well as helping with debris removal. A leadership team of about 70 volunteers is also on its way to the island to supplement the local Red Cross workforce. In the sovereign nations of Samoa and Tonga, their respective Red Cross societies are running relief efforts to provide assistance to affected residents, including operating five camps for now homeless families.

Last week’s Typhoon Ketsana wreaked havoc across the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, causing record-level floods, destroying houses and taking lives. In addition to the thousands of local Red Cross volunteers and employees who are providing emergency relief in their countries, the American Red Cross is contributing an initial $100,000 worth of supplies — including mosquito nets, jerry cans and blankets — to the Philippines from the Red Cross warehouse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. An additional $50,000 cash is going to Vietnam to support their relief efforts.

Chronology of disasters striking Asia Pacific region:

  • Oct. 1: A second major earthquake shook Jambi province in Indonesia, 180 miles from the epicenter of the September 30 quake
  • Sept. 30: A 7.6-magintude earthquake was recorded off the West coast of Indonesia, about 30 miles from Padang, the capital of West Sumatra
  • Sept 29: A tsunami follows in the wake of the earthquake which affected the Pacific Islands of Samoa, Tonga and America Samoa
  • Sept. 29: An 8.3-magnitude earthquake affects the Pacific islands of Samoa, Tonga and America Samoa
  • Sept. 26: Typhoon Ketsana made its first landfall and dumped torrential rains in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos

The Red Cross urges those who have been able to contact loved ones on American Samoa to register them with Safe and Well, the best way to share information about their status. You can register on the Red Cross Safe and Well Web site at www.redcross.org/safeandwell. If you do not have internet access, call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-866-438-4636 to register your loved ones. The information you post will let other loved ones know about the well-being of those on the island. For any questions about Safe and Well email safe@usa.redcross.org.

You can help the victims of countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Donations to the International Response Fund can be sent to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at http://www.redcross.org.

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With cases of H1N1 on the rise, hugs, high-fives, even air-kisses are about to go the way of the dodo. Just like seasonal flu, the swine flu is contagious, and, according to the CDC, is thought to spread mainly person-to-person.

Getting into a routine of some other basic habits can help you stave off the H1N1 flu andthe seasonal flu, and allow you to stay healthy and happy this fall and winter.

One of the simplest things you can do is to wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you don’t happen to have access to a sink, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also effective in keeping your hands germ-free.

It is also important to remember to cover your mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing and throw it away immediately after using it. If you don’t have a tissue on hand, sneeze or cough into your elbow. By avoiding your hands, you help prevent spreading your germs to the next person. Speaking of hands, keep yours away from your eyes, nose or mouth to keep germs out.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If someone near you has a case of the sniffles, it’s best to stay away. The New York State Department of Health advises people to avoid close contact—within six feet—with people who cough, sneeze or show other signs of infection. On the other hand, if you’re the one feeling under the weather, try to minimize your contact with others (and possibly infecting them) by staying home from work or school.

There is also the tried-and-true method of avoiding illness by maintaining good general health practices: get sufficient sleep (the experts recommend between 7–8 hours each day), be physically active, manage your stress level, drink plenty of fluids and maintain a healthy diet (remember your fruits and veggies).

These tips will not only help prevent you from getting the swine flu, but most other seasonal illnesses as well.

The American Red Cross in Greater New York offers a range of products and training to help individuals and corporations prepare for a pandemic flu outbreak and keep you and your loved ones healthy. Read our FAQs to learn more about H1N1. To find out about preparedness training programs for companies or organizations, please contact Jim Parker, in Health & Safety Services at parkerj@nyredcross.org.

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The American Red Cross is on the ground in American Samoa where a tsunami swept across the island after a powerful earthquake hit the South Pacific.

Red Cross has dozens of volunteers already providing food and supplies to those on the island.  A team of 50 volunteers is being sent in to supplement the efforts of the local Red Cross team.  The Red Cross has a warehouse on American Samoa supplied with cots, flashlights, and cooking and clean-up supplies, and will be sending in additional supplies as quickly as possible.

“We will get there as quickly as we can with what we can,” said Joe Becker, senior vice president for Red Cross Disaster Services.  “Our first priority is to provide food and water.”  After yesterday’s 8.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami, a significant portion of American Samoa is without power or water amid widespread damage.

Getting information out of the island is very slow at this time.  The Red Cross urges those who have been able to contact loved ones on American Samoa to register them with Safe and Well, the best way to share information about their status.  You can register on the Red Cross Safe and Well Website at www.redcross.org.  If you do not have internet access, call 1-800-REDCROSS to register your loved ones.  The information you post will let other loved ones know about the well-being of those on the island.  Please note – Safe and Well works only on American Samoa.  The service will not work on Samoa.

American Samoa, a group of seven islands about 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii, is a United States Territory.  American Samoa and the independent country of Western Samoa make up the Samoan group of islands in the center of Polynesia.  According to news reports, four tsunami waves about 15 to 20 feet high came ashore on American Samoa after the earthquake in the South Pacific.

You can help the victims of countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation by mailing your donation with the designation to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C.20013. Donations to the International Response Fund can be made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at www.nyredcross.org/donate.

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“A shoulder to lean on from a caring volunteer, a Red Cross personal hygiene kit containing toothpaste, toothbrushes, a washcloth, deodorant, a comb—these little things make an enormous difference to people who have just lost everything,” said Terry Bischoff, CEO of the American Red Cross in Greater New York (ARC/GNY). “These things give people hope when all hope seems to be gone.”
Ms. Bischoff was addressing the almost 60 business leaders and community members who attended an Open House hosted by ARC/GNY–Queens on September 30 at the Sheraton La Guardia East hotel in Flushing. The event was an opportunity for attendees to learn about the humanitarian work of the Red Cross in their borough, and how they might engage with the Greater New York Chapter to help their neighbors in Queens when they need it most.

Tina Lee, publisher of the World Journal newspaper and Chair of the ARC/GNY Queens Board of Advisors, opened the event by discussing how the Red Cross has responded to more than 424 fires and building collapses in Queens since January, assisting almost 2,000 adults and children with food, water, blankets, and health and mental-health services—right at the scene of a disaster.

Another speaker, Yuru Chou of the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation USA, explained how Tzu Chi has partnered with the New York chapter, providing meals and language translation for Chinese-speaking residents in Red Cross reception centers and shelters, and teaching CPR and first aid classes in Mandarin.

“The evening was a wonderful opportunity to have community members see the numerous ways in which the Red Cross carries out our mission of helping New Yorkers affected by emergencies and disasters,” said Sonia Martinez, ARC/GNY-Queens Director. “We look forward to having tonight’s attendees become more involved with our organization.”

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