It’s the heartfelt thank you that keeps you going in the day to day efforts of support for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Perhaps the thank you comes from the senior mother and adult daughter in Long Beach. They were sitting and warming themselves on their front stoop as their home was still without power nearly two weeks after the storm. Full of the typical New Yorker attitude and independence, they challenged our three-person team as we approached. This was despite all of our American Red Cross regalia (bright red vests, ID cards, and cap). We parted friends.
Perhaps it comes from the elderly woman trapped in her seventh floor apartment in the Rockaway projects and yelling for our attention. You climb by flashlight up the chilly stairs – that sometimes smell of urine – as there is no power for the elevators and many services had ceased. And along the way you meet caring people trying to help one another and your team.
Or, perhaps it is the young family in the Red Cross shelter, simply grateful for the volunteers paying attention to their needs as they get through this difficult time.
These were some of the people that energized me during my two week deployment in the New York City area in mid-November. I was assigned to the Safe and Well Linking Team. This group of about 20 volunteers sought to reconnect family and friends that had been separated due to Hurricane Sandy. Sometimes it was a family member; other times it was a concerned friend or worker. We worked the phones, knocked on apartment doors, searched the shelters cot-by-cot and eventually went to specific house addresses seeking individuals. We offered to put people on the Safe and Well database online or loaned them a cell phone to call concerned family and friends.
At one point we worked as part of a group made up of a nurse, Safe and Well team and members from the Mexican Red Cross -- all of whom were trained paramedics. We sought to check on the well-being of residents in the city by updating prescriptions and giving residents information on sources of help as well as putting them in contact with others if need be.
Repeatedly, we received that thank you from residents still getting through Sandy’s impact. But, other New Yorkers also let us know our efforts were appreciated.
There was the man yelling across a New York sidewalk, “Hey, guy! Hey, guy!” who then gave me a thumbs up, a grin and a “Thanks!” as I walked to the Manhattan headquarters one morning wearing the Red Cross white cap and red vest. Or, the woman on the subway who went out of her way to get me on the right train to the HQ that day -- was it my look of confusion? My extreme gratitude I give to her. The experience was tiring and frustrating at times, and I hope I would make the effort without a single word of thanks. But, that feeling sure does help.
So, if you are a Red Cross volunteer, keep at it. If you haven’t helped as a volunteer, consider it. If that isn’t possible, then make a donation. One option is to make use of the 2012 Holiday Giving Catalog (1-800-RED CROSS or redcross.org/gifts). You can designate specific gifts such as aid to wounded military personnel, caregiver training or a day of expenses in an emergency shelter like those in use for Hurricane Sandy.
And let me be the first to say to you, “Hey, guy! Thanks!”
Story by: Don Underwood
American Red Cross Volunteer
Photos Courtesy: American Red Cross Public Affairs