By Katie Wilkes
“You shouldn’t be called Red Cross. You should all be called angels.” That’s how community organizer Miss Cynthia Bryant feels about her new partners in helping her storm-battered neighbors.
“We are so thankful for you. You don’t just drop off the stuff. You take time to talk with us, comfort us and care about us,” she said. “We are forever grateful.”
Struggle is nothing new to Bryant, known in her community as “Miss Cynthia.” More than 20 years ago she started a non-profit she calls the Justice Organization, to provide housing, meals, spiritual care and life skills to those in desperate need in Far Rockaway, at the far south end of the borough of Queens on Long Island.
“There was a storm here long before Sandy,” Miss Cynthia observed. “The hurricane was just the physical part.”
That “physical part” of Superstorm Sandy damaged her client housing areas, her apartment-sized food pantry and her own belongings. When she saw the first Red Cross truck arrive immediately after the storm, she knew there was hope.
Miss Cynthia’s eyes filled with tears. “It was a miracle when we saw your trucks. You all don’t run away when you see the most vulnerable areas – which are often violent areas. You go straight in; you’re a blessing.
“And let me tell you, one day when there was a quarrel, that Red Cross food truck pulled up, unloaded and there was peace. It is truly a miracle. You helped calm our own storm, because Sandy left long ago.”
The Red Cross has delivered hot meals, water, blankets and relief supplies to not only her family, but dozens she was struggling to help. On Thanksgiving Day, she was able to feed 2,300 people from the Red Cross red, insulated food containers, carefully labeled: mashed potatoes, turkey and vegetables.
Blankets patterned in the Red Cross emblem are neatly folded by day on several of the beds where individuals and families who can’t go home find rest at night.
Nearly a month after Hurricane Sandy departed, Red Cross emergency response vehicles continue to deliver supplies and food, extending the compassion of the American people into a struggling neighborhood.