Twice in the past 19 years, at crucial moments in their lives, Jacquetta Herrington and her family received essential help from the American Red Cross.
Herrington credits Red Cross assistance with allowing her family—her four children, and the children’s’ father, Robert Taylor—not only to be together as a family, but to thrive. She proudly adds that staying together has helped give son Auburá, 22, a dean’s list college athlete, the support he needed to excel in his endeavors.
Rewind 19 years. Herrington, living in Tucson, Ariz., decided to move to New York to give Auburá and daughter Kenyetta a better life. Taylor, who was playing college football in Tucson, chose to remain behind but stayed in touch because of the children.
Once in New York, Herrington was unable to find a job and became homeless. In desperation, she turned to the Red Cross.
At the time, the Red Cross jointly ran a homeless program with Help I (now Help USA). Through the program, Herrington and her children received safe shelter for eight months. The Red Cross then helped Herrington get her own apartment through New York City’s housing assistance program. She was and is deeply grateful for both.
“Without the Red Cross, I don’t know what I would have done back then,” she said.
About a year later, Taylor, too, came to New York, and moved in with his mom, in Brooklyn. Although he and Herrington never married, and have maintained mostly separate lives, they have always worked together to be staunch parents to their children.
In the years that followed, Herrington, and sometimes Taylor, moved between Tucson and New York numerous times, as Herrington helped her parents through serious illnesses. Meanwhile, the family grew to include son Robert, now 14, and daughter Burazenia, 5.
In May 2010, with both of Herrington’s parents deceased and Auburá transferring to a college in West Virginia, Herrington and Taylor both moved back to New York for good. She established herself and the kids in a rental, the ground floor of a two-family house in Far Rockaway; he returned to his mom’s.
Herrington enrolled her three youngest children at the New York Christian Center Academy, a small private school in Brooklyn run by Taylor’s aunt. Just as important, she and Taylor planned to travel to see every one of Auburá’s football games at West Virginia State University, where he was a running back and punt returner.
Taylor began coaching basketball at the New York Christian Center Academy, as well as coaching AAU basketball. Herrington began working at the Christian Center Academy doing daycare.
Things appeared to be working out for everyone—then came Sandy.
Having easily weathered Hurricane Irene the year before, the family believed it would be safe to wait out Sandy at home in Rockaway. Taylor joined them there. Their single concession to the coming storm was to forgo travelling to Auburá’s football game that weekend.
Sadly, Sandy turned their world upside down.
As the storm hit, water started rushing in under the door—and it wouldn’t stop.
“It was one of the scariest things you can imagine,” Taylor said. “The refrigerator fell over. It’s literally floating in the living room. The water was as high as the kitchen table.”
“Everything that was outside was inside the house,” Herrington said. “It was cold; it was wet; the odor was awful. I was throwing up; my daughter was gagging.”
To their great relief, that night, the family was rescued by boat. After stopping to regroup at a shelter set up at York College, they walked to a friend’s house and later, to Taylor’s mother’s. They then stayed at the New York Christian Center Academy for a few nights, before being placed by FEMA in a hotel in Brooklyn.
“That seemed like a long, long time,” said Herrington.
Ultimately, a Red Cross caseworker came to the hotel, offering Herrington and the children help from the Red Cross Move-in-Assistance Program, which helps Sandy victims move out of temporary lodging and into new, permanent homes.
After Herrington found a new apartment on Fountain Street in Brooklyn, the Red Cross gave her funds to cover the security deposit and first month’s rent, as well as money to buy furniture and necessary household items.
“The Red Cross helped me when I was young and they helped me today, said Herrington. “Everything I needed, the Red Cross provided.”
To learn more about the Red Cross response to Sandy and how it is helping families like this recover, visit www.redcross.org/sandy-response.