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In Year of Unprecedented Disasters, Local Red Cross Volunteers Answer the Call

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In this time of need, it’s humbling to see my Red Cross colleagues carry out our mission

During a year marked by unprecedented emergencies, local volunteers from the American Red Cross have answered the call to help around the country and right here in Massachusetts.

“In this time of incredible need, it’s been humbling to see my Red Cross colleagues carry out our mission with such urgency and compassion.” said Tim Pitoniak, Chief Disaster Officer, American Red Cross of Massachusetts.

The last five and a half months have brought unparalleled destruction to communities from Houston, Texas to San Juan, Puerto Rico to Santa Rosa, Calif. As a result of three historic hurricanes and the deadliest wildfires in California history, the Red Cross has provided more shelter, food and relief supplies to disaster survivors since mid-August than they have in the previous four years combined.

Kristen Corman from Allston, Mass. was among the more than 200 Red Cross volunteers from Massachusetts to support relief efforts outside of the state. She traveled to Southern California today for two weeks, her first ever deployment with the Red Cross since joining in September. There, Corman will help evacuees in Red Cross shelters.

“I joined the Red Cross after seeing the need after Hurricane Harvey,” said Corman. “When it comes down to it it’s about one person helping another person.”

Here in Massachusetts, the Red Cross has provided emergency relief to thousands following more than 600 disasters across the state since the beginning of the year. Recent incidents included the deadly North End fire the day after Thanksgiving and the four-alarm fire in Cambridge on November 30 that forced dozens from their homes.

At every one of these fires, floods and other emergencies, volunteer like longtime team members and Everett resident Lisa Contee. rush to the scene to deliver emergency housing, food, clothing and other relief.

“There’s no feeling like being there for people who’ve lost everything and don’t know what to do,” said Contee. “We get to say, ‘we are going to help you right now with what needs to be done right at this minute.’ The Red Cross has brought me a sense of purpose,” said Contee.

Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Red Cross also helped make communities safer and more resilient by installing more than 5,600 free smoke alarms in thousands of homes; by teaching health and safety skills like CPR, water safety and first aid; and by empowering local families with vital disaster preparedness skills. Along with these services the organization also runs the largest food pantry in New England, they collect lifesaving blood and they support service members and their families.

To learn more about the work of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts and how you can help, visit