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In Year Marked by Large Disasters, Local Volunteers Answer Call

In Year Marked by Large Disasters, Local GNY Volunteers Answer Call.
“We are calling for more New Yorkers to join our dedicated volunteer team in 2017.”

From the Chelsea Explosion to Hurricane Matthew, volunteers from the American Red Cross Greater New York Region have provided urgent support to thousands of families impacted by disasters during one of busiest years in recent memory for the organization.

“Every day, dedicated Red Cross volunteers and employees bring our humanitarian services to New Yorkers in need,” said Josh Lockwood, regional CEO of the American Red Cross in Greater New York. “And when large-scale disaster strikes outside this area, these individuals often travel far from home to deliver the same comfort and compassion to communities who need it most.”

Since January 1, 2016, the Red Cross has offered emergency relief following more than 2000 disasters across the Greater New York region (New York City, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley). This includes high-profile incidents like the explosion in Chelsea this September, as well as smaller disasters like the early morning fire in Flushing, Queens that forced seven families from their home last week.

Emmanuel Veras from Harlem was among 7000+ New Yorkers who turned to the Greater NY Red Cross in 2016 for temporary housing, food, blankets, emergency financial assistance, heath/emotional support and other relief. Earlier this fall, Veras lost his 141st St home to a fire. “All your processions, everything you worked so hard for, it was up in smoke. It was terrifying,” said Veras. “But then I saw the Red Cross and it made a difficult situation smooth. When the Red Cross came, it gave me some comfort, some stability and I appreciate that a lot.”

Outside of New York, the Red Cross has responded to 50% more “major” disasters in the US compared to 2015 (10 “major” disasters in 2015; 15 “major” disasters in 2016). As a result, hundreds of Greater NY Red Cross staff and volunteers have supported national Red Cross relief efforts, many traveling far from home.

Registered nurse and long-time Red Cross Health Services volunteer Deborah Hayden deployed to four different emergencies in 2016, each time putting her life on hold for up to two weeks at a time to help others recover from some of the most difficult moments imaginable.

“The need has been so great this year,” said Hayden, a Long Island native. “In addition to helping out close to home after local disasters, I also traveled to Houston [floods], North Carolina [Hurricane Matthew] and Louisiana twice [floods]. I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to help.”

In 2016, the Red Cross also helped make our communities safer and more resilient this past year by installing nearly 38,000 free smoke alarms in thousands of area homes without functioning devices; by teaching health and safety skills like CPR, water safety and first aid; and by empowering local families with vital disaster preparedness skills. The Red Cross also collected lifesaving blood and supported our service members and their families.

Looking forward to 2017, the Greater NY Red Cross CEO Josh Lockwood, who himself deployed to Orlando after the tragic shooting last June, sees an opportunity for more area residents to support Red Cross efforts.

“We are calling for more New Yorkers to join our dedicated volunteer team in 2017.” said Lockwood, “The more trained volunteers we have before disaster strikes, the better positioned we will be as a community to help those who need it most in our region and beyond.”

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

For a collection of Red Cross photos from the past year, click here.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @redcrossny.