As the American Red Cross knows all too well, disasters can strike at any time. Over these past few weeks, holiday celebrations turned to heartache for hundreds of New Yorkers left homeless by fires, building vacates and other local emergencies. At their side after each incident were dedicated Red Cross volunteers on scene to help their neighbors cope and recover.
One of those volunteers was Michelle Grinder who led a response to an apartment fire on January 2 in Newburgh, N.Y. The Orange County resident and her fellow volunteers helped provide temporary lodging and emergency funds to get the eight displaced families through the initial days following the disaster.
“Despite the fact that many of them lost most of their belongings, including their Christmas presents and holiday decorations, they were all grateful to be alive,” described Grinder. “As a volunteer, I know that in some way I am helping those impacted by the fire, but in fact they help me. They remind me that we are all survivors and despite the setbacks caused by unforeseen tragedies, for most of us just waking up and being alive is a daily gift.”
From December 21 to January 4, Red Cross volunteers assisted a total of 178 adults and 72 children following 87 local disasters in New York City, the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island.
On December 22, longtime Red Cross volunteer Bruce Vesloski, a native of Carle Place, N.Y. on Long Island answered the call to help a single mother, Deyanissa Bonifacio, and her two young daughters in Freeport, N.Y. The family’s home and all their possessions had been destroyed by a fire.
“Volunteering during the holiday season, or any time, brings a sense of accomplishment,” said Vesloski. “I have been a Red Cross volunteer for over ten years…It’s my life's mission to help others.”
Vesloski, helped the Bonifacio family by providing them with blankets, clothing, temporary housing and a gift card. But for Bonifacio, knowing that someone was there for her family at this critical time, just days before Christmas, meant the most.
“[The Red Cross] makes you feel like there are people who care out there, that they don’t have to be blood or anything,” recalled Bonifacio. “It’s not like you’re by yourself in the world. There are people who care. There are people who can give you a hand when you most need it.”
In this new year, make your resolution count. Find out how you can help those who need it most by becoming a volunteer for the American Red Cross in Greater New York.