Brooklyn native Patty Jones began volunteering with the American Red Cross shortly after Superstorm Sandy made landfall. Since that time, she has found a way to use 6” x 6” pieces of paper to express her feelings for those affected by the storm and those who helped.
“I want people to know that the Red Cross really does care and we feel for what they’re going through,” Jones said.
Each peace crane is made of origami paper and adorned with a quote from Maya Angelou that reads, “Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm; when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike.”
In December 2010, Jones learned origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding. As a Red Cross volunteer, she began putting her talents to use as a way of saying “thank you” to co-workers.
“Everyone I came across was here from another state,” Jones said. ”I thought it was so great that they left their families to help us that whenever someone would go home I would give them a peace crane.”
Jones began working in case management with the Red Cross, and was dealing with people affected by the storm every day helping them with finding resources and providing funding for things like new furniture, appliances and rental assistance.
“After people I worked with had found sustainable housing, I would send them a peace crane as a symbol of a new beginning,” Jones said.
Gerald and Barbara Bergman of Freeport, Long Island, whose home was damaged by Sandy, received a crane from Jones. The couple hung the token underneath their TV in the bedroom.
“We were surprised and delighted,” Barbara said. “I think of Patty and the Red Cross every time I look at it.”
The cranes weren’t only therapeutic for those who received them. Jones also found it helpful for herself.
“I find it very relaxing,” Jones said. “When you’re making the peace crane, you’re focusing on that and whatever problems you have are gone for the moment because you’re focusing on something else.”
Patty wanted to share not only more symbols of peace, but also the art of making cranes. She organized about 25 Red Cross volunteers across the Greater New York region and taught them how to make the cranes. Her goal was to distribute them to Sandy survivors around the one-year anniversary of the storm.
Red Cross volunteer Dawn Carlin learned how to make peace cranes from Jones and gave them away on Oct. 29, 2013 at South Street Seaport. “People were really receptive and appreciative,” Carlin said. “I thought it was a thoughtful way to commemorate the one-year anniversary.” Jones distributed cranes in Canarsie, Brooklyn and other Red Cross volunteers helped give them away in Sandy-affected areas of all five boroughs and Long Island.
Nearly 500 peace cranes were also sent to Moore, Oklahoma, a town devastated by a large tornado in May. Red Cross case managers there are giving cranes to people affected by the tornado, who are still continuing to come in for help.