For many years, Juan and Adriana Pichardo, both of whom serve as New York State Chaplains, have responded to fires, floods, storms and other disasters within the New York community. At each incident, they work side-by-side with first responders to help people in need. So when they lost their own home to a fire this winter, it came as a shock for them to be the ones receiving assistance, in this case, from the American Red Cross.
More than a year earlier, when Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, the Pichardos, who lived in Woodhaven, Queens, were lucky enough to be spared the worst of the storm. Nevertheless, they knew that the New York City community at large was in dire need of assistance.
Juan, a building manager in Manhattan, and Adriana, a social worker in Queens County, helped to set up and organize a temporary distribution center at P.S. 42 in Rockaway. Juan reached out a number of organizations, among others, the Red Cross, FEMA, the NYPD and the National Guard.
He said of the Red Cross, “The Red Cross volunteers came in, and set up every day in preparation for when the kids got out of school. This ensured that the kids would always have a hot meal to eat. That was awesome.”
Then, disaster caught up with the Pichardos. At the end of January, the apartment building where they’d lived for over eight years was destroyed by an electrical fire that began in a neighbor’s apartment.
Adriana was rousted from the shower by her 16-year-old son, Juan Jr, banging on the bathroom door. She threw on some clothes, grabbed their small dog and they left the house. The flames had almost reached their door, and the dog’s fur smelled of smoke.
Adriana was shaken. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, I came out with my life!’” she said. “It really hit me. You’re not thinking when it happens—you just run.”
She said seeing the Red Cross was very reassuring. “The Red Cross responder who helped us was wonderful, just wonderful.”
Juan arrived home shortly thereafter. The Red Cross provided the family with temporary lodgings and a debit card for food and clothing.
“You can have everything at one moment and lose everything at the snap of a finger, Juan said. “I’m so grateful. I don’t know what we would have done without the Red Cross; I want to thank them for helping us.”
For Juan and Adriana, nothing could be more important than giving back to the community and seeing it flourish. And in their own time of need, the Red Cross was there for them.