Coping with a devastating home fire or another emergency is traumatic at any time of the year; during the holiday season it is bound to be even more distressing.
Although the American Red Cross supports residents affected by disaster 365 days a year, 24/7, its services hold particular meaning around the holidays. This season, through existing programs and special holiday initiatives, the Greater New York Red Cross is making an extra-special effort to help people who have suffered major losses during what is normally a joyous time.
“The thought of coping with the holidays after having recently suffered a tremendous loss like a home fire can be daunting,” said Josh Lockwood, Greater NY Red Cross CEO. “The hope is that we can help lift people’s spirits during this difficult time.”
On Saturday, December 14, the Greater NY Red Cross, in conjunction with the Hard Rock Café in Times Square, held its annual “Winter Wonderland” holiday party for families with young children who recently lost their homes to a fire. Dozens of families came out to the Hard Rock for food, games, face painting, music, celebrity guests, as well as gift bags for each of the children.
One attendee was Zekima Armstrong and her 12-year-old son, who lost their Brooklyn home to an electrical fire. "The fire happened when I was at work,” she said, “I pretty much lost everything.” She added, “Today is so fun. I always had Christmas at my house, so now I have to go somewhere else. This brought the Christmas spirit back!”
Hundreds of the same gift bags given out at the Hark Rock have been put aside for families with small children whose homes were destroyed in a fire or other emergency during the holidays. Greater New York caseworkers are giving those toys to residents.
Red Cross Superstorm Sandy case managers have been connecting families in need of holiday toys with local organizations and toy drives so that their children can enjoy a happier holiday. Additionally, the Greater New York Red Cross held its own holiday toy drive. Some 1,500 toys were collected and given to community-based agencies in Sandy-affected communities.
In just one example, late last month, the Red Cross, which has been helping Sandy-affected families throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn since the spring, delivered toys for Sandy families as part of a Hanukkah Toy Drive by Ansche Chesed, a synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Whether we’re supporting a Sandy family through a grant to a partner organization, or providing emotional support, shelter and funds for emergency needs to a family that’s lost its home to a fire, Red Cross assistance can become even more vital during the holidays.
Imeh Cuthbertson and her husband lost their Bronx apartment to a fire a week before Christmas. The Red Cross provided them with emergency housing, funds for food, clothing, and other basic necessities, and referrals to other agencies for further help.
“When I came in, I didn’t believe I’d have all this help,” Cuthbertson said. “I didn’t believe the Red Cross would give me a card to buy food—survival itself. But I have it; they’re the best.”
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 redcross.org/gny or visit us on Twitter at @RedCrossNY.