“The stories are heartbreaking. People have lost everything.”
Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico more than a month ago, New Yorkers have done their part to help those suffering from the devastating aftermath of this historic storm. Help has come in many different forms and while more than 50 Red Cross employees and volunteers from the Greater NY region have put their lives on hold to travel to the US territory, other staff members have supported families arriving here in NYC from hurricane-affected regions.
Since October 11, 2017, as part of an effort led by the New York City, the American Red Cross in Greater NY has provided a host of services to thousands of individuals from Puerto Rico and other hurricane-ravaged regions.
“The stories are heartbreaking. People have lost everything,” said Chris Losavio, Regional Director of Client Services and Recovery, American Red Cross in Greater New York. “We are so glad to bring some comfort to them during what will most likely be a long recovery,” he said.
Initially, Red Cross teams were stationed at JFK JetBlue Terminal to provide information as well as health and mental-health support. Volunteers also distributed “comfort kits” containing basic hygiene items. In their first week at JFK the Red Cross met with 1200+ Puerto Ricans who had left the island.
On October 19, 2017 Red Cross support transitioned from JFK to a Service Center (Julia De Burgos Latino Cultural Center; 1680 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan) set up by New York City for recent arrivals affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Since then Red Cross teams have been staffing the Center seven days a week and meeting with about 75 families per day.
“Our primary role at the Service Center is health and mental health support. And since communication is still challenging so we are also helping families re-connect through our Safe and Well website,” said Losavio. “Many left their home with nothing so we are providing emergency supplies including warm clothing, baby formula and diapers,” he said. “We also help people connect to FEMA for the first time for critical services and assistance.”
And considering how the individual situation of each family varies, all Red Cross casework occurs one-on-one so volunteers can best tailor services to each household.
“One of the primary needs of the medical evacuees is getting their medical equipment and medication back and also helping them transfer their insurance,” said Losavio. “We are able to assist with this.”
Along with numerous NYC agencies, other organizations offering support at the Center include: Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, NY Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS) and CUNY.
Families can schedule appointments at the Service Center by calling 311.
For more information about the Center, click here.