At a virtual ceremony on Thursday, November 19, 2020, the American Red Cross in Greater NY recognized the contributions of more than 50 of their outstanding volunteers. The annual event took place online for the first time due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“I applaud each of our volunteers who share of themselves to help communities prepare for and recover from life-changing emergencies here in our region and beyond. Their compassion and dedication during this unprecedented year has been nothing short of heroic,” said Mary Barneby, Regional CEO, American Red Cross in Greater NY.
Speaking to volunteers at the event via a recorded message, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio said, “If ever there was ever a year where NYC knew the value of volunteers, it was 2020. On behalf of the City of New York, I want to congratulate you who are being celebrated tonight. Red Cross volunteers bring our communities together.”
Approximately 5000 volunteers support the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross in Greater New York, which includes New York City, Long Island, Westchester and Rockland counties and Greenwich Connecticut. Every year the Red Cross responds to more than 2000 local disasters across the region offering emergency relief like shelter, food and comfort to those affected.
During this historic hurricane and wildfire season, more than 150 volunteers have put their lives on hold and traveled far from home to lend a hand.
“Whether in our region or across the country, the Red Cross spirit and commitment to mission is what brings together all of our volunteers to help communities after disaster big and small,” added Barneby.
This event celebrated the extraordinary achievements of volunteers who respond to disasters, support military communities, prepare residents for the unexpected, help reconnect families separated by war and natural disasters, and help collect lifesaving blood.
TOP AWARD RECIPIENTS
The evening culminated with presentation of the Clara Barton Honor Awards for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership, the highest recognition for volunteers. This award is named after the American Red Cross founder, Clara Barton, and recognizes remarkable volunteers for their service in a number of leadership positions.
- NYC Clara Barton Award Recipient: Shirley Leung (Queens, NY..) - Leung uses her information management skills to support Red Cross disaster relief. As part of her work, she leverages data management and GIS mapping expertise to help the Red Cross assess damage and better deliver relief to communities impacted by emergencies. Her work has also supported the Red Cross COVID-19 response, hurricane relief in southern US. states, as well as wildfire relief out West.
- Long Island Clara Barton Award Recipient: Dr. Thomas Hlenski (Huntington, N.Y.) - Hlenski leads mental health services for the Red Cross in the region which entails providing emotional support to residents impacted by local disasters. He has also worked through the COVID crisis to support local families who have lost loved ones to the virus and, more broadly, has provided coping support for the community. He has also provided mental health support virtually following historic wildfires out West.
- Metro NY North Clara Barton Award Recipient: Diane Calesso (Dobbs Ferry, NY..) – Calesso works countless hours behind the scenes to support and coordinate the organization’s response to disasters in Westchester County, Rockland County and Greenwich, Conn. This includes the provision of emergency relief like temporary housing, food, financial assistance, mental health support and more.