From record-breaking flooding and daily home fires, to a blood shortage and the ongoing pandemic, the past 11 and a half months brought an array of complex emergencies to our region and our country. But throughout 2021, with the support of volunteers, partners and donors, the American Red Cross in Greater NY was there to help our neighbors when they needed it most.
“A myriad of emergencies and disasters put the Red Cross to the test in 2021,” said Mary Barneby, Regional CEO, American Red Cross in Greater NY. “The compassion and professionalism exhibited by our teams to support our fellow residents, as well as the resiliency of the communities we serve, has been truly inspiring.”
In 2021, Greater NY experienced the biggest disaster to strike the area since Superstorm Sandy in 2012. In early September, a historic deluge caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit New York City, the Lower Hudson Valley, Long Island and Connecticut, upending tens of thousands of lives. In response, Red Cross teams jumped into action to help.
Since September 1, 2021, the American Red Cross in Greater New York has:
- Helped provide safe shelter, at congregate and non-congregate facilities, to 1,162 residents across NYC, Long Island and Westchester County.*
- Provided 12,682 meals and snacks.
- Distributed 5,592 clean-up kits and 456 comfort kits (toiletries).
- Provided 1,907 health, spiritual care and/or emotional support contacts.
- Activated 491 volunteers and employees from 30 states.
* Number includes hotels in NYC provided with the support of city partners.
“There was a very genuine sense of gratitude,” Red Cross volunteer Sergey Pigach said of the storm victims he met while canvassing a hard-hit Staten Island neighborhood. “One of the residents who opened the door, she was an older woman…I said, ‘Hi, we’re with the Red Cross, we just wanted to give you this clean-up kit.’ She smiled and said, ‘Oh my God, I love this country!’ Because she felt like she was cared for.”
Every single day throughout the year, more localized yet equally traumatic disasters forced families from their homes. After 2,294 emergencies in Greater NY (as of December 10, 2021) — including home fires, building collapses, and other emergencies. Red Cross volunteers provided housing, financial assistance and/or access to trained mental-health professionals offering emotional support.
This support was a lifeline for residents like Cesarina Nunez and her daughter, who were forced from their Yonkers apartment building, along with hundreds of their neighbors, after a fire in January.
“The Red Cross made us feel welcome at the hotel and made us feel that we were not alone,” said Nunez, who had been afraid she might have to sleep in her car. “Without what the Red Cross did for me, I would not have been able to cope.”
The Red Cross also helped prepare local families for emergencies. Team members installed free smoke alarms, provided readiness education and taught lifesaving skills like First Aid and CPR.
Beyond the Greater NY region, severe weather battered communities from Louisiana to Washington state. And when needed, Greater NY Red Cross volunteers deployed to affected areas, putting their lives on hold for weeks to support victims of relentless hurricanes in the Gulf and historic wildfires out West.
At the request of the federal government, Red Cross team members, including several from New York, also deployed to sites around the US to support an effort to help Afghan evacuees arriving at U.S. military bases and unaccompanied children seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. As part of this response, the Red Cross distributed more than 2.1 million essential and comfort items — including blankets, diapers, medicine and toys.
And throughout 2021 the Red Cross continued to adapt its activities to the ongoing pandemic to ensure the safety of the individuals the organization serves as well as its relief workers. For their efforts, Red Cross volunteers were invited to march in the NYC Hometown Heroes Parade in July, honoring those who have supported their communities during COVID-19.
The pandemic also played a role in straining the nation’s blood supply, resulting in a critical need for donations nationwide. To meet the increasing needs of hospital patients, the Red Cross distributed 250,000 more blood products in 2021 than last year, until the delta variant began to spread in August, causing a slowdown in donations. There were also fewer blood drives at schools and colleges due to COVID concerns, contributing to a 34% drop in new blood donors from last year — one of the largest year-to-year decreases with the potential to threaten essential medical care for patients. In response, our neighbors in Greater NY rolled up their sleeves to give 7477 units of the lifesaving gift since January 1, 2021.
In 2021, the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program remained a priority as volunteers supported military communities across the country. Over the past 11 months, American Red Cross in Greater NY provided hundreds of services to veterans, active service members and their families.