Red Cross Disaster Response Puts it All in Perspective

By Jennifer Callahan, Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager, American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region

On Thursday, January 17, I was honored to be part of the Red Cross response to a partial building collapse in Meriden. The residents had been displaced the previous day and were housed by the City of Meriden. The City established a space at a local hotel where displaced residents could meet with Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers to assess other needs and provide some basic personal care items to the 17 families affected by the disaster.

The day was filled with surprises. Nothing can quite prepare you for the positive outlook some of our clients have, even in the face of such uncertainty. All of these families have lost belongings, some temporarily and some permanently. Each family is currently looking for a new place to live in the middle of the coldest winter in years. Disaster Action Team member Ginny Brezza and I met with a couple that has already been through a great deal of uncertainty and adversity. The gentleman has been facing many challenging health issues for over 20 years. He has conquered brain tumors for most of his life. This couple also has a 5-year-old son and a family who loves them very much. When Ginny and I complimented them on their positive outlook, they told us that when you’ve been through what they have been through, “this is nothing.” They had gone back into their apartment with a chaperone and retrieved the things that are impossible to replace: their wedding album, her grandmother’s engagement ring, her parents’ wedding album. They told us, “The rest is just stuff, and stuff can be replaced.” As we were wrapping up, we told the couple that we’re not worried about them at all, as their positive attitudes will surely carry the day for them. As our Red Cross team was leaving about an hour later, the gentleman was bringing two huge boxes of toys through the hotel lobby. When he saw us, he laughed and said, “See? We’re already getting presents!”

We had a rotating group of families in our Emergency Response Vehicle and at one point in the day volunteers Tom McKee, Ginny Brezza and I had a veritable comedy show going on. The clients appreciated our lightheartedness almost as much as we appreciated theirs. Sometimes a kind word or a laugh at just the right time makes all the difference.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to witness the caring and compassionate nature of our volunteers firsthand and I look forward to many more opportunities to do so. My eyes filled with tears more than a few times, which I will consider an occupational hazard.

A big thank you to volunteers Ginny Brezza, Andrew Curtis, Lionel Dunlap, John Glendon, Barbara LaFreniere, Tom McKee, Laurie Murphy and Area 2 (South Central Connecticut) Senior Emergency Services Director Sue Parker for their great teamwork!

Area 2 Senior Emergency Services Director Sue Parker’s team included volunteers from both Area 2 and 3 (Central and Northern Connecticut), who worked as one cohesive team and got the job done. The fact that we managed to have some laughs and to talk about the news of the day helped a great deal, but I know that was only possible because we have the world’s best volunteers. It is our volunteers who make us the greatest organization on earth. Thank you for stepping up day after day and night after night. We would be nothing without your dedication and we salute the sacrifices you make in the service of those in need.

Get involved! To learn more about Red Cross volunteering, click here.

Help Now: Become a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Volunteer

If you are a licensed mental health professional with a desire to help people, the American Red Cross has a fulfilling volunteer opportunity for you. Join us to support people who have been impacted by residential fires, disasters and other emergencies.

American Red Cross disaster response includes an important emotional support and mental health component aimed at helping people to cope with the emotionally difficult nature of disasters and to begin their own recovery.

There are a variety of ways to help and time commitments to choose from. The first step? Register and learn more here.

American Red Cross Helping One Person After Torrington Fire

The American Red Cross is helping one person with emergency housing, food and clothing needs after a fire earlier Monday on Griswold Street in Torrington.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy. 

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org 

American Red Cross Helping Seven People After Fires in New London, Danbury, Meriden

The American Red Cross is helping seven people after Saturday fires in New London, Danbury, Meriden.

The Red Cross is helping two adults with emergency housing, food and clothing needs after a fire Saturday night on Wayne Lane in Meriden.

In Danbury, the Red Cross is helping two adults with emergency housing, food and clothing needs after a Saturday afternoon fire on Peace Street in Danbury.

The Red Cross is helping three adults with emergency housing and food needs after a Saturday morning fire on Riverview Street in New London.

In all cases, the Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Helping Four People After New Britain Fire

The American Red Cross is helping a family of one adult and three children with emergency housing and food needs after a fire Thursday night on Seneca Street in New Britain.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy. 

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Helping Two People After Hartford Fire

The American Red Cross is helping two adults with emergency housing, food and clothing needs after a fire late Monday night on Bliss Street in Hartford.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire. Children’s kits include a stuffed toy.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers. For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

 

American Red Cross Helping Family of Five in Norwalk

The American Red Cross is helping a family of five – two adults and three children – with emergency food needs after a fire today on Glasser Street in Norwalk.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Helping 15 People After Weekend Fires in Bethel, New Haven

The American Red Cross is helping 15 people after weekend fires in Bethel and New Haven.

On Friday, two adults and one child were displaced after a fire on Granite Drive in Bethel. The Red Cross provided the family with help for emergency housing, food and clothing needs.

Twelve people – seven adults and five children in three families – were displaced by a fire Saturday on Edgewood Avenue in New Haven. The Red Cross provided emergency housing, food and clothing needs. Blankets were provided to the displaced families while they remained at the scene, due to the cold, wet weather.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy. 

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

Red Cross Helping 13 People After New Haven Fire

The American Red Cross is helping 13 adults in seven families after an early morning fire on Ellsworth Avenue in New Haven. The Red Cross is providing help with emergency housing and clothing needs. Food was provided to the residents while the Red Cross team worked to assess emergency needs.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy. 

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

Red Cross Helping Two People After New Haven Fire

The American Red Cross is helping two adults with emergency housing and food needs after an overnight fire on Steven Street in New Haven.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy. 

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.