By Aunshuman Apte, American Red Cross
For Milford residents Joyce Milne and Lucian Terranova, the year 2017 has a special significance. This year, the American Red Cross is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its Milford, Connecticut chapter and, as long-time Red Cross volunteers, both are proud to be part of its legacy.
The Milford Chapter of the American Red Cross received its charter on February 3, 1917. Its first major mission was to produce and deliver supplies for the wounded soldiers who were fighting in the US-Mexican Border War and World War I. By the end of these wars in 1919, the Milford Chapter had made more than 10,000 garments and 500,000 surgical dressings to the front. That same year, the Red Cross also began hosting First Aid classes in Milford. Swimming lessons began at Gulf Beach and Milford Town Beach (Silver Sands) in 1928. After assisting victims of severe flooding in 1936 and the 1938 hurricane, Milford volunteers swung into action to form its first official disaster relief operations committee.
The Milford Chapter’s contribution during World War II was also significant. In 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, local volunteers, mostly women, from the Red Cross Motor Corps launched round-the-clock service to transport National Guard personnel to their designated positions in the area. Sewing and knitting resumed again when quotas on the production of patient and hospital supplies were imposed. Milford also sent volunteers (Gray Ladies and Nurses Aides) to help at Milford Hospital and the military hospital (now the VA Hospital) in West Haven.
In the decades following World War II, the chapter participated in all major Red Cross initiatives. In the late ‘70s, the Milford Chapter started offering CPR classes to the community. These were later extended to two high schools in the early ‘80s. The chapter also participated in the Waiting Wives program, providing support to the wives and families of active duty servicemen. Through the Youth Emergency Service (YES) program, launched in 1975, the Red Cross partnered with Milford Mental Health and Youth Services to help runaway children. It was eventually incorporated into the Youth Services Program run by the City of Milford.
In the last two decades, the Milford Chapter’s key contributions ranged from disaster relief during major hurricanes like Katrina, Irene and Sandy, to having blood drives
somewhere in the city almost every week. In one notable instance, Reverend Andrew Osmun, a chapter volunteer went to Ground Zero after the terror attacks of 9/11, and as a Red Cross Chaplain, provided spiritual care to the rescue workers of that tragedy. In 2009, the Milford Chapter was merged with other local chapters to form the Connecticut-Rhode Island Region of the American Red Cross. After serving as the location for different Red Cross functions for several years, the Milford office located at 1 Plymouth Place is now the headquarters for disaster operations for the New Haven and Middlesex areas. Along with ongoing programs like CPR, Blood Drives, and First Aid classes, volunteers also help during fires, providing immediate needs assistance to those who are impacted by the fires. The Red Cross is also providing and installing smoke alarms for free and providing safety education to thousands of local homes and businesses through the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign: www.redcross.org/local/connecticut/home-fire-safety.
Rehabilitation work from Superstorm Sandy also continues. In 2016, the City of Milford won the ‘American Red Cross Community Resilience Hero Award’ in recognition of the town’s recovery efforts in the aftermath of that storm. To commemorate the Red Cross centennial year in Milford, Mayor Benjamin Blake, who as a child took swimming lessons offered by Red Cross in Milford, issued a proclamation honoring the contribution to the community by the Red Cross.
Joyce Milne and Lucian Terranova are among dozens of volunteers from the area who are tirelessly working to make all this happen. Joyce’s association with Milford Red Cross started in the early ‘70s as a First Aid and then CPR instructor. Over the period spanning more than four decades, Joyce served in numerous capacities, responding to local disasters like the floods in 1982, Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and more recently to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. She served on the Board of Directors, was a chapter chair and headed the chapter’s fundraising efforts for many years. Lucian Terranova joined Red Cross in 2001 as a tribute to his late mother who also was a dedicated Red Cross volunteer. Along with responding to local needs, Lucian’s most important contributions were during Hurricane Katrina. While on Red Cross deployment to Houston, Texas, Lucian ran a relief shelter for 27,000 displaced residents. He is currently serving as a volunteer partner to the Chief Administrative Officer for the Connecticut and Rhode Island Region and is a member of the board of directors. He is also helping Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other local agencies to maintain accurate data for Sandy rehabilitation projects.
Both Joyce and Lucian feel gratified about what Red Cross has done for the Milford community. Joyce says that through American Red Cross, local volunteers like her are able to make effective contributions to their community and country, while also fulfilling the Red Cross mission of alleviating human suffering. As for Lucian, he is excited to think about possibilities and challenges that the next hundred years would likely bring — for the American Red Cross and for its dedicated foot soldiers in Milford.