Fearless and possibly foolish

Red Cross volunteer Claudia Kelly, on the  ground responding to Superstorm Sandy, sends us “Greetings from New York City”:

I’m halfway through my third week on this operation. I started in Mass Care Sheltering, and was sent to manage a shelter in Glen Cove, Nassau County, Long Island during and immediately after the storm. I had the chance to work with some fabulous people there. Our shelter population stayed small, ranging from 3 to 18 residents, but many community members stopped by during the day to charge their phones and to escape their powerless and increasingly cold homes. A group of Seniors joined us to eat one afternoon (this was a few days into my super effective all-cold-sandwich diet), and they had so much fun that several of them registered as shelter guests and proceeded to stay up all night laughing, chatting, and watching DVDs.

It’s a small Red Cross world: Claudia Kelly (right) bumped into Choua Yang (left), another disaster responder from Minnesota, while working at the Red Cross headquarters in New York City. (Seeing friends during disaster response is nice.)

Later, some shelter consolidation took place and I joined the staff of an 800-resident mega shelter at the Nassau County Community College just before Election Day. The state Board of Elections brought in absentee ballots for the residents, and Best Buy provided TVs, computers and WiFi hotspots so they could follow the election results. (Over at the staff shelter, we were all just exhausted and went right to sleep.) The mega shelter had many other amenities as well: a free laundry service, a medical clinic, a cell phone charging and loan station, and a supervised children’s play area. Nevertheless, a population that large is chaotic. Several residents were transferred to hospitals, including one in full labor who gave birth to a baby boy (+1 to shelter count since Mom was still registered!).

After two weeks in Sheltering I transferred to Client Casework, which is based out of Operation Headquarters at the New York City Red Cross office building.  I’ve been on Staten Island for the past few days representing the Red Cross at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center near the shore.  There was a tremendous amount of damage there, and our presence seems meaningful as a validation of the incredible loss the community has suffered. I am being sent to a different area tomorrow, as I am among the fearless and possibly foolish few who are willing to take on New York City driving, and another team’s driver is having a day off. Traffic here is truly abysmal, as some of the tunnels remain closed, and many streets in Lower Manhattan are clogged with recovery trucks and trailers.  But that’s only half the fun: New York City drivers are an aggressive lot. I’m working on my swerve technique in hopes that defensive driving becomes an Olympic sport in Rio in 2016.

Hope to see you all soon back in Minnesota.


Field Photos: Sheldon Checks In From Sandy

Red Cross volunteers Sheldon Bruce and Lori Olsson deployed to Superstorm Sandy days ago–how many? (Too many to remember.) They drove a Red Cross emergency response truck 1,200 miles from Minnesota to New York and since then they’ve been busy handing out hot meals and relief supplies to people in devastated areas. We’re grateful for the work that Sheldon and Lori are doing. Here, through Sheldon’s eyes, we share with you a bit of what they’re experiencing.

A street after flood waters receded.
Families wait for meals and supplies from a Red Cross disaster relief truck.
Red Cross disaster relief workers at their temporary home-sweet-home accommodations.
Red Cross trucks waiting to refuel.
Beach front damage.
Clean out after the flood.
Loading Papa John’s.
Delivering clean up kits in affected neighborhoods.

Sandy Postcard From Choua

Greetings from Greater New York, Superstorm Sandy Aftermath Followed by Nor’easter, November 7, 2012

Hello from Greater New York,

I’ve been going out doing Disaster Assessment (DA). There are so many homes affected and or destroyed by the storm. DA is on hold right now due to the snow mix with rain. Based on the data that we collected, upper managements are planning to deliver supply of goodies to those affected areas. Yesterday, I went to eat with my team and our server asked where we were from. One of the teammates told her that we are with Red Cross and the server just broke down and cried. She was very grateful and happy that we were there for her community. She thanked us for leaving our families and friends to come help out.  It was such an amazing experience  with this disaster response so far. I am so happy and proud to be Red Crosser!!!


Choua Yang is one of 5,700 or so Red Cross disaster relief workers responding to Superstorm Sandy. (Around 50 are from Minnesota.) 90 percent of Red Cross responders are volunteers. You can help support Red Cross humanitarian disaster relief.

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