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Superstorm Sandy: How Can I Help?

Hurricane Sandy - Staten Island 2012
Red Crosser, Paul Nolte, in an Emergency Response Vehicle provides a meal for Staten Islander, Nancy Giammarino, with a smile.

I AM the Red Cross in my community and yours. Together we are working to provide disaster relief for people affected by what is being called one of the largest disasters in the history of the United States, Hurricane Sandy. The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

Part of my role as a Communicator for the Red Cross is to monitor social media and be a source of information for people. As I watch the tweets and listen to the incoming calls from the Volunteer call center across the room, I see and hear so many people who want to physically help or who want to donate items. The compassion for their neighbors makes me proud to be part of the response in this community. It’s amazing to see! It’s also very hard to tell people that they need to contact the correct agencies before they just make that donation or jump in a car and drive the few miles over to help. I would never for a minute want to sound ungrateful for the outpouring of help that is incoming during a time of need. So here is my answer to the question I have seen at least once a day and heard too many times to count.

Why can’t I help?

You can. The need is not going to end this week, next week, or even next month. The need won’t even end this year. I speak not only to this disaster, but to others as well. You can help and all it takes is being prepared and being patient. I have a badge with an ID number that says I have been through training to become a Red Cross Disaster Responder. Classes are held on a regular basis all over the country so that when a disaster occurs, Red Cross is ready to deploy. Currently there are over 3000 Volunteers working on the relief efforts across several states. These people are trained to be first on scene and set up shelters. There is a very specific set of needs that are met by The Red Cross, as you can see on the American Red Cross website. If you are trained, you will be called based on your skill set, matching you with the needs to be met. I encourage you all to contact your local chapter and find out how you can become Red Cross trained!

So if you are not affiliated with an agency currently and you want to help, here is where the patience comes in. Speaking specifically to the need on the East Coast, this is going to be a long term recovery project. The communities will still need you next week or the week after. The agencies that organize the help can be found online and those agencies are asking that you contact them and wait to be called. One of the best resources I have found is from FEMA (http://www.fema.gov/volunteer-donate-responsibly) it is really easy to understand.

Do not be discouraged if you don’t get a call right away. There will be plenty to do. In the meantime if you are willing and able to do one thing, make a donation. Find a legitimate source to give even $10.00 and know that you helped make a difference. Visit www.redcross.org to donate to disaster relief with the American Red Cross, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to the number 90999.