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We’re fast approaching the 4th holiday since Super Storm Sandy smacked the eastern seaboard.

11.12.12_NYC_Trip 037Affected residents, business owners and city, state and federal officials have been cleaning up through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and now through Christmas and New Years.

All the while, Red Cross volunteers have been there to support response, recovery and relief efforts. This is the largest response for the organization in 5 years and so far, the Red Cross has served more than 9 million meals and snacks, handed out more than 6.7 million relief items including cold weather items and clean up supplies, provided more than 103,000 health services and emotional support contacts for people living in very rough conditions and connected with more than 93,000 families and individuals to determine longer term recovery needs.

Here, in Southeastern Pennsylvania, we have been doing our part to assist this on-going response. We have deployed more than 30 volunteers and employees to New York and New Jersey to serve in a variety of ways. Some spent Halloween, Thanksgiving and/or Hanukkah away from family and loved ones to help provide comfort and relief to residents still recovering from Sandy.

MarcHenley

Just this week, our volunteer, Marc Henley packed his big red bag, put his finger aside of his nose and up to New York he rose to help spread some holiday cheer to families desperately in need. Marc specializes in Disaster Mental Health and will truly spread holiday cheer by providing emotional support to families over the Christmas holiday. When I saw that he was leaving, I couldn’t help but wonder if Old Saint Nick himself was playing a little trick on us and sending Marc on a very important mission. You see, Santa is a very busy elf this time of year and won’t have time to visit with families and provide hugs and a shoulder to lean on. He must be on his way to provide toys for all of the world’s good boys and girls, but Marc will be in New York to provide those hugs, the strong shoulder and time to support families still reeling from the trauma they’ve endured.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll think of Marc and our 4 other local volunteers spending the Christmas holiday in New York as I hang my stockings and set presents under my tree. I’ll think about how they will all be providing comfort, support and hopefully smiles to families and, for Marc, especially to a few little boys and girls in need of a longer visit from a jolly old elf.

Happy Holidays!

The words “Thank goodness for the Red Cross”  popped up in a text bubble on my phone early Wednesday morning. Yes, indeed, for so many reasons. What a week it’s been. Our job is to take care of the important stuff: shelter, food, comfort, survival. There has been a lot of work to do.

Currently, the Red Cross is sheltering close to 9,000 people in 171 Red Cross shelters across 13 states. Wow. . . Locally, close to 200 people (196) and 19 pets stayed the night in local SEPA Red Cross shelters in Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia Counties.

When I was in our offices last Thursday, I peeked in on a meeting of disaster preparedness personnel concerning the potential for a large hurricane to incapacitate the East Coast early the following week. At that point, the encounter between Sandy and the coast of New Jersey was still purely hypothetical and only one model was suggesting the storm would not turn safely out to sea. Even so, our staff was taking the situation seriously and beginning to make the preparations necessary to provide support and shelter should the worst case scenario occur. Thank goodness they did.

Needless to say, we’ve been moderately busy since then. At the height of the storm, we were ready with 14 shelters set up in five counties. We hosted a phone bank to answer storm related questions at a local television station. Tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, a Hurricane App and several media appearances by our CEO, Judge Renée Hughes, shared vital information with the citizens of Southeastern, Pennsylvania. We helped people prepare and they did. We encouraged them to “shelter in place” by staying home, staying off the streets and letting our public officials do their jobs. People listened and we made it through this.

For those who needed to evacuate, we provided warmth with blankets, food, shelter and the companionship of volunteers and others in the same situation. We take comfort seriously and believe it helps everyone weather the storm. And with comfort in mind, we are proud to say that Halloween celebrations went ahead for several of our younger guests at a shelter in Pleasantville, PA. Enjoy these pics of some great costumes and delicious candy!

Three woofs and a meow for the Red Paw Emergency Response Team!

 The goal of the Red Cross is to alleviate suffering. Our volunteers commit to helping all survivors of fire or natural disaster: human and animal.

Although we have more than a century of experience assisting humans, our commitment to help our beloved (and furry) companions is the work of an extraordinary Red Cross volunteer, Jennifer Leary. Jen is a Philadelphia fire fighter and long time emergency response volunteer with the Red Cross in our region.

After years of helping disaster victims, she became frustrated that there was not a system for helping their pets as well. Too often, she witnessed an injured animal left to suffer and sometimes die from lack of appropriate treatment, care and intervention.

In response, she started the Red Paw Emergency Relief Team. When a fire or other disaster occurs, first responders inform Red Paw of any pets on the scene. Red Paw arrives prepared to treat injuries, provide transportation to veterinary hospitals or simply provide shelter for pets whose owners are unable to do so after a fire or natural disaster.

This work is so important! Not only is it deeply humane, it recognizes the special bond between humans and their pets. Red Paw understands that a pet may have a significant role to play in its owner’s healthy recovery from a traumatic event. In addition, our domestic animals are totally dependent on human care for their survival. We should not abandon them in the face of disaster.

That’s why it’s fantastic that Red Paw now has 501c3 status as a non-profit and can raise money to support its work. Currently, Jen Leary’s home acts as a temporary shelter for canine and feline victims of disaster. Red Paw is trying to raise money to create a facility that will serve as a temporary shelter for our pets. They also need a space to rest and recuperate until they can rejoin their owners or be adopted by a new family.

Take note, all ye animal lovers! It’s time to raise funds! On June 22, from 8-11, Red Paw is holding a party at Finnegan’s Wake. Tickets will be $40 in advance and $45 at the door. Come celebrate Red Paw’s success and help it grow!

For more information on Red Paw or the beautiful animals pictured here follow this link.