The Nassau County Chapter of The American Red Cross has been helping county residents for almost 100 years. Most people equate its unequaled emergency assistance with major catastrophes such as hurricanes and floods. Many dont know the Red Cross comes to the rescue in any type of event where people are displaced, chapter CEO Frank Cassano said during a recent open house at its Mineola office.
During fiscal year 2007-08, the chapter responded to more than 137 house fires and provided more than $150,000 to displaced clients for food, clothing, bedding, housing, and medication. After police and firefighters, the Red Cross emergency response vehicle is the next to arrive. In addition to providing food, blankets, and other necessities, it offers volunteers at the scene who are experienced in providing mental health services, a crucial benefit for a family that has just lost everything. It already has responded to more than 200 incidents this year.An early Red Cross uniform.
Working with the Office of Emergency Management, the agency received a grant to develop a plan to establish 20 evacuation shelters, including mega sites at three Nassau locales. These sites house shipping containers that would be turned into shelters during a major catastrophe. Waiting at a climate-controlled warehouse are 200,000 meals ready to eat and 40,000 kosher meals that would be delivered within 48 hours.
Norma Himler, RN, a former PACU head nurse, was a volunteer with the Red Cross when she was in high school. Upon retiring, she returned full time. Her job entails ensuring the agencys disaster kits are stocked and up to date and that volunteers are physically able to do the job they sign up to do.
Himler also gives talks at hospitals, schools, and health fairs on everything from disaster preparedness to avoiding the flu. Im very big on hand washing, she says. During one of her talks with students, Himler was asked how much she got paid. I said I get paid right here, pointing to her heart.The Nassau County chapter sent a team of volunteers down to New Orleans in this emergency response vehicle to help after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
The chapter is the only one in the country that has a working partnership with USA Swimming, which is part of the Olympics. The program under way at Hempstead (N.Y) High School is teaching students to be lifeguards. Other services include the Holocaust Tracing Project, which aids in uniting survivors with lost family members, and Service to the Armed Forces, in which The Red Cross offers 24-hour emergency communication services to deployed service members on behalf of their families. Whether it is the birth of a child or grandchild, the death of a loved one, or a family emergency, the Red Cross gets the message through.