As Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast of the U.S. mainland, preparations were underway to get volunteers out on assignment to help with relief efforts. Although the severity of the damage was yet to be determined, it was evident that New York and New Jersey would need a great deal of help as they are one of the most densely populated areas in the U.S.
A call out was made to volunteers to go out on assignment. Veteran Red Cross volunteer and retired educator Joe Jetnil responded to the call and was ready to fly out with just a 12-hour window before departure. Jetnil is no stranger to disaster relief missions as he has taken part in several deployments in the past, including the Sept. 11 attacks and the California wild fires. Assigned to New Jersey, Jetnil’s role as a supervisor for Mass Care involves distributing items to victims throughout the area. Jetnil is scheduled to return from his three-week assignment this weekend.
Another senior volunteer, Claudina Atalig, also responded to the call for help. A longtime employee of PHI Pharmacy, Atalig devotes much of her time to helping out with the Red Cross and other voluntary organizations. Atalig recognized her employer for being extremely supportive of her desire to help the community at home and abroad. She said that Bruce Cohen of PHI is very encouraging and accommodating, allowing her to go out on assignment and to make a difference.
“I have been so fortunate that the company I work for believes in the value of giving back to the community, and without their help and support, I would never be able to do what I do for the Red Cross” said Atalig.
Atalig is currently keeping a journal of her experiences in New Jersey. She recounts that aside from the bone-chilling weather, they have made significant headway with assisting clients in her assigned area.
“Family services have been sending my team and other teams to the warehouse to assemble supplies and do bulk distribution. Today, I went out and did bulk distribution in South River-16 pallets of supplies. Back-breaking I tell you,” she said. “Tomorrow, I’ll be at Tinton Falls to do distribution...that’s if the game does not change by morning as it has these past few days.”
Gilbert Muña, another longtime Red Cross volunteer, was also deployed to the New York area to assist with recovery efforts. This is Muña’s first deployment and has been an eye-opening experience.
“I can’t believe how bad it is out here,” said Muña. “It is freezing and people are without power…these folks have it really bad here.”
Muña has been assigned to many different areas from Coney Island to Queens. He will be on a three-week assignment and is expected to return the first week of December.
Here at home, volunteers have responded to a very different situation. A plane crash that occurred on Monday led to the activation of the Disaster Mental Health team composed of Janet McCullough, Lynn Corella, and Anne Erhard. Within minutes of notification, Red Cross staff and volunteers were on scene both at the airport and the hospital. The DMH team did a fantastic job providing emotional care and support to the survivors, families, and coworkers of the crash. On Monday, the day of the incident, DMH volunteers worked a 12-hour shift together with Commonwealth Health Center social workers to help address the needs of the victims.
The Red Cross also met with hospital staff, the Marianas Visitors Authority, tour agents, and other key players to assist with emotional care and support of the victims and their families. ARC provided cots and beddings for inbound family members should they choose to stay at the hospital. Other arrangements are being made to help bring comfort to the victims as they receive treatment at CHC. All efforts are being made to ensure that cultural accommodations and considerations are addressed accordingly.
The DMH team continued providing services on Tuesday to the victims as well. On Wednesday, the DMH team will be visiting with Commonwealth Ports Authority’s ARFF personnel to help address any needs they may have as a result of their experience.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, the Red Cross would like to extend heartfelt and sincere thanks to the many volunteers and donors who give up their valuable time and resources to help those in need! The services provided by the Red Cross are only possible because of the generosity of volunteers and donors that continue to support the cause.
Happy Thanksgiving CNMI from the Red Cross family! (ARC)