American Red Cross Disaster Action Team Leader and Disaster Mental Health Specialist Danelle Stoppel is always on the short list of those to be sent to assist with national Red Cross responses. She’s referred to around our chapter as “Deployment Danelle.” She recently deployed to New York to assist with the Sandy response by providing essential mental health services to folks dealing with the aftermath of the superstorm.
Below is a compilation of messages and photos Danelle texted to our Director of Communications. It will be updated periodically until her return.
Arrived at Manhattan (Greater New York) Chapter Headquarters. It was wonderful to meet up with people I have worked with on other DRs (Disaster Responses). I have been assigned to the borough of Queens which includes several hard-hit areas. I will be meeting with my team tonight and tomorrow we have been assigned to the bulk distribution sites throughout our area. The atmosphere at Headquarters was upbeat, but for those who have been here for several weeks report they are exhausted and due to very low drives to and from work sites and desperate conditions in the hard hit areas.
Bulk distribution teams are now going door to door delivering clean up kits in Far Rockaway. We are working in teams with nurses as 1475 start coming in.
Spontaneous volunteers with car loads of clothes, etc. helping anyone in need in Far Rockaway.
Door to door clean up kits are being delivered to Rockaway residents. I am now working with bulk distribution on a team with nurses and mental health specialists.
I can’t talk about individual people, but it is very sad. People look like they have been in a war zone. I love being on the ground with real people. I miss everyon.
Tomorrow, I return to the same distribution site. Due to the lack of housing options, we are staying in Manhattan, only 20 miles from the worst natural disaster to hit New York. Being downtown close to Times Square, it’s hard to imagine that such widespread disaster exists. the leadership in NYC has made it easier for the Red Cross to function. Our vehicles do not pay tolls and there is a facility where we can fill up our vehicles for no cost. Our hotel is parking our vehicles at no cost. The amount of people focused on this disaster is evident in all areas of the city. The respect for the American Red Cross is evident when you speak with people and so many people have gone out of their way to thank me.
Saw Clifton (SEPA COO) this morning. He looked well rested and was attempting to control the crowd of people trying to out-process (leave the job).
I am working with a young man from Kentucky. He was emailed a newsletter from the American Association of marriage and family therapists asking for volunteers to work with the Red Cross. He applied and was quickly approved and arrived in New York City four days later. Talk about fast-tracked and bringing good people into the Red Cross…
Today, I partnered with an international agency called Heart to Heart and delivered mental health services to their clients. Many did not speak English and I interpreted for them. This part of Queens is home to many nationalities and cultures. Many families from Guatemala, Mexico and Puerto Rico sought medical advice due to lack of electricity which destroyed their daily supply of insulin. I heard a very comment that no one could believe this could happen in New York. Many people stayed in their homes until the water reached their porch. Perhaps the most distressing aspect is the impact of Sandy on senior citizens here and in New Jersey. Losing their homes and all their belongings has impacted them physically, economically and emotionally.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, but not in Coney Island. Some areas have no stores open. The people depend heavily on the Red Cross for one meal a day. There are many people of Russian descent who do not speak English.
Each day is a challenge and yesterday and today were more profoundly so. We were called to a high rise apartment in Brooklyn. There, we met with a mother of a 47 year old gentleman who has been severely disabled since nine years old and is wheelchair bound. He no longer has the use of his
legs and his left hand. Despite his physical limitations, he works as a lawyer in Manhattan. He lives on the fourth floor, and when the storm hit he was unable to leave his bed due to the loss of electricity. He was eventually hospitalized five days later due to hypothermia. He has returned home, but cannot function due to the loss of his van, which was lost to salt water erosion.
Today’s challenge was thirty senior citizens who lived on Coney Island. We evacuated them to a shelter in Brooklyn miles away
from their small neighborhood. They are seniors who are living independently with staff who assist them to remain independent. They are now living in a shelter in another building. They have no hot meals since they normally cook for themselves. While they are being assisted by personnel they know, they are crowded together in a strange part of New York where they know no one. We will be returning to assist them with the ongoing stress associated with the loss of their privacy and their community on Coney Island.
Hey, look who I ran into at 7:30…SEPA is in the house.
Noel and his team. Two days on this disaster response and Noel has again become the GO TO MAN. Philly is making a difference…..lending our best to Manhattan.
Finally we are together to share a meal…