American Red Cross in Greater New York Podcast
Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria

October 15, 2021

On Sept. 20, 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by one of our country’s most destructive natural disasters ever, Hurricane Maria.  In this episode, we hear from Red Cross team members who were on the front lines of the response to this storm, as well as two news reporters who covered the storm’s impact and aftermath—all of whom have a personal connection to the island. They recall the devastation and overwhelming challenges they witnessed,  along with the spirit and resiliency of the Puerto Rican people. 

The following individuals are featured:

  • Gaby Acevedo is a reporter at NBC4 New York and Telemundo 47. He was on a special assignment in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria made landfall and covered the storm’s aftermath in the days and months that followed.    
  • Steven Colon serves as Disaster Program Manager with the American Red Cross National Capitol and Greater Chesapeake Region. Colon, who is half Puerto Rican, deployed to the island from New York, where he lived at the time, for six weeks to support recovery efforts.
  • Nelson Lopez is a volunteer with the American Red Cross in Puerto Rico as well as a social worker. Lopez, who was personally affected by the storm, supported the Red Cross response as part of their Disaster Mental Health team.   
  • Lisa Mateo is a reporter at Bloomberg Business. Working for PIX11 at the time, Mateo, who is Puerto Rican, traveled to the island in December of 2017 to shed a light on response efforts and to talk directly to the people to hear what they were going through.
  • Winnie Romeril is a volunteer with the American Red Cross Western NY Region. In her time with the Red Cross, she has deployed to disasters across the country and around the world—including the 2010 Haiti earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan (2013) in the Philippines. Romeril deployed to Puerto Rico with the Red Cross about three weeks after landfall to capture stories about recovery efforts on the island. 

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Producer & Host: Michael de Vulpillieres 
Editors: Chi Kong Lui and Olivia Kozlevcar
Writer: Barbara Gaynes

September 11

September 11

August 26, 2021

In this episode, American Red Cross volunteers who were inspired to join the organization in the wake of the horrific 9/11 attacks, recall that fateful day 20 years ago and recount their experiences helping others. These everyday heroes give a voice to all who worked to provide healing and hope to fellow Americans. Each remains an active member of the Red Cross today, continuing to help those in need in their New York communities and beyond:

  • Lumber-yard worker Sal Montoro of Syosset, N.Y., brought and distributed building materials at Ground Zero in the days and weeks after the attacks. He joined the American Red Cross on Long Island in January of 2002. 
  • Richard Sanford, a teacher from Brooklyn, N.Y., helped transport volunteers from the Red Cross headquarters in Brooklyn to the Financial District. He joined the American Red Cross in Greater NY on September 13, 2001.
  • Carmela Grande, a Manhattan nurse, made beds at a relief center for exhausted first responders and provided a comforting presence to victims’ families. She joined the American Red Cross in Greater New York in November of 2001.
  • Georgine Gorra, a social worker from Brooklyn, N.Y. provided emotion support to families, first responders and fellow volunteers. She joined the American Red Cross in Greater New York September 11, 2001.

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Producers & Hosts: Olivia Kozlevcar and Michael de Vulpillieres 
Editors: Olivia Kozlevcar and Chi Kong Lui
Photo: Daniel Cima

The Northeast Blackout of 2003

The Northeast Blackout of 2003

August 12, 2021

Today, we’ll remember one of the most widespread power outages in recent memory, an emergency that put our great City to the test. 

On a warm late summer afternoon 18 years ago this week, all of a sudden, it seemed as though the world went dark. On August 14, 2003, the Northeastern US and parts of Southeastern Canada, an area with a population of 50 million people, lost power. In NYC it would last more than 24 hours.  

The summer heat, hours without electricity, communications disruptions, and memories of 9/11 brought with it a host of worries and hazards. But New York City came together.

In this episode we’ll be hearing from some of the agencies and organizations, including the Red Cross, tasked with keeping New Yorkers safe and informed. 

The following individuals are featured in the episode:

  • Robert McGrath, volunteer, American Red Cross in Greater NY
  • Sharon Hawa, former employee, American Red Cross in Greater NY
  • Thomas J. Richardson, Chief of Department, FDNY
  • Glenn Schuck, 1010WINS reporter

News Clips: NBC Nightly News, Eyewitness News ABC7NY

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Producer & Host: Michael de Vulpillieres
Editor: Mackenzie Lynch
Story Editor: Chi Kong Lui

Hurricanes to COVID-19, A Lifetime of Red Cross Service Around the World

Hurricanes to COVID-19, A Lifetime of Red Cross Service Around the World

July 29, 2021

Dr. Joseph Prewitt Diaz is a pioneer in the field of disaster mental health with decades of international and domestic field experience following disasters. In his time with the American Red Cross he has supported 52 domestic deployments across the US. Internationally, he has worked in 29 different countries with the organization.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Dr. Prewitt Diaz is a highly-accredited educational psychologist with degrees from the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Connecticut, and the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.

In this final episode of our second season we discuss how his long and accomplished Red Cross career led him to a unique role supporting vulnerable communities dealing with the pandemic. 

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Producer & Host: Michael de Vulpillieres
Editor: Mackenzie Lynch

Stepping Up to Volunteer in the Middle of COVID-19 Pandemic

Stepping Up to Volunteer in the Middle of COVID-19 Pandemic

March 18, 2021

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an outpouring of interest from residents seeking out new ways to give back to their communities. Vanessa Diez, from Yonkers, N.Y., is a full time student pursuing her master’s in public administration/emergency management and a full time social worker, helping immigrant youth in NYC. She is a remarkable young woman who, despite a busy schedule,  made it a priority to serve through the American Red Cross as a volunteer. She recently joined the Red Cross and just graduated from our Disaster Action Team Academy, a specialized training program for our volunteer leaders. In this conversation, she talked about her passion for helping others and her work with the Red Cross providing assistance to individuals affected by local emergencies during the pandemic.

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Producer & Host: Michael de Vulpillieres

Serving Military Communities During COVID-19

Serving Military Communities During COVID-19

November 11, 2020

Our military communities sacrifice so much in “ordinary” times, but COVID-19 has brought new anxiety and uncertainty to their unique situations. For nearly 140 years, the American Red Cross has been there for active and retired service members and their families at every stage of service. During the pandemic, we have adapted our work to these trying times.

This Red Cross program goes by the name of Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) and takes many different forms in communities and on military installations across the US and on bases all over the world.

Katherine Jones, Asia-Pacific Division Manager for the American Red Cross Service to Armed Forces Program, supports military men and women at Yokota Air Base outside of Tokyo, Japan. In this short podcast discussion, she discusses the many different ways she supports service members overseas 24/7, 365 days a year. She also talks a her unique history with the Red Cross and her commitment to service.

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Producer & Host: Michael de Vulpillieres

Hurricane Relief During Coronavirus

Hurricane Relief During Coronavirus

September 13, 2020

Join us and get trained during this active disaster season to support families affected by emergencies across the country and right here in NY. Sign up here: www.redcross.org/volunteertoday

When 22-year-old, recent college grad Nick Montoro learned that he could assist on the ground in Louisiana, shortly after Hurricane Laura made landfall, he immediately raised his hand and volunteered to help, a decision that made his father, Sal Montoro, very proud. His dad Sal is a longtime volunteer who has dedicated a big part of his life to service through the Red Cross. In our conversation, Nick discusses what he is seeing and doing in some of the hardest hit areas, the experience of deploying for hurricane relief during a pandemic, and the importance, to his family, of giving back.

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Producer & Host: Michael de Vulpillieres
Editor: Chi Kong Lui

Kids, Coronavirus and Preparedness

Kids, Coronavirus and Preparedness

June 23, 2020

From inconvenience to economic strain to emotional drain, COVID-19 has complicated life for us all. But the impact on young kids and their parents is unique. Kids are coping with confusion, sadness, worry and at times loneliness brought on by this strange and stressful moment. Parents are dealing with their children’s anxiety and their own concerns, all while juggling the new roles forced upon them by the pandemic. For this episode of the podcast, we’ll be talking about kids, coronavirus and preparedness. We will hear from three different Red Cross experts who will discuss the emotional impact that COVID-19 is having on kids and ways parents can help keep their kids safe during this crisis and prepared for future emergencies.

  • Alec Cecil is a psychologist, formerly with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and currently at Montefiore Medical Center. He works primarily with underserved adolescents and young adults, as well as their families. With the Red Cross, Alec supports our Disaster Mental Health and Service to the Armed Forces teams.
  • Jason Lyons leads our preparedness programs at the American Red Cross in Greater NY. Jason is also the father of a young baby girl who was born early during the pandemic.
  • Alex Poku, a five-year Red Cross volunteer, teaches kids how to prepare for emergencies and how to cope when disasters occur.

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Producer & Host: Michael de Vulpillieres
Editor: Will Wu

Coronavirus: Helping Residents Displaced by Local Disasters During a Global Pandemic

Coronavirus: Helping Residents Displaced by Local Disasters During a Global Pandemic

April 10, 2020

Losing your home and all your belongings to a fire or other disaster is incredibly traumatic but imagine being confronted with such loss and uncertainty in the middle of a global pandemic. That’s what makes the work of Red Cross team members, who come to the aid of these individuals, so critical. As this coronavirus crisis has evolved, the Red Cross has adapted the way we respond to local disasters with new safety measures including remote casework and registration, social distancing in the field and the use of face masks. But we are still providing critical relief.

For this podcast episode we interviewed longtime Red Cross volunteer Phil Cogan. Phil works as a dispatcher for the Red Cross, helping to coordinate disaster relief behind the scenes, in our Emergency Communications Center, or ECC. The ECC normally operates out of our Hell’s Kitchen Headquarters but because of COVID19, this work is now done remotely. Phil discusses how the Red Cross currently responds to these local emergencies that are still occurring every day and shares some of the types of calls he is receiving from the general public.

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Producer & Editor: Will Wu
Host: Michael de Vulpillieres

Coronavirus: Coping with the Emotional Toll

Coronavirus: Coping with the Emotional Toll

March 30, 2020

We are bringing back our podcast for a few short coronavirus conversations. For our first episode, we spoke with long-time Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer Dr. Thomas Hlenski about emotional toll that this is having on us all and ways we can cope despite our unique and different circumstances.

In his role at the Red Cross, Tom draws on his work as an experienced mental health practitioner to help individuals cope with the fear, trauma and stress brought on by disasters. He does this work locally and at times he deploys to disasters outside our region like mass shooting and wildfires.

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Producer & Editor: Will Wu
Hosts: Michael de Vulpillieres and Andrew Sindell

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