2007-12-07 / Columnists

Cross Currents

Holiday Cheer From The Red Cross: Our Commitment Is to Continue To Help During The New Year
CommentaryBy Joan Foley Director, American Red Cross Of Greater New York - Queens

JOAN A.FOLEY JOAN A.FOLEY The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year to celebrate with family and friends. It also is the perfect time to reflect on what has taken place during the year and what we would like to accomplish as we flip the calendar to 2008.

Red Cross Reflections On 2007

While our numbers haven't yet been finalized for November, I can provide you with some information that explains how the Red Cross has supported Queens residents so far this year.

Through October 31, we have responded to 596 fires and other emergencies in the borough, assisting 2,344 adults and children with food, shelter and/or counseling following a disaster. Our largest response was the sixalarm fire in the six-story apartment house on 1056 Neilson Street in Far Rockaway, on the frigid early morning of Sunday, February 4.

Driven into the streets by the fast-moving fire, 171 Rockaway residents, of which 62 were children, received aid and comfort from more than 25 Red Cross volunteers and employees. We opened a reception center at nearby Intermediate School 53, where we served beverages, snacks, breakfast and lunch. Red Cross mental health workers provided counseling services and we distributed more than $20,000 in financial assistance in the form of debit cards for food, clothing and other emergency supplies to residents. Approximately half of the building's occupants - 23 families (47 adults and 21 children) - received emergency overnight housing from Red Cross.

This major emergency should have alerted all Queens residents to Be Red Cross Ready, because anything can happen at any time. We already have provided many emergency preparedness programs for Queens residents, helping hundreds of your neighbors learn how to create an emergency kit, make a communications plan and remain informed. My gift to you for the holidays is in the form of a reminder - plan to attend one of these classes in the new year. We offer them in the Rockaways and throughout the borough.

Holiday Gift Giving

Think safety this holiday season, and think about the Red Cross for gift ideas.

The items available at our store (520 West 49 Street, Manhattan) or online

www.nyredcross.org) aren't sexy, but they are practical and will show that you care. They include first aid kits, hand-crank radios and flashlights (no batteries needed), and even a first aid kit for your pet. Or, maybe you might want to give the gift of a CPR, first aid, or one of the many other classes that we offer.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you think about gifts for the holidays:

• Always follow manufacturer guidelines.

• Check for certification by product safety testing organizations.

• If a toy or game, be aware of choking hazards for small children. Or, be aware of dangerous toys that might have sharp edges and points.

• For small children, avoid ribbons, strings and bags that can pose a hazard.

• When you decorate your home, remember these few tips:

• Hang decorations out of reach of children.

• Don't forget about your pets. Chocolate in small and large quantities will make dogs very sick. A poinsettia, a popular holiday plant, is toxic to cats. Pets can and will get into decorations and holiday goodies, so keep them out of reach.

• Monitor open flames - keep a close eye on candles and fireplaces and never leave either unattended.

Upcoming Classes

Our Queens location, 138-02 Queens Boulevard in Briarwood, is undergoing renovations so that we can provide more comfortable classroom facilities for those who register for first aid, CPR and our other classes. We might be ready for classes in December, but call us first at our temporary number (718- 487-5971), or check our web site, to see what we have scheduled.

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