2008-03-28 / Columnists

Cross Currents

Honoring Our Volunteers Each April: How You Can Make A Difference
Commentary By Joan Foley Director, American Red Cross Of Greater New York - Queens

JOAN A.FOLEY
April not only means great weather is on the horizon, but it also is the month that we celebrate every person who volunteers to help others and their communities.

National Volunteer Week is April 27 - May 3, and the Red Cross, along with all nonprofit organizations, does all it can to recognize how our volunteers improve our communities every day. At the Red Cross, our volunteers inspire by example. They provide assistance during emergencies and teach CPR and swimming. They also motivate others to donate a little time to help with a great mission.

The American Red Cross in Greater New York responds to an average of eight to 10 fires, building collapses and other emergencies in Queens, the other boroughs and in the Hudson Valley every day. Just during this past January, our volunteers responded to 81 fires and other emergencies in Queens and assisted 263 adults/children with food, shelter and/or counseling following a disaster.

When it's cold, we wrap blankets around people forced from their homes and get them into a nearby school or house of worship where we provide meals and can begin to help them restore order to their lives. After a storm or a fire, we provide residents with clean-up kits to help them wipe away the dirt and mold that have soiled their homes. We also provide temporary housing when it is needed.

You can become one of the 10,000 volunteers on whom we rely by enrolling in our comprehensive one-day training program. Our Red Cross Reserve Institute prepares volunteers to "Be Red Cross Ready" to assist us during local disasters. It provides an understanding of the history, mission and principles of the organization. Participants become acquainted with Red Cross disaster response procedures and polices while learning how to provide comfort for people affected by emergencies.

Right now, all Red Cross Reserve Institute programs are held regularly at chapter headquarters (520 West 49th Street, between 10th and 11th Streets, in Manhattan). In the future, our goal is to provide training sessions in Queens. To learn more and register for an upcoming session, call 1-877-RED CROSS, extension 2068, or visit www.nyred cross.org/reserve volunteer. It's just one day of training, but a lifetime of rewards.

Upcoming Classes

Here are some of the upcoming classes offered at the Red Cross office in Briarwood (138-02 Queens Boulevard). Dates and times are subject to change.

Thursday, April 10, standard first aid, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Cost $60 online reservation; $70 phone reservation.

Monday, April 21, babysitter training, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Cost $60 online reservation; $70 phone reservation.

Friday, April 25, CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) - adult, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Cost $65 online reservation; $75 phone reservation.

For more information, visit www.ny redcross.org .

Watch Out For Ticks

With warm weather approaching, keep your eyes open for possible freeloaders - the ticks that hitchhike on you when you walk through wooded areas whether they are in the country or right here in Queens. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Wear light-colored clothing. This allows you to see a tick more easily; Wear a hat and long-sleeved shirt; Tuck in your clothes- shirts into pants and pants into socks. Use a rubber band or tape the area where the socks and pants meet to prevent ticks from getting under clothing;

Use an insect repellant with DEET on exposed skin and clothes. Read the label's instructions and cautions about use on young children;

Stay in the middle of trails when hiking. Also, avoid underbrush, fallen tress and tall grass;

Perform a tick check after being outdoors and shower immediately after coming indoors.

If you do find a tick on your body, remove it by doing the following:

Use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull slowly, steadily and firmly. Avoid crushing the tick's body.

Clean the area with antiseptic, such as alcohol, after the tick has been removed;

Save the tick in a jar of alcohol or tape it to a piece of cardboard so it can be identified by your local health department.

Watch for the following early signals of Lyme disease: fever and chills, muscle and joint aches, weakness or fatigue, headache, swollen lymph nodes, skin rash (which may have a bull's-eye appearance).

Be alert for signals that may appear weeks, months or even years after a tick bite: arthritis, numbness, paralysis of the facial muscles (usually on one side), memory loss, problems with hearing or vision, severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, irregular or rapid heart beat.

Consult a medical professional if any of these signals appear or you have bitten by a tick.

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