As they did during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, the Mamaroneck Red Cross Club once again mobilized a coterie of volunteers to set up and staff the emergency shelter at Mamaroneck High School (MHS), in preparation for what was called the “storm of the century” by many.
Although Sandy’s wrath involved more power outages than flooding this year—the shelter was only open between Oct. 28-30, serving approximately 70 residents—28 Red Cross Club volunteers—double that of last year—pitched in to assist with all aspects of manning the shelter for use by community members.
“MHS volunteers assisted with the labor-intensive work of setting up and closing both shelters. This included assembling and disassembling approximately 100 cots and transporting dozens of boxes of supplies. Several club members greeted and registered clients as they entered the shelter. Some of them used their Spanish translation abilities and were able to provide a critical element of comfort to frightened family members. Other students carried boxes of meals and snacks and offered the food and water to clients,” said Eli Russ, the Red Cross Club president.
Volunteers were assisted by the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and received material support from the American Red Cross.
MHS Senior Russell Simons, 17, has been a part of the Red Cross Club since 2009; Simons said his original interest in the group was spurred by his career aspirations of becoming a doctor.
Simons—who was involved with last year’s volunteer efforts at the shelter—noted the difference between Irene and Sandy.
“There were less people at the shelter [this year]. The flooding was definitely not as intense,” he said.
He described his experience with the Red Cross Club as rewarding, but acknowledged the difficulty of seeing friends and neighbors in a crisis situation.
“It’s a little heart wrenching and heartwarming at the same time, but good to see that the community could come together.”
Taylor Lucas, 14, a rookie member of the Red Cross Club, said her experience as a newbie was made a bit less anxiety-provoking with the support of fellow volunteers.
“This year’s shelter was a great experience to be part of. Everyone there was very helpful (because I was new and didn't know what I was doing), and everything was very well set up, and well organized,” she said.
Ali Rice, 16, is a junior who has been part of the Club for three years. Though she was stranded in her neighborhood due to downed trees this year, she assisted with translation for Spanish-speaking residents at last year's shelter.
"It was really rewarding helping set up and sign people in as well as serving food and entertaining people. I got to briefly meet with many people that I would never have met with if I hadn't worked at the shelter. It felt really good to be helping out and be apart of a huge team of people that literally saves lives every day," she said about her previous experiences.
In addition to staffing last year’s shelter, the Red Cross Club has also been involved in other community service activities such as setting up a furniture donation drive to benefit families displaced by Hurricane Irene; organizing blood drives and sending cards to soldiers stationed overseas, among other things.
Editor's Note: A quote and additional information from Ali Rice was added to an original version of this article.