MA Red Crosser Sees CA Mudslide Devastation First Hand

Ron Vigue is the Manager for Corporate & Foundation Relations for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts

Story and photos by Ron Vigue

I had an opportunity to tour the affected areas where only groups like the Army Corp of Engineers, the local Police, and the Red Cross (who are helping the affected community) could go through as the “101” (California Highway 101) is closed.

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I rode along with my capable ERV driver (and retired San Luis Obispo Police detective) Mark as he drove me through the worst of the worst, toward the mountain in Montecito, taking a right turn near Charlie Chaplin’s famed Montecito Inn. It was devastating to see the destruction, absolutely devastating. I have heard some horrific stories –  people lost in the disaster, disbelief of the sheer force which caused homes to disappear, lives uprooted in an instant.

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I’ve seen my fellow Red Crossers in-action. These folks are selfless individuals who come together as one from across the country to help people in need. I’ve met people from Alaska to Connecticut, each one has their own Red Cross story.

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For example, my roommate Henry, he’s been a proud member of the Salem, OR Red Cross Disaster Action Team for years. He’s also a Vietnam veteran and has had a long career as an ER nurse. His specialty is casework. Day after day, he’s been stationed at the Local Assistance Center in Santa Barbara comforting those residents affected by the mudslides and recent wildfires. Henry gets them the help they so desperately need. I’m not sure how many days I’d last by doing what Henry does – 8-10 hours a day, for weeks at a time, usually under the most stressful circumstances. He’s special and I’m proud to say he’s a Red Crosser. (Note the picture of Henry below at the LAC, he’s the only man in the picture).

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As one would expect, the outpouring of support from the local community has been overwhelming, and stereo typically Californian. From local McDonald’s promotions, to cycling race auctions, and way too many Yoga instructors donating their class fees to the cause. All continue to want to help in some way, big or small.

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I’ve come to learn that Santa Barbara is a beautiful place, but not just for its landscape. The communal resilience I’ve experienced here is inspiring. See the picture below of me and four young entrepreneurial girls who brought in $312 from their lemonade stand. Those girls made an enormous difference, as $300 could cover the daily cost to deploy one of our ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicle). That means someone is getting the supplies they need for a day because of their kindness.

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I look forward in sharing more stories upon my return. Thank you so much for your continued support as it’s only with our donors that we are able to help so many. I know first-hand, it’s making an enormous difference in the lives of those affected by disaster.

Bank of America Foundation & Red Cross partner to prevent food isolation

by Jeff Hall, American Red Cross of Massachusetts

It’s hard to imagine isolated and deserted areas in the greater Boston area, but there are places where people don’t have close access to things others take for granted.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as a place ‘vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful foods, usually found in impoverished areas.’ There are areas and neighborhoods where grocery stores are scarce and farmers’ markets are nonexistent.

Food programs like the Food & Nutrition Mobile Market program run by the American Red Cross of Massachusetts helps bring healthy food, nutrition information and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach to these food insecure areas.

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David Andre, Director of Food & Nutrition Programs for IMG_9570the Red Cross in Massachusetts, works with his staff and others, to not only make nutrition possible in areas like these, his team also works to educate and inform area businesses about the help that is needed across the Commonwealth.

The Red Cross Food Pantry, one of the largest in New England, directly serves communities in Boston and New Bedford, as well as provides mobile outreach into places like Lynn and Lawrence. The mobile food program provided 12,000 Massachusetts families with more than 45 pounds of food per month last year. In totality, the Food Pantry provided the equivalent of 2.5 million meals last year to Massachusetts residents.

It takes partnerships with local stakeholders to continue to break into these communities. The Bank of American Foundation is one such partner that provides financial support to the Red Cross of Massachusetts in order to keep our mobile market trucks rolling every week. In Lynn the Red Cross partners with Catholic Charities to find those in the communities that need the assistance most.

Without partnerships with stakeholders, donors and community groups; the American Red Cross Food Pantry would not have the resources necessary to help those in need here in the Commonwealth.

The American Red Cross of Massachusetts operates food pantries in Boston and New Bedford for eligibleIMG_9577 families and individuals to alleviate food insecurity and enable thousands of families in need of access to nutritious food to focus more of their resources on housing, heat, health, education and social development for their children. Established in 1982, the Boston Food Pantry is one of the largest in New England, serving more than 165,000 people in FY16 (41,000 were children). The New Bedford Food Pantry served more than 24,000 people in FY16.

If you would like more information on how you can get involved with our Food & Nutrition programs, visit us at redcross.org/local/massachusetts/food-nutrition. There you can find information about how to volunteer your time or make a financial donation to these programs that serves so many.

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