Written by Kay Pinkerton, volunteer contributor
Three months after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Northeastern United States, families remain devastated in its wake. The American Red Cross has committed to remain in the affected region to help storm victims rebuild their lives. Among those providing the Red Cross with financial support are Dunaway Elementary School students in Waxahachie, Texas.
During a Feb. 4 school assembly, American Red Cross Disaster Relief representatives accepted a $600 check from Dunaway’s students, teachers and staff. The money resulted from a Nov. 26-Dec. 21 fundraiser benefitting victims of Hurricane Sandy. The fund drive was spearheaded by fourth-graders Isabella (“Bella”) Errisuriz and her best friend, Cera Trevino.
In a short, prepared speech, Bella acknowledged the other students for sharing in the fundraiser. “I’d like to thank everyone for giving my dream a chance.”
Cera gave a pep talk as well.
“You got this from coins and dollar bills that were wadded up in your couch,” she said to her classmates. “But today isn’t about us. It’s about Hurricane Sandy victims. Imagine what they went through, losing everything they have.”
Red Cross Disaster Relief representatives Sara Littleton and Sylvia Hernandez spoke to the students during the assembly. Both women were deployed to the East Coast after Sandy made landfall.
In recognition of Bella’s and Cera’s outstanding work, Littleton and Hernandez gave each girl an American Red Cross Certificate of Appreciation. The women also praised those who were sitting in the audience.
“Bella and Cera have a wonderful thing going,” said Littleton. “They got the rest of you involved, and look what you did! The money will be used to help people just as you intended.”
The “Master of Big”
When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in late October, Bella was moved by a broadcast news story highlighting the plight of its victims.
“The people looked very sad and scared when it happened,” she said.
Determined to get involved, Bella enlisted the help of her best friend, Cera. They brainstormed several ideas – even during sleepovers. Once the girls had a list of ideas, they approached Dunaway school counselor Jennifer Wilson. Wilson helped them sharpen their focus and select a workable plan.
“I was glad to see them wanting to do something to help others,” said Wilson. “They started out with a huge project. I helped them narrow it down a bit.”
Bella confirmed her inclination for thinking large. “I’m the master of big,” she said.
Wilson introduced the girls to the Red Cross as a credible source for the donated funds.
“At the time, my family and I were texting donations to the Red Cross,” said Wilson. “So I led the girls in that direction.”
With guidelines in place, the girls took over.
“They are the ones who made the project such a great success,” Wilson said.
After the Storm
Stories of Sandy’s victims from the Red Cross emphasize the need for continued financial, material and emotional support. Hernandez, who deployed to the Northeastern United States one month after Sandy’s landfall, recalled a discussion with a New Yorker who was living in her severely damaged house.
“She didn’t want to leave her home. Even though she had no electricity, no food – nothing,” said Hernandez. “So we gave her two cases of heater meals – those you don’t need to heat up. And we gave her blankets. She was really, really cold.”
The Red Cross has received more than $254 million in donations and pledges for Sandy. By January 31, the Red Cross had spent or made commitments to spend an estimated $145 million. The remaining donations will be used to help individuals and communities affected by the storm with their long-term needs. This spending, which represents both direct services and support provided to other agencies, is more than half of the money received in the first three months.
“This is a large amount of money to be spent in such a short period of time, but as has been seen in other disasters, recovery is a marathon, not a sprint,” said American Red Cross President and Chief Executive Officer Gail McGovern. “However long it takes, the Red Cross is committed that money donated for Sandy will stay in those communities to help the people affected by this disaster.”
More information on the Red Cross’ role in Hurricane Sandy’s emergency relief and recovery can be found at . Information on conducting a fundraiser on behalf of the Red Cross is located at http://www.redcross.org/support/donating-fundraising/fundraising-licensing.