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‘Resident service center’

SA, Red Cross, and NYC agencies respond to gas explosion

“Overall it was a very good experience to work with the Red Cross, New York City officials, and all our partners,” said Captain Antonio Rosamilia, commanding officer of the Manhattan Citadel Community Center. “We are so grateful to God for this opportunity to serve.”

On March 12, 2014, a gas–leak explosion leveled two buildings in East Harlem, taking eight lives and leaving 250 residents from 85–90 apartment units homeless. At the request of the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and in partnership with the American Red Cross, as well as other city agencies and non–profit organizations such as the New York City Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, or VOAD, the Greater New York Division’s Manhattan Citadel Community Center in East Harlem transformed itself into an official “resident service center” and emergency shelter for three days.

The Red Cross managed operations at the Manhattan Citadel shelter.  On the first night, 75 people were sheltered in the center’s gymnasium. Also staying overnight were many volunteers, as well as Red Cross, Salvation Army, and city workers. On the second night, 45 people were sheltered, as some displaced residents were able to stay with relatives and friends in other parts of the city.

People affected by the explosion received many in–kind gifts that included food, clothing, school supplies, toiletries, and toys.

Displaced residents received 1,000 hot meals, which included dinner on Wednesday, March 12th and breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Thursday, March 13th and Friday, March 14th. The Red Cross provided all meals during the three days, served in partnership with Red Cross staff and volunteers.

At 10:30 p.m. on Friday, March 14th, persons affected by the explosion boarded city buses, which quickly took them to city–supported temporary housing located in East Harlem, the Bronx, and in midtown Manhattan.

Families received child–care services. Members of The Salvation Army, Red Cross, and Save the Children set up games and activities for youngsters. Children rode Salvation Army and Red Cross vehicles to and from school.

Members of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) were on hand with therapy dogs, who provided comfort to both children and adults.

The Salvation Army provided on–site emotional and spiritual care along with the New York State Chaplaincy, New York Disaster Interfaith Services, Disaster Chaplaincy Services, and other organizations.

A residence service center, coordinated by both the Red Cross and OEM, was established on the second floor of the Manhattan Citadel. As many as 12 agencies provided intake and counsel, including Con Edison, the ASPCA, OEM, the Department of Buildings, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Mental Health & Hygiene, the Department of Homeless Services, the New York City Human Resources Association, and the Department of Housing Preservation.

New York City’s Department of Sanitation made extra visits to the center to remove trash.

City officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady of New York, Chirlane McCray, visited the center (shown right). Other community leaders also visited.

The shelter at the center officially opened at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 12th, and officially closed at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 15th. The New York Police Department maintained a presence at the center until Saturday, March 15th, at 9 a.m., when the shelter officially closed.

After all was said and done, Captain Rosamilia and his staff went back to their daily ministry, minus the national spotlight. “We continue to pray for, and to serve, our community,” said Rosamilia. “People have always come here for spiritual support, for food support, for clothing support, and they know every time they come here, they’re not going to be turned [away].”

by Kenneth Speranza

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