Shelter Workers Helping Displaced Residents At RCC

The Red Cross shelter has been open since Sunday


A group of 50-plus stayed overnight at the Rockland Community College Fieldhouse Monday night at the shelter set up by the American Red Cross.

The shelter opened Sunday evening and had 60-plus in and out throughout Monday. A lot of people were stopping in to warm up, but one issue with that was the shelter itself lost power in the storm as well. A generator was being used for lights.

The power was still off as of late Tuesday afternoon, and Fran Eriksen, a Red Cross nurse, said the group was expecting possibly a similar turnout Tuesday night. Eriksen came from Salem, OR, and has been at the shelter since it opened. She added that because of the power outage, there wasn’t much hot food to go around.

They still had food for those at the shelter, such as ham and cheese sandwiches, apples, oranges, chips and more. For lunch Tuesday, they were able to bring in hot food.

Christina Diban, a volunteer at the shelter, went out Tuesday morning to 7-Eleven and got large boxes of coffee.

“We tried to get donations of food from places, but it was hard to get around [Tuesday] morning and not many places were open,” she said.

Diban is a nurse with the Red Cross who just so happens to live in Rockland, and decided to reach out to see if they needed help.

The shelter had eight volunteers as of Tuesday afternoon to go with three nurses, four site managers and Diban, who prepped the food. The workers are all taking shifts.

Carole VanNahl, of the Rockland County Health Department, said the shelter will remain open on a “need basis,” and of Tuesday, they couldn’t predict when there would no longer be a need.

Frances Lee, with Red Cross, is one of the shelter managers, and she said they have at least 120 cots and 240 blankets. So far, she said the biggest issue facing the shelter is the loss of power due to Hurricane Sandy.

“It’s one of those things that’s out of our control, unfortunately,” she said. “A lot of people also weren’t sure if there was actually going to be a shelter here. A lot of calls we got before the power went out were people just asking if there was a shelter or not, and now without power, I’m sure it’s even more difficult for people to reach out, or read or listen to the news and find out where the shelters are.”

The shelter workers, in addition to providing food, drinks and places to sleep, have also tried to provide entertainment. The fieldhouse has a few basketball courts, and on Tuesday afternoon one family played some two-on-two. They’ve also handed out decks of cards to help people pass the time.

Anyone looking into volunteering or assisting the shelter is asked to go to NYRedCross.org.


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