STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The American Red Cross is looking to hand out 4,000 pillowcases through the greater New York area in the name of emergency preparedness.
On Saturday, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-East Shore/Brooklyn) brought the humanitarian organization to the Olympia Activity Center in Midland Beach to dole out a few pillowcases under the Red Cross’ Pillowcase Project, an emergency preparedness class for children ages 7 to 11.
“The idea is to get this information into the hands of children because we’ve found that this particular age group…they’re like a sponge,” said Alex Lutz, a Great Kills resident and senior regional director of community relations at the American Red Cross. “They absorb the information and they’re at an age where they’re more eager to go home and share that information with siblings, mom, dad, their neighbors and friends.”
Sponsored by Disney, the event uses pillowcases and cartoons as a fun way to teach children how to plan and react in the instance of emergencies like a home fire or hurricane. Children are advised to fill their pillowcases with emergency supplies and, naturally, to color in and decorate the cartoon characters adorned on each white case.
“A lot of times when we think of preparedness, we think of it as an adult thing and it really is an everyone thing,” Lutz said, adding that his organization has already handed out 1,200 pillowcases. “No matter what age group, there’s something that you can do to prepare them. And empowering them to feel like they have the supplies and knowledge also puts them at ease in the instance of an emergency.”
Denise Bloise of Richmond, a manager of community relations at Red Cross, said it was important to host the event in the heart of the East Shore, where Hurricane Sandy made a deep impression.
“We wanted to make sure we were out here to educate children on preparedness â€“ especially in areas that were hard hit by Hurricane Sandy,” said Bloise, who said she had relatives in the Midland Beach community who were affected by the storm that claimed the lives of 24 Staten Islanders.
Children were schooled on home fire prevention; basic hurricane preparedness; coping skills in stressful situations; developing an emergency communications plan; developing a fire evacuation plan, and making emergency contact cards.
“It was definitely educational,” said Michael Varriano, 10, of Great Kills. “I’d still feel a little panic [in the instance of an emergency], but this helps make that panic a little less.”Â
Kelly Ackerman, 10, of Oakwood, recited what she would have in her pillowcase: “..food, like soup, flashlights tooth brush and toothpaste,” she said. “The class helped a lot because we know what to do in the case of something dangerous.”