When fire destroyed a Niagara Falls apartment building on May 24, 2019, your American Red Cross was there. Volunteers Betsy Crocker and Sharon Daut responded directly to the scene on Ontario Avenue, meeting with three families who had just lost everything in the blink of an eye, including an elderly husband and wife who were already in wheelchairs prior to this devastating disaster. Thanks to the support of partners like the United Way of Greater Niagara, we were able to provide a total of nine of our neighbors in need with funding for temporary housing, food and clothing, while also delivering comfort and support. Our volunteers continue to work with these families today, making community referrals to help with their long-term recovery.

The Red Cross provided that same level of help and hope to 69 families after 39 fires and other disasters in Niagara County last year, but that’s only one way we support this community. We helped Sound the Alarm for fire safety by installing 125 free smoke alarms in homes that needed them as part of the Home Fire Campaign. Since launching in 2014, the Home Fire Campaign has been documented to have saved nearly 600 lives across the country, including 23 in Western and Central New York.

Our mission of helping people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies extends far beyond fire prevention and response, however. Last year, the Red Cross in Niagara County also taught more than 2,530 people lifesaving skills, such as CPR and first aid; collected more than 3,820 units of blood from volunteer donors (each unit helping save up to three lives); and provided 142 case services for military members, veterans, and their families. Our volunteers are also a regular presence at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base, providing briefings for newly enlisted service members and their families, as well as those getting ready to deploy in service of our country.

None of this vital work right here in Niagara County would be possible without the dedication of our over 70 volunteers or the generosity of donors. On behalf of the Red Cross, I extend our sincerest appreciation to residents for their investment in the United Way of Greater Niagara. By joining with the Red Cross to give back to those in need, our long-standing partnership with the United Way ensures that we deliver help and hope year-round.

You truly make a difference with your support of the United Way of Greater Niagara and the American Red Cross. Thanks to the continuing support of our neighbors, we’re looking forward to being part of the Niagara County community for many years to come.

Danielle Byrnes is the executive director at the American Red Cross Western New York Chapter. If you are interested in learning more about the American Red Cross or want to become a volunteer, please call our office at (716) 886-7500 or visit our website at redcross.org.