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Partnership Helps Red Cross Serve N.J.’s Spanish-Speaking Community
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March 19, 2010

“They know what to do when the time comes. We’re here to serve.” 

That is how Youth Pastor Henry Sanchez describes the members of his church, Christian Center of Somerset, who volunteer with the Greater Somerset County (N.J.) Chapter of the American Red Cross during times of disaster. 

Henry Sanchez registers a client at the Raritan Valley Community College shelter in New Jersey. Shelter Manager Ken Heaphy files forms in the background.
Henry Sanchez registers a client at the Raritan Valley Community College shelter in New Jersey. Shelter Manager Ken Heaphy files forms in the background.
Paige Roberts/American Red Cross

“Is he an angel, or what?” That is how the chapter’s chief executive officer, Amy Sutton, describes Sanchez. “We would be in serious trouble without them and without the Walmart grant,” she added.

The recent flooding in New Jersey has sent hundreds of people scrambling to Red Cross shelters, and it has given Sanchez’s Spanish-speaking congregation and the humanitarian organization the opportunity to put its partnership into action. 

Sanchez explained, “We have been teaching our people how to communicate with people affected by disaster. It’s been amazing!”

Thanks to funding from the Walmart Foundation, about 30 teenagers from Sanchez’s youth group joined 25 adult church members in a training called Ready When the Time Comes, which included Introduction to Disaster; Mass Care; Shelter Simulation and Operations; and Psychological First Aid. They are now serving as translators in the shelters. They helped set up the shelter, register clients and monitor the children.

Sanchez recognizes the Spanish culture is different to this area’s norms. He says the situation was very different three years ago when the same area was devastated by the 2007 floods. 

The Spanish-speaking community feels taken care of at the Red Cross shelter because they are comfortable with Sanchez and his Latino crew. Sanchez is clearly comfortable with his mission. “I feel like I’m a connection, a bridge. I hope it will be like a chain, you know?” 

About the American Red Cross:
Help people affected by disasters like the recent floods, by donating to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. On those rare occasions when donations exceed Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for disasters and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to victims of all disasters. Call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.


About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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