By Stephen Bogdan, Red Cross Content Creation Team Member & NYS Advocacy Day Volunteer

Each year, volunteers, board members and staff from every Red Cross chapter in New York State gather at the State Capital in Albany for an annual statewide advocacy day. On this day, our goal is to educate state representatives about the essential and lifesaving services we provide to constituents in their districts. By sharing our stories with elected officials, we are able to reinforce already strong relationships, open lines of communication and establish new partnerships to serve our communities.

In New York State, Red Cross disaster response teams responded to more than 3,700 local fire-related events last year. Through Sound the Alarm events—which are part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign to reduce fire deaths and injuries—volunteers went door-to-door with community partners to install thousands of free smoke alarms and help families create escape plans. And the Red Cross helps countless hospital patients every year as the primary supplier of blood and blood products in 46 counties of New York State.

Each of our local volunteers, staff members and supporters has his or her own story to tell. From providing comfort and assistance at the scene of fires, to installing smoke alarms at various Sound the Alarm events across the state, to serving as blood donor ambassadors at local drives, Red Crossers continually reaffirm their strong commitment to helping all those in need. Their individual stories, shared with state representatives, help bring our mission to life.

On Tuesday, January 28, more than 50 Red Cross representatives from the Greater New York, Eastern New York and Western & Central New York Regions visited a total of 90 members of both the New York State Assembly and Senate throughout the morning and afternoon. Their purpose was to share their experiences helping New Yorkers through their involvement with the Red Cross, and to explain how, just as we respond to disasters big and small every day, we are continually preparing to respond whenever and wherever New York State residents may need us.

During disasters, the Red Cross focuses on providing safe shelter, food, emergency relief supplies, emotional support, health services, financial support and recovery assistance. We stress that the Red Cross does not turn away people who need assistance during a disaster. During non-emergency times, Red Cross staff and volunteers are hard at work in New York State identifying shelter sites, training a volunteer workforce to assist at a moments notice, preparing essential relief supplies, and taking other proactive measures to help minimize losses of life and property when disaster strikes.

During the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Red Cross staff and volunteers in New York State helped local communities in the following ways:

  • Responded to 3,727 local emergencies and assisted 8,454 families;
  • Provided fire safety education in 14,349 households;
  • Installed 41,119 new smoke alarms;
  • Collected more than 245,000 units of blood through 3,419 blood drives;
  • Educated 11,437 grade school children in emergency preparedness;
  • Assisted more than 7,370 members of the military and their families;
  • Maintained readiness of 9,611 volunteers;
  • Trained 27,222 people through Citizens Preparedness Corps program (State Fiscal Year).

In addition to the ongoing support we receive from generous donors and volunteers across the state, we rely on assistance and support from our partners in state government to make this work possible. Speaking about the importance of New York State Advocacy Day, Eastern New York Regional CEO Gary Striar said:

“We are so grateful for the partnership we share with our legislators across the state. Their commitment to improve the lives of their constituents aligns with the Red Cross’ mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. They each share in our humanitarian spirit and we are honored to work with them to help build more resilient communities.”

This year, we were delighted to honor Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara of Rotterdam as the 2020 legislator of the year from the Eastern New York Region. From supporting blood drives to helping us spread the importance of fire safety and much, much more, Assemblyman Santabarbara is a true partner in preventing and alleviating human suffering. In recent years, he has participated in several Red Cross telethons to support disaster relief, and he is currently partnering with the region for a signature Sound the Alarm smoke alarm installation event to be held in Amsterdam, NY this spring.

On Advocacy Day, the Red Cross had the privilege of recognizing four other state legislators who have been longstanding supporters and steadfast advocates of the Red Cross in New York State. The 2020 Red Cross Legislators of the Year in addition to Assemblyman Santabarbara are: Assemblyman Al Stirpe of Cicero; Senator Joseph Robach of Greece; Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Majority Leader of Yonkers; and Assemblyman Marcus Crespo, Bronx. We are very grateful for the support these representatives have shown for the essential work of the Red Cross in their communities and across the state.        

Our work in New York State is made possible by the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. Find your local Red Cross chapter and see how you can get involved at