Wherever there’s a house fire or natural disaster, you might find Bedford’s Carolyn Sherwin answering phones, handing out toiletries or finding ways to make children smile.
That’s what happened when the 13-year American Red Cross volunteer was called to to aid disaster victims in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After a week of clearing debris and trees off roads, Sherwin and her team finally were able to reach a man and his granddaughter who had been trapped in their home for days.
Back in her team's first response vehicle, Sherwin found a novel from the Boxcar Children series, which she was able to give the little girl to raise her spirits.
“The grandfather said, ‘you’re going to learn to read by candlelight, tonight,’ ” Sherwin said. “I went down to New Orleans six years ago, and I still remember that.”
Her fellow volunteers also helped distribute Red Cross ‘clean-up’ kits to families, which included bleach, sponges and washcloths.
Then last August, Sherwin stepped in to help the thousands of residents who lost electricity when Hurricane Irene slashed power across Westchester. She was one of the volunteers who helped set up and manage the Mamaroneck emergency shelter, which housed 200 residents on its first night.
“It’s about community helping community,” Sherwin said.
Another way the Red Cross shines a little light on a dire situation is by distributing its ‘comfort kits.' Packed with soap, shampoo and coloring books for kids, Sherwin said even the smallest items can make a big difference to those who have lost everything.
“We had a situation in Rockland last week where we distributed one to each child, and you could almost feel the stress leave the room,” she said.
Even though Sherwin lives in Bedford Hills, she and her team of Red Cross volunteers will go to wherever they are needed.
"If there's a fire tonight in Yonkers, we'll be in Yonkers," she said. "We go wherever we are needed."