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Hurricane Matthew’s left Haiti devastated once again. More than 800 people died or that is what the U.S. news has been telling you. The truth is yes, people died but the number is not that large. It is maybe 300 people. It happened mainly in Les Cayes and in Jérémie which is located on the tip of Haiti in the south.  The reason they are falsifying the number of deaths is that certain businesses think the more deaths reported, the more donations they will receive. People love to help Haiti, but does the money they have donated in the past done any good? No. I can tell you this as I live in Haiti and I grew up here. I have the best interest of this country at heart.
Do not donate to the Red Cross. The Red Cross is supposed to be an organization that helps, but it has not in Haiti. After the earth shattering earthquake in 2010, half a billion dollars was donated to the Red Cross but did Haiti actually see that money? No, they did not. Only 6 homes were built with half a billion dollars. Where did that money go? The Red Cross has failed in Haiti. People in the capital more than 6 years later are still living in tents. The big charities use the majority of donations on fundraising and administrative costs and don’t work with or listen to the local communities.
What can you do actually help Haiti?
If you do want to donate, donate to local agencies in Haiti such as Jasper’s House Haiti or even Care. Work with people/small organizations on the ground (familiar with the areas in need). Communicate with them and have them tell you what the needs are.
Here are a list of charities where the money will actually help:
Flora Cross is an elementary teacher working at a bilingual school in Haiti. She grew up in Haiti and returned after many years of absence. She has travelled the world with her journalist father so writing has always come extremely naturally. She is currently enrolled in the Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS. Flora hopes to open a school in Haiti for children with disabilities.

The live Finale of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice brings such mixed emotion. I hate for the season to ever end but then I love it because it means an amazing after party.

By now you all know that Trace Adkins won, at least you do unless you live under a rock, so let’s just say, “Yay Trace,” and get right to the fabulous party. And trust me, it was fabulous. As the confetti flew it was time to head over to Cipriani. Following a week of waxing, tweezing, spray tanning, mani/pedi-ing and trying to find shape wear that would remove what wasn’t lost on a treadmill, it was time to party with the stars.

I walked in having shed my heels for Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats and didn’t get far before coming across an ice cream station serving both Trace’s Maple Macadamia Mash Up and Penn Jillette’s Vanilla & Chocolate Magic Swirtle. Shape wear crushing my internal organs was not keeping me from that ice cream station. It really was Good & Delish!

No sooner had I licked my bowls clean than I turned around and bumped into a waiter standing there ready with the Cipriani signature drink, a peach Bellini. It was amazing how quickly I learned magic and made that drink disappear.

So there I was guzzling my peach Bellini thinking life doesn’t get any better when I spotted The Donald walking across the crowded floor surrounded by a throng of admirers. I had to pinch myself because I know I’ve had a very similar recurring dream.

The Donald has helped raise over $13 million for charity over the past several seasons. Just in the finale, approximately $2 million was raised for American Red Cross, Opportunity Village, and American Diabetes Association. Just amazing!

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But now the dish…..

Dee Snider was there with his wife, Suzette, who is beyond beautiful. I’ve met Dee a few times and to call him a nice guy is an understatement. He has the rock star hair and clothing but to the core is just a genuinely nice person.

If I told you how thin Marilu Henner is and thin as in not even a size zero thin. I started to hate that ice cream station. Marilu rocked a red dress and I just stared at her with my jaw hanging open wondering how she looked so perfect at 61. She grabbed my hand and then someone grabbed her before I could really talk to her or get more than a very blurry picture of her being dragged away.

Lil Jon walked past me and I remembered meeting him two years ago and loving him so I grabbed him like the stalker that I am. He asked if he minded if he came right back and for a second I was sure I was being blown off but then he came back and found me. There were so many people there trying to get his attention and he could have easily forgotten, but he didn’t. There were so many things I wanted to say to him like, “why did you give it up to John Rich that other season?” Instead I may have let it slip that I loved him. He smiled and gave me a hug.

Next up was LaToya Jackson. What struck me was that her manager and friend Jeffré Phillips actually thanked me for the blog I wrote about LaToya and then went and brought LaToya over to meet me since we had only spoken by phone. Even more striking was that she thanked me as well. It was surreal to think that LaToya Jackson was thanking me. She’s been written about by so many people but took the time to acknowledge what I wrote and thank me for it. It was an amazingly thoughtful thing for them both to do. LaToya and Jeffré were the epitome of class.

Omarosa was there. Gary Busey was there. I ran into Dennis Rodman. I don’t understand the controversy over his hair or his outfit. The man can pull off a feather boa like nobody I’ve ever seen. A Mohawk is that far off? I had expected Dennis to be one of the most approachable celebrities there but, well, I liked his hair.

Penn Jillette was there but I only was able to see him in passing as well as the very beautiful Lisa Rinna along with her gorgeous husband, Harry Hamlin.

As I was making my way around I saw Claudia Jordan who is just exquisite. I had my second camera malfunction of the night but Claudia was kind enough to send me a few of her pictures from the party. She has an amazing story, one I hope to share with you all soon.

Finally I ran into the All-Star Celebrity Apprentice in the flesh, Trace Adkins. He had already won me over in our phone conversation a few months back. In person he is even better. When he took my hand and called me, “darling” with that voice, well I melted a bit. Ok, a lot. He then thanked me for what I wrote about him and, believe me, it wasn’t lost on me that the All-Star Celebrity Apprentice was thanking me. He told me how nice it was to finally meet me and for all of two seconds I forgot he was Trace Adkins and it felt like a perfectly normal moment except that he’s a major country artist.

He got dragged off before I could tell him I think I went bankrupt downloading every song he’s ever sung on iTunes and that I would gladly do it again just to hear him sing. But I saw him again later on and he was just as charming. He smiled at me in such an “aw shucks” kind of way and I think I just may have fallen in love with him a little. I met his wife Rhonda who had sent me one of the kindest emails I have ever received and I think I fell in love with her too. Forget gold records or number one songs. They were just two of the most down to earth people hanging at a party.

Even with my flats, my feet heart, I had one too many peach Bellini’s, The Donald broke my heart by leaving with his beautiful wife, Melania and there’s only so much my kidneys and liver could take being crushed together with shape wear. The party was over and what a party it was.

My favorite part of the night was seeing my friend Chuck LaBella who left Massapequa many years ago and and went on to become an Emmy nominated producer as well as VP of Talent Relations for NBC. I am a huge fan of Chuck’s in both the things he produces and the person that he is. Every single celebrity I spoke with described Chuck as a man with tremendous integrity and a big heart. Of course I already knew that and hearing it from Marilu Henner, LaToya Jackson or Trace Adkins didn’t make it better or truer, but it was nice that on a night that was about glamour and celebrity to know that it was also about celebrating a friend for his success and for the person he is.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

Hello friends,

I am writing to tell you about a Red Cross volunteer day to Far Rockaway, Queens, which you’ve probably heard about. The story of my last stint at the shelter in Long Island was posted on the CUNY SPS Community Blog, and I thank them for their initiative. It may also be on the Red Cross blog soon.

This stretch of land, Far Rockaway, is a peninsula on the south end of Queens/Long Island, just south of JFK airport, which was right in Sandy’s way and still has widespread power outages and fuel shortages.

The New York Red Cross organized a volunteer effort to cover some of the most affected areas, which are basically the last pockets without power. There is an info-graphic that compares three recent major storms.

This was also an interesting day. We met up with our Red Cross (ARC) friend and headed down to Floyd Bennett airfield where the National Guard, FEMA, ARC, etc., have set up with fuel tanker trucks, trailers, mass kitchens from the Southern Baptists, and so on. Anne and I were with an ARC member and we set out ahead of the volunteer bus to find the location where we were to meet the food trucks, and to let folks in the area know there would be hot food.

The drive to Far Rockaway over the bridge from the airfield was an eye-opener. Even big trees had toppled and the storm’s winds had spread the sand from the beach from the waterfront up to a few hundred yards inland. Written on a boarded-up McD’s was: “Nothing here 2 take. U R 2 late.” Some commentary on night-time activity. Smashed car windows told the same story.

People in those neighborhoods were tending to their homes, generating piles of rubble that sanitation crews were picking up here and there. Some streets were closed to traffic entirely, because of downed trees, downed cables, trash, or rubble. Utility crews, said to come from all over the country, were all throughout the neighborhood, working on power lines and assessing damage. Some unfortunate neighborhoods will always be the last to have services restored.

Much of the dislocation comes from the associated effects of not having power—no heat, communications, spoiled food, trash piling up, lack of fuel, totaled cars everywhere… The area has been without power since the storm 18 days ago, when the ocean water, 4 to 6 feet deep, rushed in and destroyed any electrical circuit it met—in cars, in fuse boxes on houses, street lights, garages. Generators were around by buildings, work sites, and on main streets and corners. Lines of hundreds waited in long lines for fuel trucks, carrying gas cans to fill up their cans and generators, all overseen by police officers.

We found that a church close by had clothing donation and distribution going on, and found people charging their phones on generators. The food trucks arrived soon, run by volunteers from California, Virginia, and other places. People soon started queuing up for a hot meal ready to go, but that didn’t compare to when the next truck, carrying a load of clean-up kits, diapers, and over 900 comfort kits (containing a blanket, flash light, batteries, wipes, hand sanitizer, hand warmers, and more) arrived. Since we had walked the neighborhood, we easily found three apartment complexes that lacked generators and the kits found their way into the crowds in less than an hour. Here a word about the volunteers. They came from schools and companies all over town and formed instant teams for canvassing, food prep, handing out supplies, and did it all with a compassionate and positive attitude.

There were bright spots. Some houses had remained dry and people had taken in others who had no place to go. Sometimes we were told that things were fine, or that neighbors were helping each other by sharing a generator. In another back yard we found a guy with a beer and a hearty “who cares”-laugh barbecuing.

The whole effort will have gone on for a few more days after the first one on Saturday, which we were part of. I am thankful for getting a chance to help, and that leads me, with a little smile, to a good opportunity to mention that a small donation to the Red Cross is a very easy and helpful way to support disaster relief, not just here, but all over the country.

One more thought. After Katrina hit New Orleans it became public knowledge that in a situation like this people really need to be prepared to get by on their own for 72 hours. Please consider checking a preparedness web site to make a plan. They say hindsight is 20/20, but sucks nonetheless, if enjoyed from a raft.

Best, as always,

Mike

PS: As always, these views are my own and do not reflect the views or positions of any other party, directly, or otherwise.

Michael Spieth is a graduate of the Advanced Certificate in Project Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies.

Hello friends,

Some of you know already that I volunteered at a Red Cross shelter on Long Island as part of the disaster relief efforts after the Hurricane Sandy (Monday, 10/29/2012). I’d like to share some of these experiences with you. You would hardly believe the pace of work at these places. Every moment is taken up by thinking and acting on a never ending list of items. I’m very glad I did this. I’m back home after almost three days, having taken a Long Island Rail Road train back to Jamaica station and the subway from there. I got to sleep three hours twice in that time. I could have gotten more, but one goes into some kind of adrenaline rush and mostly only sleeps when told to—a few times.

This shelter is located by Farmingville in a high school, and, on my first night there, received 100 clients from another shelter that had closed due to lack of electricity. That brought us up to about 230 in total at the time. The Red Cross (ARC) had prepositioned a container with supplies that Sunday, and we took cots, blankets, and many other useful items from there. Parents and residents from the community kept walking in with bags full of donations: clothes, diapers, soap, toiletries… we had boxes full of toiletry kits prepared by a Girl Scout troop, for example, and food was often donated from businesses nearby. This shelter will probably have to close on Sunday to make room for school starting again Monday, and they did not know where they’d be transferred to when I left. (*update: It did not move that weekend. Things change often.)

While I was there volunteers ran the entire site. Our managers were professionals with years of experience in emergency and disaster relief management, and the volunteers all did what they were best at. In training at the ARC in Manhattan we were told two indispensable things: 1. ‘Be flexible.’ 2. ‘Listen to them. It helps.’ —and it does: So many times our clients just stopped me, and told me their story. One could see their relief to share. I’ll add another, #3: ‘Let people be people.’ With so many quirky characters under one roof, the only thing one could do is just take them for who they were—people in need of help, who needed a place to sleep, food to eat, and a hot shower. Many of them had literally lost everything. Others just couldn’t stay at home for a while, because of a lack of electricity, and often because they were dependent on medical devices needing electricity, like oxygen machines.

I won’t go into detail on some of the bad luck that these folks have had. Needless to say, if one has to go to a shelter, it’s serious.

Because I was rushing almost everything I did, the pictures are somewhat below my usual quality photography.

I was made aware of this need for volunteers by a friend. She forwarded me the information, because I asked and she’s connected to the ARC in Manhattan. I signed up on Tuesday, showed up for training on Wednesday morning ready and packed for three days, as the email had asked, and was in a van with four others out to Long Island that same afternoon.

There’s an ARC coordination center somewhat east of New York from where we were sent to where the need was greatest.  More volunteers from Americorps, Stony Brook University, Jetblue and others arrived on Thursday and brought much needed help to the team, and we finally had enough people to do the work. A bus from the SPCA housing the animals/pets arrived on Thursday as well and the pet owners got to spend time with their animals. Ambulances and paramedics from Ohio and Alabama were kept at the school to provide extra medical coverage, beside the nurse, who was sent home and replaced after 48 hours of straight work. The school’s custodians helped us 24 hours a day with facilities, and police officers kept the peace.

The staff and clients started working together very quickly to manage events like putting together 100 beds. One kid really stood out. He helped like a champion with anything he could. I’ll call him Brian and he celebrated his 16th birthday in that shelter. The school’s custodians found out and got him a cake. The ARC’s policy is to never abandon people, but the goal really is to get people connected to their relatives and back on the way to get back to their lives.

One senior lady was there, because she needed electricity for her medical device (oxygen, in her case), and I often just called her Sweetheart. I was glad to see that she was picked up before I left. There were about 5 babies, 25 kids, and the rest were adults. The kids were kept with their parents/parent in a separate gymnasium in the school, next to the gymnasium housing adults and one of our goals was to create routines, so that everyone had some structure to their time there. If they needed something and we had it, it was theirs.

Ok, I’m exhausted and on my way to a full night’s sleep, after a great, warm, homemade dinner.

This was an amazing and moving experience, and I thanked the ARC that they let me do it. Please consider making a small donation to www.redcross.org.

Hope you’re all well, and thanks for listening.

Best,

Michael Spieth

If you have questions, comment or email, and I’ll fill in whatever I may have forgotten to mention. You can connect with me on LinkedIn with a quick search for my name, as well. Needless to say, these are my views and I don’t speak for the ARC.

Michael Spieth is a graduate of the Advanced Certificate in Project Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies.

The view of Manhattan at night over the East River

The message below is posted on behalf of Dean Brian A. Peterson:


The City, the University, and everyone at SPS are diligently working to cope with the aftermath of the many challenges associated with Hurricane Sandy.  I want to express our deepest concerns and support for those who may have suffered loss during this challenging time.

Yesterday, as I made my way to the SPS’s offices, I noticed a number of spontaneous “charging stations” cropping up throughout midtown.  These stations, powered by generators and extension cords, have allowed individuals—neighbors and strangers alike—to power up their devices, and they remind me that small things can make a big difference.

If you or someone you know needs assistance in the coming days, resources can be found at the FEMA, the American Red Cross Greater New York Region, and NYC311 websites. For those members of the CUNY community who want to aid their neighbors, please remember that Citizen CUNY is an easy way to find volunteer efforts.  Additionally, the New York City Office of Emergency Management website is a good place to obtain current information about recovery efforts, status of transit/transportation and electricity, amongst other information.

While the recovery process from this disaster is going to be very slow, very costly, and very sobering, we will prevail.  We’ve prevailed before and I encourage all of us to do our best to recharge and support one another.  Small things—a phone call, an email, a brief conversation, a smile—can not only make a difference, but can make things happen.  I encourage you to support one another simply by being in touch.  Reach out to your fellow classmates, your instructors, your friends, and know that together we are resilient and will rise to face those challenges that are ahead.

Brian A. Peterson is the Associate Dean for Administration and Finance at the School of Professional Studies.

“Dark Light NYC” Image. Trinidad Rodriguez. 2012
“The American Entrepreneur” Image. Brian Peterson. 2012