A Q&A with the CEO of the American Red Cross Long Island Chapter
Jose Dominguez has been the CEO of the American Red Cross Long Island Chapter encompassing Nassau and Suffolk since November 2021. Several months before his one-year anniversary in that position, he talked with us about how the American Red Cross helps and how you can help the group do its work.
How did you first get involved with the Red Cross?
After 9/11. I lived in Manhattan after college. I was impacted by that and I wanted to help. I saw the Red Cross was set up on the West Side Highway, handing out water and emergency supplies. I asked if I could help and pass out water. That’s how I got started.
How did you end up with the Long Island chapter?
I’ve been with the Red Cross for 17 years and the Greater New York Region for seven years. The position became available. I applied. They thought I was suitable and they offered it to me.
What is your role at the Red Cross on Long Island?
I’m the administrator. I lead the teams. But I would say my job is to find the resources. We’re not a government entity. We don’t receive funding from our government partners. Everything we do we do through the generosity of donors.
You don’t have contracts with the government?
No. The only thing we provide through our charter is through our services to the armed forces department. We provide emergency communications. We’re the mediator between a military service member and their branch of government, the military branch. If a military service member has a baby while deployed, for example, we communicate to that person’s spouse. Their military commanders will determine whether or not they can be released to come home.
How is fundraising going and was it impacted by Covid?
Fundraising wasn’t necessarily impacted in a negative way. We continued to provide services. Our donors continued to see that and were generous. We’re fortunate not to have a reduction in force. While other organizations went through layoffs, we had a hiring freeze. We have a handful of positions available in the Greater New York Region. Across the country, there are positions available.
Has the group been involved with and/or affected by Covid?
We were involved in Covid and still are. And we lost some volunteers to Covid. Our volunteers were working closely with food banks on Long Island to distribute food and with health service entities to provide vaccines. We have a group of nurses who help.
How big are your Long Island operations?
We have one office in Mineola, but our volunteers are out of Nassau and Suffolk County. We have over 800 volunteers for the Long Island area that represent several activities — CPR, first aid, disaster services, volunteer services, services to the armed forces. There are several entities in our organization. Volunteers are trained to represent those departments.
Is the Red Cross primarily volunteers and do Long Islanders help elsewhere?
Ninety percent of our workforce are volunteers. Those are the individuals who get deployed to disaster responses locally and around the country. We have around five volunteers who have been in Kentucky for the flood response out of our 300 volunteers who respond in disasters.
How busy are you?
Because of current disasters going on around the country, we’re constantly busy. We respond to at least two disasters a day here on Long Island. Last year alone we responded to nearly 300 disasters, all through volunteers. House fires mostly.
What do you following a disaster on Long Island?
We provide financial assistance, shelter, emergency supplies. That’s just one service within disaster services. We had a fire in Great Neck, a part of our Nassau County jurisdiction. A 45-unit apartment complex was struck by lightning. They didn’t have any electricity. We provided their residents who needed it some shelter. Most residents went to family or friends.
How big an issue are house fires on Long Island?
It’s a pretty big issue. From 2014 to 2020, our amount of responses tripled. Most of the fires we respond to occur during winter. People not checking their chimneys when they start their fireplace. And you have electric heaters left unattended. We had several fires started by Christmas lights on Christmas trees. You always want to check and make sure your Christmas lights are functioning. As far as heaters go, no sheets next to them. There are helpful tips you can find on our website.
How long have you been giving out free smoke detectors?
It’s been going on since 2014. It’s called the Home Fire Campaign. If anyone wants a smoke alarm, just go to our website, www.redcross.org/li, and you can find information on how to sign up to receive a smoke alarm. We will install it for you for free.
If someone wants to volunteer, donate or get involved, what should they do?
Go to our website, www.redcross.org/li, and you will find every piece of information you want to know, how to donate, volunteer, what services we provide, how to sign up for those services.
Can you tell me about your Long Island Heroes Among Us gala in September?
It’s on September 22 at Oheka Castle in Huntington, our largest fundraiser for the Red Cross here on Long Island. It’s to keep operations going. We honor Long Island community members for their outstanding work. If people or a company would like to sponsor us, they can find that information on our website www.redcross.org/ligala or contact our office on Long Island.