STORY: Red Cross Volunteer Spirits Soar with JetBlue and Il Volo

Story by Lilly Watson, photo by JetBlue


NEW YORK, N.Y. – Even before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, JetBlue started preparing for the Red Cross’ recovery.

To get the volunteers coming from across the country to New York, JFK airport’s “hometown airline,” arranged flights, and made the company’s Red Cross trained volunteer group, JetBlue Ready Team, available to begin work on the relief operation.

But on December 4, JetBlue gave Red Cross volunteers a much-needed breather by inviting dozens of them to a meet-and-greet with Il Volo, a critically acclaimed trio of Italian operatic pop teenage tenors. The personal reception was followed by a concert as part of the airline’s terminal T5 concert series at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.

Il Volo, whose name means “flight”, sang a selection of hits from the group’s second release ‘We Are Love,” as well as special Christmas selections from its recent appearance at the Rockefeller Tree Lighting ceremony last month. Sixteen Red Cross volunteers working on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts joined Il Volo fans for photos with the vocal group before the concert, to which JetBlue also invited the 130 crew members affected by the storm. Attendees for JetBlue T5 concerts are usually chosen through a raffle, but the airlines decided that since this was a special holiday concert, the most deserving attendees were their impacted crew members and the Red Cross volunteers who were giving up their time before the holidays to work the disaster relief operation in New York.

“This is my second deployment from the Pensacola, Florida, area to New York for the Sandy relief efforts,” said American Red Cross volunteer Sonja Sanders. “It was so nice to take a break and hear such beautiful music. It was really something that made my trip here special.”

JetBlue has supported numerous Red Cross disaster reliefs, including Hurricane Irene in September 2011, but Hurricane Sandy is its largest effort to date. In addition to the economic assistance, JetBlue put into action its JetBlue Ready Team, a special program for JetBlue employees trained in Red Cross emergency response and disaster assistance, dispatched to disaster areas in the Tri-State region.

Since its start in 2009, JetBlue has expanded the Ready Team program for the American Red Cross of Greater New York to 540 crewmembers and counting. When Irene struck in 2011, the Ready Team helped the Red Cross set up disaster relief shelters in Yonkers and Queens and provided aid to Binghamton, New York.

JetBlue crew member Morgan Johnston, a former Red Cross Public Health and Safety instructor, said the partnership between JetBlue and the Red Cross was an organic collaboration.

“At JetBlue we work in an industry where crisis and emergency are something that we have to prepare for on a daily basis,” Johnston said. “Working with the Red Cross, which helps people rebuild after crisis, is natural for us.”

JetBlue quickly mobilized after Hurricane Sandy and donated more than $735,000 through for the Red Cross relief effort in the Tri-State area. On December 7, JetBlue will launch a website with personal stories about the operation, as well as messages to the victims of Sandy from those who donated.

But for a group of hard-working volunteers on break, Il Volo more than delivered a proper thanks.

“We’re all here in New York working with the Red Cross from all over America,” Red Cross worker Jeramie Williams said. “Being together tonight with JetBlue, listening to this Christmas music and thinking about all the work we’ve done, it felt like family.”

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