Story: Kokomo, IN Woman Volunteers a Meal and Feeds a Community

November 26, 2013

IN Tornado Relief

When Kokomo resident and mother-of-four, Melody Kegel, was asked by her church, Grace United Methodist, to lend a hand by preparing a meal for Red Cross Disaster Relief volunteers, she had no idea it would lead to feeding hundreds throughout the community.

“As we were getting ready to leave the house on Monday (Grace United’s) Youth Director Luke Stone called and he said ‘Melody, I know where your heart lies and I know how you like to do missions… would you go see if they need a meal for the shelter, because the church would be happy to provide a meal’, Melody recalled. “So, I went into the Red Cross office and found that they needed a meal for Tuesday morning. When we brought the first meal to Red Cross headquarters, they said they also needed someone to prepare a meal for lunch. When we got back with the lunch, I asked them “is there anything else we can help with?” … and we’ve been providing their meals ever since.”

When asked why he initially thought of Melody for the task, Grace United’s Stone replied, “I knew it would be something right up her alley. ‘I said, Hey would you be willing to go over and prepare a meal?’ She was more than willing to do that, and then they told her they needed 600. It turned into a whole week worth of efforts on her part.”

IN Tornado Relief

Not only has Melody a week’s worth of lunches for the Red Cross volunteers, on Saturday she found herself also preparing all the meals (pancakes and bacon for breakfast, cheeseburgers for lunch, and lasagna with breadsticks for dinner) that the Red Cross would be delivering throughout Kokomo neighborhoods impacted by the recent tornado.

By Saturday afternoon, Melody along with several volunteers from the Red Cross and Grace United Methodist, had prepared over 2,500 meals for affected residents, and hundreds of volunteers from around the state. When asked, Melody estimated that she will have prepared a total of about 6,500 meals in all.

As much as the Red Cross volunteers have appreciated all of Melody’s hard work, the Red Cross must have also made quite an impression on Melody, who submitted her official Red Cross volunteer application on Friday.

“Without Melody’s efforts we would not have been able to respond as quickly to the needs of the community. Her efforts were integral to our response. We are delighted to have her join our Red Cross family,” says Red Cross Site Director Kristina Chapman.


Story: Residents of Pinewood Springs, Colorado, Hold Fast to Their Community

September 23, 2013

Colorado Floods

Estes Park, Colorado. September 20, 2013. American Red Cross volunteer Bob Wallace encouraged Michael and Susan Martin, residents of Pinewood Springs, Colorado, to avail themselves of the resources from the American Red Cross available to persons impacted by the Colorado floods.

The Red Cross has established a shelter in the neighboring community of Estes Park. The shelter offers overnight accommodations, three meals a day, nursing care, and disaster mental health assistance. ItÕs located at the Rocky Mountain Park Inn. In addition, FEMA and a Disaster Assistance Center are also available at the Inn to offer assistance.

Michael and Susan Martin live in a beautiful Colorado locale and are members of the close-knit community, Pinewood Springs. But the flood inundated their home and community. However, that may not have been their most serious problem: Highway 36, the only connector between their community and Estes Park, was completely destroyed in some places by the raging floodwaters.

FEMA had strongly urged them to evacuate their now isolated community. However the Martins are adamant. ÒWe are not leaving. IÕve got dogs and cats, ducks and chickens. ItÕs our home,Ó declared Susan Martin.

 
To obtain supplies, the Martins must pack everything in on the narrow trail that exists alongside the collapsed highway. They make multiple trips along this strip with containers of fuel, groceries, and other necessities. Thankfully, they now have potable water available in their community, so they no longer have to ferry water as well. This day they had a friend, Geoff Evans, to help them haul in supplies.

Pinewood Springs has approximately 400 homes and 1100 residents. Somewhere between 60 and 100 residents remain, said Michael Martin. “We’ve organized ourselves into committees to deal with the essential community services,” he continued.

Michael Martin works from home for a major corporation and says he will be able to continue to work as soon as electricity is restored. Susan Martin, on the other hand, has a sales job that she will likely lose. So far their resourcefulness and determination has sustained them. “We will be alright for a little longer. There is still a lot of meat available,” said Michael Martin.

Story Credit: Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross


Story: Meeting the Community Needs

September 15, 2013

Colorado Flooding Response

This story is written by Kaila Muggli.

Red Cross volunteers have come forward offering their assistance during the floods throughout Colorado, from sheltering to delivering supplies. A team of volunteers set out on Saturday to distribute supplies in Colorado Springs to the Cheyenne Road and the surrounding areas. Shovels were the most popular item requested; quickly followed by sandbags.

“We didn’t have any sandbags and we had to direct them towards the Fire Stations,” Red Cross Logistics Lead Roger Braum said. “It was a pretty devastating mess; they couldn’t really start cleaning up until the water could be controlled.”

Members of the community had band together to help friends, neighbors, and loved ones attempt to redirect the water that was roaring by their homes. Many individuals had thought of creative solutions to the problem by using empty cat food bags to hold the sand, but that was another commodity in short supply.

Colorado Flooding Response

Seeing a need within the community, the Red Cross partnered with representatives from the City of Colorado, asking for sandbags to be brought out to the site while they arranged to have sand delivered.
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Story: Red Cross Helps Staten Island Nurse Return Home

July 26, 2013

As a registered nurse, Rosemarie Hall is used to taking care of others; but after Superstorm Sandy, she credits the American Red Cross with helping take care of her.

“I’m so grateful for the Red Cross because I was really in a bad situation,” Hall said. “They showed me hope.”

Hall has lived in her refurbished, 1930s three-bedroom Staten Island bungalow for seven years.

Like many New Yorkers in 2011, her home didn’t sustain much damage from Hurricane Irene, so she decided she would not evacuate for Sandy.

Hall was home the night Sandy blew into her southeast Staten Island neighborhood located just blocks from the water and Midland Beach.

“I was looking out the window, and I watched the flood come through,” she said. “The water in the street was three feet high.”

Hall’s heating unit and water heater are located in a room built onto the side of the home. When Sandy made landfall, water began to pour into the utility room.

“I watched my deck fill up, I watched my heating system fill up,” she said. “It all got destroyed.”

The water also crept into the living area of her home through the crawlspace. In the end, her heating system, water heater, refrigerator, dishwasher, couch, and many of her belongings were damaged.

She spent six weeks in evacuation centers and a shelter, then five months in a hotel.

Hall would return to her home to clean what she could and recover from the storm.

“The Red Cross gave me a disaster package, a mold kit, and I came here. I scrubbed the floors and it helped it from growing up in here,” Hall said.

Red Cross Case Manager Kevin Rivero was assigned to Hall’s case and determined she would be a good candidate for the Red Cross Move-In Assistance Program.

The program works with families displaced by Sandy to move them back into sustainable housing. Eligible, Sandy-affected residents may receive up to $10,000 for expenses, including home repairs, rent, security deposit, moving costs, brokerage fees, temporary housing/or furniture and appliances and more.

The generosity of donors allowed the Red Cross to be able to provide Hall with funds for a new heating system, water heater, new refrigerator, dishwasher and new couch.

“Thank you to the Red Cross and to all who donated to the Red Cross,” she said. “Because of you, I’m back in my home.”


Story: Recovery Center for Yarnell AZ Residents

July 11, 2013

Yarnell Fire Recovery Center

The American Red Cross opened a Recovery Center at the Yarnell Community Presbyterian Church, on Monday, July 8th. At this location, volunteers are providing services, food and supplies to residents affected by the Yarnell Hill fire that began June 30, 2013. Church Pastor Paul D. Jones has been with this church for 18 years and was happy to host the Red Cross, as well as other service providers, to provide comfort and services to his community.

“My wife Ann and I were evacuated from our homes for a short time and we were very concerned about our tight-knit community,” said Jones. “Everyone in this community just wraps their arms around each other, so it’s wonderful to see the Red Cross come out and help our residents.”

Jones knows of six families from his congregation who lost their homes to the fires. He’s very concerned about 29 other families that he hasn’t yet seen.

Yarnell Fire Recovery Center

Just as Red Cross volunteers where setting up the center, a car pulled into the church parking lot and Jones ran over to the car and began hugging everyone inside. “I’m so glad to see you, is everything ok?” Jones asked of the clearly distraught and tired family. “Please come inside and get something to eat and we’ll figure out what to do next.”

Jones says most of the Yarnell community is made up of retirees who come to enjoy the simple life and beautiful scenery. “Yarnell residents come from all over the county to live out their life. Our elementary school has a total of only 50 children,” says Jones. “We are a close community that supports each other; however, this is the first time in 15 years that we’ve had a fire reach our town.”

With a son as a Daisy Mountain firefighter and another son working for homeland security in Phoenix, Jones is familiar with the dangers that come with first responder work. “These people who give their lives are heroes beyond question,” said Jones. “Our community is now coping with the guilt we feel for the loss of firefighters who ran into harm’s way to save our things, so the recovery of this tragedy is much greater than things.”

The Yarnell Community Presbyterian Church congregation understands that healing comes through service. The church has created a fund to help those residents that may fall through the cracks and will continue to work with the Red Cross to provide easy access to services.


Story: Yarnell Hill Fire

July 4, 2013

Evacuees are excitedly talking about returning to their homes, now that the latest reports say the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona is 45 percent contained. But as the likelihood of being allowed back onto their property increases, not all survivors are wondering what they will find.

“We climbed up on the roof and it looked like it was a day or two away,” said Karen Patterson, sitting next to her husband, James Bonde, where they had just attended a meeting in the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter shelter at Wickenburg High School.

“First it was black smoke, and then a black, red glow. I was being the optimist, that it wasn’t going to come,” Bonde added.

Patterson even had time to pull brush away from their home, as they watched the fire about two miles west of them.
But the fire changed direction.

“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever had to deal with,” Patterson said, recounting how it seemed like a fireball tornado literally chased them down the mountain. “It was terrifying.”

With their three children, Ethan, 11, Alison, 6 and Ayla, 3, they fled with ash so thick and the heat so intense that they weren’t sure they’d make it.

“I closed my eyes and prayed,” Patterson said. “I prayed and prayed and prayed.”

“We knew our house was already gone,” Bonde said.

But they did make it to safety and Bonde was wrong about their house. It turns out, they explained, that their house wasn’t touched by the fire at all.

“So we’re alive, and regardless of the home being there or not, if I can help anybody out in any way, that’s my main goal now,” Patterson said of her new life’s mission in grateful recognition of their good fortune.

But Ethan, their oldest child, may have beaten her to it.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times published a story about the fire. Mentioned in the story is a drawing Ethan made at the shelter with encouragement from Red Cross disaster mental health workers, which Patterson proudly displays on her cell phone. It is of the mountain their home sits on. Their mountain, with the artistic license of a human-like face, has tears falling from its eyes.

Calling the drawing, “Everything Happens for a Reason,” Ethan has announced that he plans on being a firefighter when he grows up.

He is America’s future – born from the ashes of a devastating fire that took the lives of 19 firefighters on Sunday.


Story: Father’s Day at Palmer Ridge High School Red Cross Shelter

June 17, 2013

On Father’s Day June 16, Red Cross workers, along with the Knights of Columbus and partner groups throughout the area threw a Father’s Day celebration for Black Forest fire evacuees and volunteers at Palmer Ridge High School.  Over 50 volunteers and residents were at the event that featured a delicious meal prepared by the Knights of Columbus, costumed entertainers, a face painter, balloon artist, live music, games and joy for everyone.  This was an opportunity for disaster volunteers and those that have been displaced to spend time with loved ones, relax, and enjoy themselves.

Eleven year old Dimitar Georgiev and his dad Valentin were all smiles as they watched magic tricks and played with balloon animals.

“It’s great here,” said Dimitar. “There’s unlimited snacks and play time and lots of games.”

The Georgiev family was forced from their homes when the wildfire began and have been staying at the Red Cross shelter for nearly a week, waiting for the area to be cleared.

The Pascoe family had to leave their home when the wildfire blazed through Black Forest and came to the Red Cross shelter at Palmer Ridge HS along with their two dogs.  Tim Pascoe his wife, Rowena, and daughter, Desli, enjoyed the Father’s Day festivities.

“We are glad we had this time to spend with our family,” said Rowena. “Things have seemed pretty unreal since the evacuation.”

Colorado Wildfires

Colorado Wildfires


STORY: Finding Comfort in a Red Cross Shelter

June 5, 2013

Story written by Red Cross worker Anna Kate Twitty.

Oklahoma Tornado Response
Red Cross mental health worker Charlotte Taylor provides support to father and baby at the Red Cross shelter located at Moore Community Center.

More than two weeks after devastating tornadoes hit Oklahoma, people are still coming to American Red Cross shelters to seek a safe and positive place to stay, like the Hueso family whose home was severely damaged in Moore. After staying with relatives for nearly two weeks, Jesus Hueso and his young family decided to seek additional help by coming to the Red Cross shelter at Moore Community College.

“I’m originally from Arizona and didn’t even know what a tornado was,” said Hueso. “And I certainly did not know what all the Red Cross did to help until I actually needed it.”

Jesus and his family have been spending some time with Red Cross volunteers while staying at the shelter. His family has formed a special bond with mental health volunteer, Charlotte Taylor.

“Everyone here is super nice and helpful,” said Hueso, “I can’t walk 10 feet without someone asking if we need help.”
When talking about the shelter and how the Red Cross is helping, Taylor said that, “people know when they come in that no matter how hopeless or helpless they feel, we care about them. We line them up with counselors, case works and health services.”

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STORY: Illinois Flooding

April 29, 2013

Illinois Flooding ResponseRita has lived in Barstow since she was 15 years old. She has seen the river flood before, but she has never seen anything like this. the entire neighborhood was flooded. On Saturday, April 20th, as she came home from an errand, unaware of the evacuation notice issued 24 hours earlier while she was at work. She asked the firefighters on her street what was happening. She was told that the levee had just broke; she had 30 minutes to get out and most likely would never be coming back.

Rita panicked, thinking of the children at her house and knowing that she needed help. She immediately when to her 12 year old son and told him to grab everything that he could in 5 minutes, then to take the two little ones outside to the porch and distract them from what was really happening inside. “I couldn’t believe what was happening. I tried to get everything that we would need, but it was impossible.”

Rita is living with her family in a friend’s mobile home right now. “I’ve had good spirits considering all that has happened, but we need help.”

The Red Cross provided Rita with a clean up kit and talked to her about options for housing and other assistance. Caseworker, Karen Nelson, “Sometimes people need to be able to tell their stories and we are there to listen.”


STORY: Flooding in Michigan

April 29, 2013

Michigan Flooding

Water was everywhere in April 2013, when the Grand River overflowed its banks and surrounded homes, parks, and roads. Two Red Cross volunteers from the Detroit area learned of the disaster and immediately came to help.

John McGill and Evans Lucas drove an Emergency Response Vehicle through Grandville and stopped at several houses to see if people needed help. At one home, they found an elderly couple with water damage in the basement.

“They were worried about getting mold and mildew down there,” said Evans. “They said they called some carpet companies, but it would cost $300-$400 to get the carpet removed – something they couldn’t afford and they weren’t able to do it themselves.”

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