For the past eight days, the American Red Cross has been providing safe shelter to families in Granbury who were displaced from their homes after the May 15 tornadoes. Tonight, the shelter at the First Christian Church has closed as each family now has a safe place to stay. Even though the shelter has closed, the work of the Red Cross is far from over. As families work to clear debris and salvage all they can, relief workers continue to canvas the neighborhoods to ensure that everyone has food, water, relief items such as rakes, trash bags and work gloves, first aid support and lots of hugs.
To date, the American Red Cross in North Texas has:
- Served up nearly 22,000 meals and snacks
- Handed out nearly 9,000 relief items
- Managed three safe shelters for a total of 88 people (2 in Granbury, 1 in Cleburne)
- Conducted more than 500 conversations to help people cope with their emotions
- Convened a Joint Assistance Center at the Church of Christ in Granbury
- Established mobile and fixed Aid Stations in both Cleburne and Granbury
- Utilized the skills of 225 trained American Red Cross volunteers
Photo and story by Dawn Leaks
“I was at the Marathon supporting the Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts,” shared Karen Dudley, Red Cross Volunteer. “I was there when the bombs went of”. Karen was one of more than 400 Red Cross volunteers staffing first aid tents along the Boston Marathon route the day of the bombings.
She was stationed at mile marker 21 about five miles from the explosions. Nearly 150 redirected runners sought shelter in Karen’s first aid tent as they were evacuated from the course. With temperatures dropping and the runners wet from perspiration, Karen and her team had to act quickly. “We had to keep people calm and keep them warm to prevent hypothermia,” Karen explained.
When it was safe and all of the runners were cared for, Karen made her way to the Red Cross of Eastern MA offices in Cambridge where a full scale relief operation was underway. In the days since, Karen has been working on the relief operation helping to manage community partnerships. “Our partners have really pulled together,” said Karen. “It’s amazing how many government, religious and community agencies are out there and want to help”.
Though it’s been 11 days, Karen doesn’t mind being away from her home in New Hampshire. “Being on the subway in my Red Cross vest and having strangers come up to say ‘thank you’ makes me proud to be a part of the Red Cross”.
Story and Photo by Dawn Leaks
“When tragedies like this happen, diversity is one of the things that sometimes gets neglected,” says Mabel Lam, Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Volunteer. “It’s very meaningful to have the Red Cross come in with a diverse group that understands different cultures”.
Mabel, a Hong Kong native, grew up in San Francisco and moved to Cambridge, MA in the 80s. She has a long history with the Red Cross and has helped people cope with the stress and anxiety of disasters since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Her background in clinical psychology makes her an excellent mental health volunteer for the Red Cross and Mabel is glad to be able to provide a different prospective to the people she cares for.
Since Sunday, April 21, Mabel has been to the Boston Common and several memorial sites helping Boston residents work through their emotions and try make sense of the bombings. “People react differently in situations like these,” said Mabel. “Cultural competence is essential – it’s so important to have that piece involved”.
Part of the Red Cross vision is to cultivate a culturally competent and inclusive organization, where the make-up of Red Cross volunteers increasingly reflects the clients and communities we serve. The Boston area is rich in diversity and the bombings along with the events that followed have taken a toll on the entire community.
“Many people are taking the bombings very hard,” shared Mabel. “I’m just happy that I can help in some way.”
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., April 25, 2013 – The American Red Cross of West Michigan has plans for continued clean-up distribution tomorrow. The schedule is planned as follows:
Ottawa County: Clean-up kits available Friday:
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Polkton Township Hall; 6900 Arthur St. W; Coopersville
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Grand Haven Fire Station/Township Hall; 13250 168th Ave.; Grand Haven
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. American Red Cross of Ottawa County; 270 James St.; Holland
Kent County: Shelter, water, snacks, and clean-up kits available:
24/7 Alpine Baptist Church – 692 7 Mile Rd. NW; Comstock Park
Ionia County: Water, snacks, clean-up kits and showers:
8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Ionia Armory Community Center – 439 W. Main St.; Ionia
If you are unable to get to one of these sites, please call the American Red Cross at 616-456-8661.
Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles will be distributing snacks, water, and clean-up kits to flood victims. Kits include mops, scrub brushes, shovels, and cleaning chemicals along with other items that will help people once they are able to return to their homes. Disaster Mental Health Volunteers will also be providing emotional assistance to flood victims.
The First Baptist Church – 2275 W. Main St.; Lowell will be closing at noon on Friday 4/26.
WEST, TEXAS, April 24, 2013 —The American Red Cross has launched new services at the Joint Assistance Center located at the Old KC Hall (2547 Jerry Mashek Rd.) in West, Texas. Families who have been impacted by the fertilizer plant explosion can now meet one-on-one with Red Cross caseworkers to aid recovery.
Red Cross caseworkers can help provide access to resources and tools to support people’s short and long term recovery needs. This could include help with referrals and registration for community programs, help with mental health needs, recovery planning, and in some cases help to replace essential items like prescription eyeglasses or medications, or secure long-term housing.
Some 30 other agencies and organizations are also present at the Joint Assistance Center to help families with their specific needs. Families are encouraged to visit the Center between 9:00a.m.-7:00p.m. Monday-Friday.
To date, the American Red Cross has served nearly 9,000 meals and snacks, distributed more than 8,900 relief items such as work gloves, shovels, rakes, first aid supplies and more. A total of 267 Red Cross workers have been in the area since the explosion to help families with their recovery. Anyone needing Red Cross assistance is urged to stop by the Joint Assistance Center this week.
Throughout parts of the Midwest, small towns to larger cities are facing the real dangers of rising flood waters. To support local communities, American Red Cross responders are urging residents to listen to their local officials for guidance on evacuations. In several cities, we are supporting sheltering and sandbagging efforts by providing food, water and snacks to support the community. As the waters rise, our services are expanding.
In our next video, from Utica, Illinois, Jackie Nelson shares what she is seeing. This lovely city had recently rebuilt from a tornado and now they are racing against rising waters.
By Brigitte Williams
A week ago this Sunday, February 10th, residents of the Gulf Coast were busy with plans to enjoy friends, good food, fun and song during their last official parties before the start of Fat Tuesday the day before the Lent. For residents of south central Mississippi, those plans were in for an unwanted surprise.
Students at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, were enjoying a holiday for Mardi Gras with many headed south to New Orleans. Also in the Big Easy on Sunday, Executive Director of the South Central Chapter of the American Red Cross, Jay Huffstatler. Branch Office Coordinator Chase Munro and several volunteers were in Pensacola enjoying scuba lessons. IT Area Manager, Jeremy Vonover and wife were in Brookhaven, a few hours northwest of Hattiesburg at a wedding. Community Response Co-oordinator Chenita Wilson was enjoying family at home. Aware of a slight risk of severe weather, with expectation for a thunderstorm or two, Chenita periodically monitored storm watchers’ conversations just in case.
Hearing an increase in chatter from storm watchers, Chenita began alerting Red Cross Disaster Responders, Ann and David Loveless of Laurel, there was a need to respond to a tornado that had hit Marion County west of Hattiesburg. This tornado, an EF1, was one of four tornadoes- an EF1, two EF2 and the EF4 packing 170 mile per hour winds that buzzed through Hattiesburg and Pearl that would change lives across four counties.
“I was in the process of heading to the Chapter to do an expanded “call down of additional responders, when Ann called to say they could see a tornado on the ground.” Chenita instructed the Loveless to return to their home for safety. As she ended the call her husband Stokely yelled for Chenita, their four teenagers and a nephew to get into their hallway fast. He could hear the EF4 tornado headed their way. Soon all squeezed in the small space for twenty minutes until they were certain the storm was gone.
Help Can’t Wait
IT Manager Jeremy Vonover and wife were en route to Hattiesburg from Brookhaven ninety miles away. Not quite to Hattiesburg, he was close enough to see the funnel, that was a quarter mile wide, was on the ground. “I stopped driving because I was entering the storm’s hail core,” explained Jeremy. “I could tell it was hitting structures and that it was tracking along Highway 98.” Safety permitting, Jeremy soon resumed following the tornado’s track.
Arriving at the Chapter before law enforcement had put up barricades to tornado ravaged neighborhoods he was amazed at what he was seeing. “It was surreal seeing the destruction.” Jeremy’s adventure was not over. His wife, who had dropped him off at the chapter before continuing home, called to warn him another tornado was headed his way. Jeremy headed to the Chapter’s safe room for shelter. Two years ago, the Chapter received a grant from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) for a shelter adjacent to the chapter built to withstand tornadoes as strong as the EF4 that had just hit Hattiesburg. Fortunately for Jeremy he didn’t experience a second tornado.
Chase Munro and friends were west of Pensacola heading to Mississippi unaware of the tornado. “My grandparents called to inform me the Chapter was destroyed.” Knowing people would be in need of help, he increased his speed to get back as quickly as possible. His race was soon interrupted as a Georgia County Sherriff’s blue lights signaled the need to stop. After being informed of the reason of their haste, the sheriff provided official escort back to the Hattiesburg.
With her home escaping damage, Chenita knew she had to get to the office now. Only five minutes away, she was taken aback by the view even in the dark. “The emergency truck was in the street, trailers and cars were tossed. I called my manager, Susan Lamey in Biloxi crying and screaming, “It’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone!” Hearing her cries, Jeremy appeared to aid in calming her worry. “He was telling me the same thing Susan was-calm down, just calm down,” she says now laughing a bit.
Here to Help Those In Need
Even through her shock, Chenita kicked into gear. “We had to get a shelter open fast. I wasn’t sure what the damage was, but I knew people were hurting and would need a place to stay.”
Branch Office Coordinator, Chase Munro was soon on the scene. He, Jeremy and Chenita navigated their way through the dark and debris to knock down a garage door to the chapter to get emergency shelter and nurse kits. “It was just amazing” explained Chenita at Red Cross volunteers showed up at the chapter ready to staff shelters. “I was and am just so proud of our volunteers who came!”
Only in New Orleans for an hour or so, Executive Director Jay Huffstattler’s phone rang around 6pm with news of the tornado’s devastation. Calling off any Mardi Gras plans, Jay arrived in Hattiesburg in less than two hours. “Like the others it was unreal; our truck was destroyed in the street with the lights on inside as if it had been driven; you could smell natural gas from broken lines.”
Grabbing everything they could, and with the help of volunteers, two hours after the storm hit, the Red Cross shelter at the Forrest 361 Shelter in Hattiesburg was open by 7pm. “It was a team effort. Responders raced to the American Red Cross Warehouse to bring cots, blankets and pallets of water, since ours were destroyed in our supply trailers. Disaster Responders with their emergency trucks and volunteers came in from around Mississippi. At 2am we were getting snacks and more supplies at Walmart,” laughs Chenita.
“Red Cross is here to serve those in need,” stated Jay. “Our team, with incredible support from the community and our volunteers across Mississippi, we were up and running as quickly as possible. With a full grasp of damage, we also have Red Crossers from around the country helping. We’re here to take care of south central Mississippi. The building is not the Red Cross”
With temporary offices in the American Red Cross Supply Warehouse in Hattiesburg, Jay promises after residents are cared for from these storms and floods from continuous rains, and time with a bit of reflection, the office at 606 Hutchinson Street will be rebuilt in the same place. Until then, because of energetic, committed workers, care and disaster relief provided by the South Central Chapter of the American Red Cross continues, uninterrupted.
By Michael de Vulpillieres, Communications Officer, American Red Cross Greater New York Region
“Water came in from both sides,” said Connie Hulla, pointing to the walls of her Coney Island church exactly 100 days after Sandy made landfall.
She had seen major storms here before, just never anything like this.
“Sandy nearly flooded the entire peninsula,” she said.
Hulla is pastor at the Coney Island Gospel Assembly, a church on the peninsula’s North side, a densely populated area comprised of housing projects and row houses.
“This community was struggling before the storm,” said Hulla. “Now it’s devastated.”
Like most of the buildings around it, Connie’s church was badly damaged. She considers herself lucky. “The whole structure could have come down,” she said.
The church’s basement, which housed the boiler and the electrical system, was destroyed. Thirteen feet of water flowed through an area that, days earlier, served as a homeless shelter.
But despite the damage, the church almost immediately became a relief hub in Coney Island; a safe place for the community to find donated clothing, food, relief supplies, and hope.
“We’ve just done what we’ve always done,” Hulla recalled. “Giving and serving.”
That was the basis on which her father founded the church 55 years ago.
“My family started the church to meet a lot of the needs caused by the serious levels of poverty here,” said Hulla.
Over the years, Hulla’s church has become an institution in Coney Island. So after Sandy, it was logical for residents to come here seeking help.
Within hours of Sandy’s landfall, donated food, water, clothing, clean-up supplies, diapers, and other items poured in, and thousands of locals lined up every day and night seeking assistance.
Hulla has been addressing needs for Sandy relief around the clock. Early on, she and her team of volunteers worked 18 to 20 hour days. She said that even today, it’s still a 24/7 job. (A job in which no one actually gets paid.)
Throughout her response to the storm, Hulla has received assistance from the American Red Cross.
“Everything the Red Cross does here makes a difference,” she said.
It began when truckloads of clothing and relief supplies were delivered to the church.
The organization has also provided thousands of meals to Coney Island residents which Hulla called, “a Godsend.”
She was referring to the dire situation in Coney Island, one where the storm took out so much of the local infrastructure that finding food and preparing meals has been so difficult.
To help, Red Cross food trucks canvassed nearby streets distributing hot meals, water and snacks. Additional Red Cross vehicles were stationed in front of Hulla’s church distributing food to hundreds more every day. Today, the Red Cross continues to deliver meals.
“Seeing the Red Cross sends a message of hope to the community.” Hulla said, “It tells us that we are not abandoned.”
In addition to prepared meals, grocery boxes funded by the American Red Cross are also distributed from Hulla’s church.
“A lot of people here were having a tough time purchasing food before the storm. Now, with the added financial burden that Sandy has caused, it’s almost impossible.”
But for a neighborhood that has seen its share of tough times, Hulla said the significance of the Red Cross goes beyond food and supplies.
“Red Cross volunteers bring such positive energy,” Hulla said. “We are not used to that. It lifts people up; it infuses the community. We need that here.”
“And for me personally,” Hulla added. “Seeing them tells me that I don’t have to do this alone.”