by Katherine Powell, Communications Intern, Fall 2013
Last month, the state of Colorado experienced a storm that could be classified as a 1 in 1,000 year event. More than half a year’s worth of rain fell in a three day period in the Boulder area, causing mandatory evacuations and severe flooding across the Central and Northern part of the state.
With so many people displaced, the Red Cross response was large and immediate. Eleven volunteers and staffers from right here in Central Texas deployed to Colorado to provide help and hope to those affected by this disaster. Last week, I was lucky enough to talk with one of the volunteers while he was on break from a long shift in Disaster Assessment.
Rigo Vallejo has been a volunteer with the Red Cross of Central Texas for nearly a year now. On September 19, he and his fellow disaster team members arrived in Denver to begin their work distributing cleanup supplies and doing damage assessments.
Rigo is 1 of more than 860 disaster responders nationwide assigned to provide assistance to residents in the damaged areas to date. They have distributed supplies such as food, water, tarps, rakes, shovels, insect repellent, flashlights, gloves and coolers to families affected by the devastating floods. When explaining how appreciative and selfless the clients have been, Rigo said, “most people only take what they need.”
After 3 days in Denver, Rigo and his fellow volunteers traveled to Loveland and have remained there since. On their first day in Loveland, Rigo was asked to go along with Emergency Response Vehicle driver Mike Kelley and assess nearby areas damaged by the flooding. The conditions they found there were awful, Rigo said. Most homes and buildings were collapsed and destroyed.
Rigo is bilingual in Spanish and English, which has proven to be a valuable skill. He’s helped translate in situations where the clients may not otherwise have been able to communicate what they needed help with.
“I have the ability to help, and it is wonderful to see a person open up to you and smile and say thank you,” Rigo said.
While a deployment with the Red Cross can certainly be exhausting and difficult at times, it can also bring great rewards. “Every minute is unique, every day is unique. It renews your hope in mankind to see people in the community coming together,” said Rigo.
The residents of Colorado need our aid now more than ever. Although many of the immediate needs have been filled, there is still much to do.
If you were moved by Rigo’s story and want to become a Red Cross volunteer, visit us at redcross.org/Austin. If you would like to make a donation to the relief effort, you can go to redcross.org or call 1-800-733-2676. Like Rigo said, “it is this sort of restoration that brings us back to the point in life.”