The red vest: a symbol of hope and help on the road to recovery

By Diana Rodriguez-Beaugrand, Staff Contributor, American Red Cross

Red Cross volunteers Craig Fleming and Jorge Taborda doing outreach in Bastrop County
Red Cross volunteers Craig Fleming and Jorge Taborda doing outreach in Bastrop County

It’s day 14 of the Red Cross response to the Texas Fall Floods. Communities ravaged by flood waters across Travis, Hays, Bastrop, Guadalupe and Comal counties are trying to get out from under a burden only those who’ve lost everything can understand.

“You can see that weight in their faces,” says Jorge Taborda, a Red Cross Disaster Assessment Volunteer from Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Taborda and Craig Fleming, a volunteer out of Saint Louis, are driving on narrow neighborhood streets marked with piles of flood debris. They slowly drive by the lost possessions of people who were flooded out, in search of families who are in need of recovery assistance.

Jorge Taborda talking to resident impacted by floods in Bastrop
Jorge Taborda talks to resident impacted by floods in Bastrop

The pair stops on the side of the road to figure out an address on their list, and they step out of the car. Almost immediately, people look up from their cleaning. No one approaches them, but some smile, some wave. Others just look on.

“Their faces change when they see the familiar red vests. They know we’re the Red Cross. They know we’re supportive of them. We were here for them,” Taborda says quietly.

They slowly pull up to a tire shop on the outskirts of Bastrop, in search of a residence. They’re looking for a family in a mobile home at this address; someone comes from out back and leads them to a trailer owned by Lisa Longoria.

Red Cross volunteer Craig Fleming checks on a resident in her motor home
Red Cross volunteer Craig Fleming checks on a resident in her motor home

“The Red Cross were one of the first to come here and help us out,” Longoria says, as she opens the door to her home for the volunteers to see inside. “They gave me a box with cleaning supplies and a card that I can use to buy food.”

After ten days working this disaster response, Craig says he’s seen a range of emotions, from shock, to frustration and anger, to a steely kind of resiliency. Both say they are affected by the despair that they see. “It’s hard knowing that we can’t do everything for them, but I know that the Red Cross can lead them to the resources they will need on the road to recovery.”

Fleming says wearing the Red Cross gear and seeing the immediate reactions of people when they see those red vests touch him. “I believe they see hope, and I think everyone who wears the Red Cross does their best to give it to them.”

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The red vest: a symbol of hope and help on the road to recovery

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