A three-alarm birthday, Red Cross style

By Patricia Fraga, Volunteer Contributor

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On Saturday, December 9th, the American Red Cross Serving Central Texas held a Sound the Alarm event in Southeast Austin as part of the nationwide Red Cross effort to help reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by home fires.

Since its launch in 2014 this preparedness program has saved 285 lives by providing free smoke alarms in homes across the country.

During this Saturday event, Red Cross volunteers installed more than 84 smoke alarms in homes of the Pecan Grove mobile home park.

One of the families visited by the Red Cross was the Alvarez family (below).  The family of six received three free smoke alarms in their festively decorated home for the holidays.


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The Alvarez family was educated on the importance of working smoke alarms, putting together a fire evacuation plan, and other safety tips.

Pricilla Alvarez, an 8th grader, listened intently to the fire safety tips and even provided a local television station with an interview about what she learned.

Even more touching was the impromptu birthday celebration for another of the Alvarez girls, Marissa. When the Red Cross team heard that Saturday was her eighth birthday, they serenaded her with “Happy Birthday,” and of course left behind three special, potentially life-saving gifts that will ensure many more birthdays to come.

At the end of the 30-minute visit, the entire family was very grateful and thanked the Red Cross volunteer team for their efforts and expertise.

A three-alarm birthday, Red Cross style

Two months after Harvey, my service continues

By Marty McKellips, Regional Chief Executive, Central and South Texas

It’s been more than two months since Hurricane Harvey caused the largest flooding event in U.S. history. The Red Cross has provided shelter, food, relief supplies, casework, health services, emotional care, direct financial assistance and other support to help people whose lives were turned upside down by this disaster – but our work isn’t finished.

I’d like to share some important news with you. While the last two months have brought some of the most tragic and challenging circumstances you can imagine, they have also been inspiring. I am committed to seeing my fellow Texans through this incredibly difficult time, however long that takes. That is why I’ve accepted the role as Interim Regional Chief Executive for the Texas Gulf Coast Region for the next several months. I will oversee the ongoing relief efforts and develop a transition plan to guide the region back to “blue sky” operations. Our Regional Chief Operating Officer, Alex Villa, will act as Interim Chief Executive here in the Central & South Texas Region in my absence. While this will be a challenge, I know we are up to it. We will come together as one Red Cross and support our statewide network of volunteers, disaster workers and hurricane survivors.

To every volunteer, every donor, every partner, every advocate: thank you for supporting your fellow human beings in their time of great need. For a complete report on the Red Cross response to Hurricane Harvey, download the one-month update.

Two months after Harvey, my service continues

Veterans in the Red Cross Family

Military service requires so much from those willing and able to serve. At the Red Cross, we are humbled by that sacrifice, and grateful that so many Veterans choose to bring their talents to this organization. Thank you, Veterans, for your service to your country, and your continued service through your work at the Red Cross.

Below are just a few of the veterans on the Red Cross team in Central and South Texas, both volunteer and staff.

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Veterans in the Red Cross Family

Hurricane Harvey Multi Agency Resource Center Resources – San Antonio, TX

On Friday, September 22, 2017 the American Red Cross Serving Greater San Antonio and other local disaster assistance organizations opened a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) in San Antonio, Texas. Residents affected by Hurricane Harvey who weren’t able to attend the event can still utilize the resources from agencies who attended the event. Please refer to the list below for information on how to reach these organizations.

The American Red Cross
Through the generosity of our donors, the American Red Cross is providing emergency assistance in the amount of $400 to qualified households directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Assistance will be issued per household; any subsequent applications will be denied. Registration for this program will be open through Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

Assistance is available for qualified households in the most impacted areas within these 39 counties: Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzalez, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Waller and Wharton.
Website: www.redcross.org/hhia

Community Action Partnership
Community Action Partnership is a national, 501(c)3 nonprofit membership organization that provides technical assistance, training and other resources to Community Action Agencies, nonprofit and public groups funded by the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), a federal program that allocates funding to states to combat poverty across the United States. The resources provided to Community Action Agencies across the country by Community Action Partnership allow our Agencies to stay up-to-date on the latest best practices to fight poverty and empower low-income individuals and families to achieve self-sufficiency. We are committed to strengthening, promoting, representing and serving our Network of Agencies to assure that the issues of poverty are effectively presented and addressed.
Phone: (830) 491-9011
Website: www.ccsct.org

Educational Service Center, Region 20
Education Service Center, Region 20 (ESC-20) positively impacts the learning community through high quality, cost effective products and services. Our vision is to be the definitive choice for leadership, innovation, and the advancement of learning. Quality performance is a commitment to excellence by each employee – achieved through teamwork and a process of continuous improvement. We believe: in service first; our employees drive our success; collaboration maximizes results; in purposeful and effective communication; change is opportunity; in cultivating strengths; and learning is life-long.
Phone:  (210) 370-5200
Website: www.esc20.net/parentresources 

Fair Housing Program
The City of San Antonio Fair Housing/Housing Counseling Program is to help residents maintain housing stability, which is key to family well-being. The program is a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved housing counseling agency. The Fair Housing Program assists area residents in Tenant/Landlord Mediation, Mortgage Counseling, Discrimination Complaints, and provides Community Outreach to achieve the goal of maintaining housing stability.
Phone:  (210) 207-5910
Website: sanantonio.gov/humanservices 

Family Endeavors – Hurricane Harvey Emergency Assistance & Supportive Services for Veteran Families
Our Veteran Services program offers Homelessness Prevention & Stabilization Services to Veterans and their families. These supportive services include outreach, case management, help in obtaining VA benefits, emergency financial assistance in obtaining and coordinating other public benefits.
Phone: (210) 431-6466 (Ask for Veteran Intake Line)
Website: www.familyendeavors.org

Health Care Homeless Veterans
The central goal for the South Texas Veterans Health Care System’s Health Care for the Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Program is to end homelessness among Veterans through community partnerships. We provide Veteran centered integrated healthcare to improve Veteran quality of life, promoting highest level of functioning and assisting homeless Veterans in achieving their identified goals.
Phone: (210) 616-9915
Website: www.va.gov

San Antonio Food Bank
The San Antonio Food Bank takes pride in fighting hunger, feeding hope in our 16 county service area. We believe that no child should go to bed hungry, adults should not have to choose between a hot meal and utilities, nor a senior sacrifice medical care for the sake of a meal.
Phone: (210) 431-8326
Website: www.safoodbank.org

San Antonio Housing Authority
The San Antonio Housing Authority provides quality affordable housing that is well integrated into the fabric of neighborhoods and serves as a foundation to improve lives and advance resident independence.
Phone: (210) 477-6262
Website: www.saha.org

Texas Department of Public Safety
Website: https://www.dps.texas.gov/

The Texas Women, Infants, and Children program
The Texas Women, Infants, and Children program is implementing special procedures in the wake of the unprecedented flooding due to Hurricane Harvey. The special procedures will allow people to easily enroll and receive food and infant formula benefits, breastfeeding support, and referrals for shelter and other resources. Disaster victims will be asked to sign a self-declaration form declaring their need for WIC benefits due to Hurricane Harvey.
Phone: 1-800-942-3678
Website: www.TexasWIC.org

Hurricane Harvey Multi Agency Resource Center Resources – San Antonio, TX

Red Cross Volunteer, Spiritual Caregiver, Advocate

By Bristel Minsker, Staff Contributor

Antoney Elliot
Antoney Elliot, American Red Cross Volunteer

When you think of the American Red Cross, what do you see? Perhaps it’s a volunteer like Antoney Elliot, or at least it should be.

Antoney is barely into his second year as a Red Cross volunteer in New York City. At home, he is a member of his local Red Cross Disaster Action Team, which responds to home and apartment fires all hours of the day and night, making sure that the displaced residents have a place to stay, food, clothing, health services and more.

In his “day job,” he is a minister; he teaches adult Sunday school and is a counselor for veterans at the Franklin Deleno Roosevelt VA Medical Center in Montrose, New York.

He deployed to Austin, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as a member of the Red Cross Spiritual Care team, which helps respond to the spiritual needs or request in shelters or in affected neighborhoods. He has been working in the Met Center shelter in South Austin, where several hundred evacuees sought refuge.

While working in the shelter, he began talking to a resident named Dana Watson. After evacuating the Houston home she shared with her sister and their children and staying in two different shelters in Central Texas, Dana was feeling frustrated and down.

Antoney Elliot (right) helped Dana Watson and her family identify the recovery resources available to them and start the process of getting back on their feet.

Dana told Antoney that her sister was ready to go back to Houston with all of their children, while Dana wanted to stay in Austin and find resources to start fresh. Dana explained that living with her sister wasn’t working well even before Harvey, and their house had already flooded in 2016. She didn’t want to put her children through that again.

Because they were two separate families living under the same roof, Dana worried that the resources available per family from FEMA, the Red Cross and other agencies would only be available to her sister, who had already registered as the “head of household” for their address.

Dana felt as though her future was out of her hands. That’s when Antoney knew he could help.

“She was really down. I told her ‘let me be your advocate’,” said Antoney. And then they went to work.

In the days that followed, Antoney accompanied Dana, at her request, to visit various agencies in the Multi-Agency Resource Center next to the shelter.

The Mulit-Agency Resource Center, where people impacted by Hurricane Harvey can access recovery assistance from various organizations at the same time.

He helped her work with FEMA to open her own case as a “head of household”, and he introduced her to a local group called Black Women in Business, which helps with resources needed to start a new job in the area. He also helped Dana get replacement birth certificates for her kids and connected her with a career coach that helped her put a resume together.

When a natural disaster strikes, the destruction impacts each family differently and the recovery process is like a puzzle – it takes many agencies and individuals working side by side. The process can be overwhelming for those that are trying to navigate it.

“Nothing about this is simple. Part of my role here is to anticipate someone’s individual needs and help them as best I can,” said Antoney.

Antoney Elliot (right) helped Dana Watson and her family identify the recovery resources available to them and start the process of getting back on their feet.

While each Red Cross volunteer has their assigned role during a disaster response –whether it’s spiritual care, mobile feeding, sheltering, logistics, health services, or one of the dozens of other important jobs — each volunteer also understands that sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity and understanding to meet someone’s true needs. Through their training and experience, Red Cross volunteers work to provide vital relief and recovery while also convening the community and advocating for the people they are trying to help along the way.






Red Cross Volunteer, Spiritual Caregiver, Advocate

Helping Kids be Kids in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

Phyllis games 1

Soon after Harvey made landfall, long time American Red Cross volunteer Phyllis Stafford touched down in Austin, Texas to help—carrying more luggage than most. Back home in Rhode Island, Phyllis has a good friend who works at Hasbro.  When her friend heard she was headed to help the families affected by Hurricane Harvey, she quickly spoke to her co-workers about helping. Hasbro jumped at the opportunity and packed Phyllis’ suitcases full of 2,000 games and toys, to share with families impacted by Harvey.

Hasro games 2Shortly after, while hard at work providing shelter, hot meals and comfort to hundreds of evacuees staying at Red Cross shelters in Austin, Phyllis received another call. In hopes of putting more smiles on the faces of our youngest guests, Hasbro was sending an additional 15,000 games and toys to Texas!

In a time of much heartbreak, old favorites like Monopoly, Candy Land and Connect 4, are comforting and bringing laughter to brothers and sisters playing parents, grandparents and even new friends at Red Cross shelters.

Mini horseRed Cross volunteers, like Phyllis, work around the clock to make shelters as comfortable as possible, especially for children who have lost their homes, their toys and all their belongings. We work alongside partners like Children’s Disaster Services, who specialize in child care and supportive play in traumatic times of disaster. In Austin, Mini ponies and therapy dogs, princesses and balloon artists also spent time brightening the days of children and adults at our shelters.

Across Texas and Louisiana, the Red Cross has been providing shelter to more 30,000 people each night in the wake of Harvey. To support the Red Cross in Harvey relief efforts: visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text ‘HARVEY’ to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Helping Kids be Kids in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

Red Cross Serving Central Texas and San Antonio area answers your most frequently asked questions

Thank you for your support of the Red Cross and families impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  

Hurricane Harvey 2017

We hope to answer your most frequently asked questions.  


Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the Red Cross has seen an outpouring of generosity from new volunteers. More than 10,000 new volunteers across the district have signed up to help. We are working quickly to get these volunteers assigned to their roles helping the families impacted by Harvey, but it may take several days to put everyone to work as the sheltering needs ramp up. If you have already been trained and are awaiting assignment, our team will contact you as soon as possible with next steps but it might take a few days. We appreciate your patience and your willingness to help your neighbors in need. This relief effort will be long and we will need your support.

In-kind donations:

The Red Cross works closely with local community groups and organizations that do accept in-kind donations. In San Antonio, donations can be dropped at the San Antonio Food Bank at 5200 Enrique M Barrera Parkway, San Antonio TX 78227. In Austin, donations can be dropped at Austin Disaster Relief Network’s Hope Family Thrift Store at 1122 E 51st Street, Austin, Texas 78723. 

Shelter Information: 

You can find shelters by calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767), visiting redcross.org/shelter or by downloading the free Red Cross Emergency App. The Emergency App is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

Emergency Information: 
Listen to the advice of emergency officials. If you need to be rescued, call trained rescue professionals at 9-1-1 or the U.S. Coast Guard at these numbers:
281-464-4851, 281-464-4852, 281-464-4853, 281-464-4854, 281-464-4855 

How to Help: 

The best and most immediate way you can help is to make a financial donation to support the Red Cross Hurricane Harvey relief effort. Help people affected by Hurricane Harvey by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster. 


The need for blood is constant and the Red Cross currently has an urgent need for blood donations across the country due to a summer decline in blood donors and blood drive sponsors. In Texas, we are closely monitoring our blood supplies amid this ongoing disaster. With dangerous widespread flooding in Southeast Texas, all blood collection organizations in the U.S. are making efforts to meet patient blood needs and to ensure a sufficient blood supply in storm affected areas. Blood donations are always encouraged and the Red Cross stands ready to provide blood products as needed.

Red Cross Serving Central Texas and San Antonio area answers your most frequently asked questions