Volunteers Assess Damaged Homes in Southern Texas

By Lena Morris, Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteer

Red Cross volunteer Diane Telfer, from Monmouth Oregon, stands in front of a home damaged by recent flooding in Washington County, Texas, as she assesses the damage.

While the Red Cross provides shelter, food, and case management during disaster relief, there’s another crucial job conducted by volunteers that help the organization give aid to those who need it the most. The homes of those affected by disasters are assessed in order for the Red Cross to determine the assistance required for each household.

The volunteers are given a list of addresses, search for these homes and determine the level of damage, and the information is then sent to headquarters instantly through a mobile app. It might sound easy, but Red Cross damage assessment volunteer Diane Telfer said sometimes these homes are hard to locate or may be difficult to access due to the disaster.

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Diane Kelfer examines a home damaged by recent flooding in Washington County, Texas.

“Challenges included access to the affected areas and affected homes, determining the extent of the damage, and getting the information timely to the right people in order for the information to be useful,” Diane said.

The volunteers often speak with the homeowners if they are present, hearing about their stories of surviving the storms. They are sometimes permitted to see the full extent of the damage inside the home and learn about all that they have lost. The losses are often very severe, making the volunteer’s job even more crucial to properly assess all the help that is needed.

“It is gratifying to help people,” Diane said. “I feel that it is a way to give back for how much God has blessed me.”

Diane traveled from her home at Monmouth, Oregon to assist in the Red Cross disaster relief in Bryan, Texas. Volunteers travel from all over the country when disasters strike. Since the severe weather hit Southern Texas on May 26th, 2016, the Red Cross has opened 37 shelters,  served 55256 meals and snacks, with the help of 483 volunteers from all over the nation.

“We all should find a way to serve others whether near or far from home,” Diane said.

Red Cross volunteers Diane and Bill Wilson from California speak with Goodwill Baptist Church Deacon Tom Sullivan, whose church was destroyed during the recent flood.

If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance please direct them to the American Red Cross serving Central Texas, 1-800-928-4271. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit http://www.redcross.org.

Volunteers Assess Damaged Homes in Southern Texas

Home Damaged By Floods for the Second Time

By Lois Beckman and Lena Morris, Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteers

Travis County resident Martha Miles, with her son Patrick on the right and Red Cross volunteer Catherine Sarkany on the left.

The recent floods have caused damage to the home of Martha Miles for the second time in less than eight months.  “We were in the process of replacing floor tiles that were damaged during the flooding in October when this flood happened. Now we have to rip up the entire floor and start from scratch,” said Miles, pictured above with her son Patrick and American Red Cross volunteer Catherine Sarkany.

Martha and her son were at the Family Assistance Center in Travis County on Sunday where the Red Cross provided assistance to those affected by the recent flooding. Like Martha, many in the neighborhood experienced flooding up to 4 feet when severe weather hit the area on May 26th. Although rain has stopped in Texas, the recovery efforts continue as residents salvage their homes and many still seek refuge at Red Cross Shelters.

If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance, please call the American Red Cross of Central Texas at 1-800-928-4271. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit www.redcross.org.

Home Damaged By Floods for the Second Time

Red Cross Volunteers Come from Near and Far

By Lois Beckman and Lena Morris, Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteers

The American Red Cross is on the ground and providing disaster relief services across Texas.  At the heart of the Red Cross are volunteers; those who have come from near and far to provide assistance.

Red Cross volunteers distribute hot meals in Travis County, Texas.

Central Texas Chapter volunteer Tamara Klindt is locally based in Austin and spends much of her time working with the Preparedness and Logistics teams.  Tamara, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross for about five years, says her favorite aspect of the Red Cross experience is the opportunity to meet and work alongside others who come from various backgrounds, but share in the spirit of serving others and rolling up their sleeves to get the job done.

Monique Knight traveled to Austin from San Diego and says she volunteers with Red Cross because she understands what it’s like to be evacuated from your home during a disaster.  Her personal experience came through the California wildfires that threatened her home in 2003.  “It’s a terribly uneasy feeling to not know if you will have a home to return to,” she said.  “I want to help make others aware that the Red Cross can help to alleviate some of that anxiety by providing basic needs and recovery assistance.” Monique, who has a professional background in public relations, uses her skills to volunteer as a Public Information Officer.

While each volunteer has a unique story about why they serve with the Red Cross, a common theme runs through each; the strong desire to help others.  Neil Kurlander has spent a lifetime helping others.  The retired police chief from Sarasota, Florida, has deployed several times for the Red Cross.  He recalls his experience with the St. Louis floods last year, when he was working to conduct damage assessment.  “I remember speaking with a woman who had been at the shelter for two weeks with her four young children. She had no idea the status of her home or if she’d be able to return when the evacuation orders were lifted,” he said.  “My Red Cross partner and I were heading into the field and I wrote down her address so we could check on her home.  I will never forget the look in her eyes when we returned and I was able to tell her that her home had only suffered minor damage.  That ‘look’ is what keeps me volunteering with the Red Cross.”

A Red Cross volunteer hands out hot meals to a resident affected by recent flooding in Travis County, Texas.

Other volunteers have shared similar stories and personal motivations for choosing the Red Cross as the charity through which to dedicate their time.  Larry Ohleyer, a retired Registered Nurse who served 23 years in the military, says he views the Red Cross as the greatest volunteer organization in the world.  “As long as I can help someone each day, it makes my day”, said Ohleyer.

Currently, there are nearly 500 staff and volunteers supporting relief efforts in Southern Texas and while that number may seem like a great many, more volunteers are needed.

To learn more about how you can join the wonderful care of Red Cross volunteers locally, please call 571-439-1782. 



Red Cross Volunteers Come from Near and Far

Providing Help and Hope After Disaster: One Year Ago, Six Months Ago and Today

A Letter from Marty McKellips, Regional Chief Executive Officer, Central Texas Region

Dear Friends of the Red Cross,

Today marks the six month anniversary of the deadly Halloween floods in Austin. We have just passed the one year anniversary of the tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.  Today the American Red Cross is deeply involved in assisting people in Midwestern and Southern states begin their recovery from devastating storms and tornadoes.  During each of these disasters the Red Cross has supplied food, water, shelter, medications, mental health assistance and hope.

The support of our entire community is what has made this assistance possible.  Even as we continue to work in all these communities, I wanted to update you on how your support is being used to help families survive and recover.  Below are reports about Red Cross services and programs in all three of these disasters.  I have included the story of one flood victim, Viola Brown.  Ms. Brown is a great example of an extremely resilient person who just needed a little boost from the Red Cross.  Your help gave her that boost.

I invite you to read these stories to appreciate how much you have helped people on their very worst day.  From the bottom of my heart,  thank you for making these stories possible.  If you are moved to support us now as we work with the victims of spring storms and tornadoes,  visit www.redcross.org or call us at (512) 929-4271.

Central Texas Halloween Floods: Six Months Later Mental Health Visit

In the 6 months since record rainfall caused flash flooding in the early morning hours of Halloween, more than 1,200 have begun rebuilding their lives after their homes were damaged or destroyed by the flood waters. American Red Cross responders and caring Central Texans sprang into action and worked tirelessly to help families touched by the disaster get back on their feet.

Today, six months after the flood waters began rising Halloween morning, the American Red Cross is a partner in long range recovery efforts and continues to provide services for some affected families. The Red Cross is also working with community groups and officials to strengthen the resilience of affected communities and Central Texans generally. We say thank you to everyone who participated in or donated to our response efforts!

Your support came at a critical time for the American Red Cross of Central Texas and helped disaster clients like Viola Brown, whose home was devastated by the 2013 Halloween floods. Your support has made a difference! Your generosity tells our families that someone believes in them, someone they might not even know and that is powerful. You are moving the Red Cross mission forward, thank you!


Spotlight: A Story of Survival


Response by the NumbersATXFloods_CleanUp

The American Red Cross gave shelter, food, water, relief supplies and other support to families-thanks to the generosity of our donors:

  • Served 101,514 meals and snacks
  • Handed out 14,153 relief items
  • Mobilized 328 workers
  • Provided 1,608 health and mental contacts


One Year Update: West, Texas Fertilizer Plant ExplosionMark Felton in front of Apartments

One year ago, an explosion at a fertilizer plant devastated the close-knit community of West, Texas. Known for its deep Texas roots and Czech heritage, the town of West has proven its resilience and strength as the residents heal and rebuild after experiencing the unthinkable. Please click here for the West One Year Report.


Spring Storms:  Red Cross is on the Ground

The Red Cross has opened and supported shelters in seven states.  As weather permits the Red Cross is distributing snacks and relief supplies in the impacted communities.  Two Emergency response vehicles  from the Central Texas Region have been sent to help with this distribution.  Trained mental health volunteers are being deployed from across the United States to provide mental health and emotional support for those who have lost so much.  Preparedness messages are being sent throughout the regions where additional storms are predicted for the coming hours and days.  We will stay with these communities as they begin the long road back to recovery.

Again, thank you for making all of this possible.  Without you, the Red Cross could not fulfill our humanitarian mission.





Providing Help and Hope After Disaster: One Year Ago, Six Months Ago and Today

Reflecting on the Halloween Flood Response

A letter from Josh Jackson, Regional Disaster Program Officer

Josh at DSMC
Josh Jackson joins disaster volunteers at the Red Cross headquarters during the Halloween Floods.

Last month, Central Texas witnessed a devastating flood that impacted more than 1,000 homes. What followed was both heart-wrenching and inspiring.  In the wake of the destruction, our community came together to present a unified response that has led the affected neighborhoods down the path to recovery.

The American Red Cross of Central Texas Disaster Services team’s purpose is to ensure that Central Texas is prepared for, responds to, and recovers from disasters of all types. I am amazed by the dedicated Red Cross volunteers and staff, generous donors, outstanding partners, and the Central Texas community that we’ve worked with during this response.

On Thursday October 31 st, Central Texas was inundated with rains for the record books. The Red Cross Mass Care Action Team quickly sprang into action by opening shelters for families and individuals in need of refuge. When the needs of the community exceeded the local Red Cross capacity to respond, committed disaster responders traveled from across the region, state, and country to assist in the response and recovery efforts. The Red Cross provided over 500 overnight stays at shelters, served more than 100,000 meals and snacks, and handed out approximately 14,000 relief items such as clean up kits, air mattresses, and comfort kits.


Partnering with the City of Austin, the Red Cross quickly organized and opened the Flood Assistance Center (FAC). At the FAC, families and individuals were able to meet with a variety of city and state agencies, voluntary organizations providing disaster relief, and Red Cross caseworkers, health service teams, and mental health teams.  Almost 600 families went through the casework process; more than 1,200 contacts were made by Red Cross Health Services professionals and more than 1600 contacts with made with Disaster Mental Health workers. Generous donations from individuals and corporate partners allowed the Red Cross to provide rental assistance for those families whose homes were destroyed or sustained major damage.


Moving forward, the Red Cross will stay engaged in the community; however, recovery will be neither quick nor simple. The Red Cross, local government, our partner non-profits and the entire community must continue to work together to meet the ongoing needs of the families and individuals affected by these floods.Mental Health Visit

Reflecting back on the disaster response and now looking forward towards recovery, I am  proud of the entire team who made this disaster  response possible and I truly appreciate the dedication and support of our volunteers, staff, donors and community partners. Each of you has played an essential role in this process. While those affected begin to rebuild their lives, we thank you for your commitment to helping our family, friends and neighbors affected by disaster in Central Texas! Together we can and will build a more resilient community.


Josh Jackson

Regional Disaster Program Officer
American Red Cross of Central Texas

Reflecting on the Halloween Flood Response

Spooky Safety Tips: How to Have a Safe and Scary Halloween

by Mia Huey, Communications Intern, Fall 2013

Parties, candy, and costumes, oh my! It is that one day of the year when kids are encouraged to ask for candy and grown-ups get to play make believe.

When you’re out having a ghoulish good time this Halloween, the Red Cross has some helpful tips to keep things from going from spooky to downright terrifying. All it takes are a few simple safety percautions to ensure a happy haunting this Hallow’s Eve.

  • Always make sure your costume – whether homemade or purchased – is flame-resistant.
  • Instead of masks, which can make it hard to see, try wearing face paint instead.
  • Only eat treats that are factory packaged. Avoid eating anything made by strangers or already opened.
  • All Trick-or-Treaters should carry a flashlight. Add reflective tape to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags. Wear light-colored clothing
  • Walk only on sidewalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk at the edge of the road, facing traffic. Always look both ways when crossing the street and only cross at corners and crosswalks.
  • Only approach houses with lights on and do not enter any houses.
  • Make sure any costume accessories such as knives or swords are not potentially harmful.
  • Plan your Trick-or-Treat route ahead of time. Stay with a group of people or with a trusted adult. All young children should have an adult with them.
  • Be cautious around pets and other animals.



If you are joining the festivities by handing out candy, make sure your porch light is on. Other home safety steps include:

  • Sweep leaves from the sidewalks and steps.
  • Clear the porch or front yard of any obstacles that a child could trip over.
  • Restrain any household pets.
  • Use a glow stick instead of a candle in the jack-o-lantern to avoid a fire hazard.

Following these simple safety tips will prevent most accidents and help everyone to enjoy their Halloween.

halloween makeup


Even when you’re careful, mishaps can happen. You can download the free American Red Cross First Aid App and receive instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies whenever and wherever you need it. Features of the app include:

  • Step-by-step instructions on how to handle the most common first aid situations;
  • Videos and animations that  make the skills easy to learn;
  • Safety and preparedness tips; and
  • Quizzes that users can take to earn badges which they can share with their friends on social media.
Spooky Safety Tips: How to Have a Safe and Scary Halloween

Red Cross responds to family hit by hurricane, then house fire.

Emily Alexander and her three children were evacuated to Austin from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  They were happy to be well and together, and liked Austin enough they decided to stay here and make their lives in Austin.

On the afternoon of June 1, 2013, the family hit another disaster – a fire that drove them from the home they were renting in northeast Austin.  Again, no one was hurt, but the children’s clothes and belongings in their second floor bedrooms were almost completely destroyed.  None of them even made it out with shoes on.

The Red Cross’s Disaster Action Team Captain Tom Halgash responded to this disaster.  He interviewed Ms. Alexander and was able to provide with financial assistance to meet the family’s immediate needs.


Some of the things the Red Cross covers in situations like this are a few nights’ lodging while they get what they can out of the house and find another place to live, food for those few days, and an allowance for them to buy new clothes and shoes.

It seems a shame that a family who has have to evacuate their home because of a hurricane should have to evacuate another home because of a fire.  They have renter’s insurance, but they’ll still have a lot of pieces to pick up – for the second time.

Once again, the Red Cross is the bridge to the pathway back for this family.

Red Cross responds to family hit by hurricane, then house fire.