Volunteers Assess Damaged Homes in Southern Texas

By Lena Morris, Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteer

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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.

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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.

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Volunteers Assess Damaged Homes in Southern Texas

Red Cross Assesses Tornado Damage in Texas

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

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Mary Green talks with Red Cross volunteer Diane Telfer regarding the damage to her home caused when a tornado tore through her neighborhood. Mary was home alone studying when a tornado alert was issued for the area. “I was getting alerts on my phone, but I always get them, and nothing ever comes,” she said.

Without a basement, Mary felt the tornado damage her home as parts of her roof got torn off.

“I had never been through a tornado before,” Mary said. “The house really shook. When it stopped and I looked out my front door and saw parts of my roof across the road and in the tree, I started to cry. Not because I was upset, but because I was grateful to be alive.”

Red Cross volunteers met Mary while assessing local damages in Navasota, Texas. Volunteers like Diane are a part of the disaster assessment team, who look at homes damaged by recent severe weather to determine the assistance needed from the Red Cross.

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Red Cross volunteer Bill Wilson stands in front of Mary’s lawn, where parts of her roof were torn off by the tornado and flew onto the tree and the road.

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.

Red Cross Assesses Tornado Damage in Texas

Home Damaged By Floods for the Second Time

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

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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

Family of 57 Finds Refuge in a Red Cross Shelter

By Monique Knight and Lena Morris, Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteers

Ranging in age from 1 to 50 years old, 57 members of the Smith* family are eating lunch, playing video games, shooting basketball, playing musical instruments and creating structures out of building blocks – all at a local Red Cross shelter. The family has been here since May 26 and has found comfort in being together in the face of disaster.

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Member of the Smith* family plays with blocks at the Red Cross shelter in Giddings, Texas.

It was 10pm when a deputy Sheriff knocked on the door and warned Lydia* of rising flood waters in her neighborhood. “The deputy left and barely reached the end of the road when he came back with his emergency lights on. He told us that evacuation was now mandatory and that we had to leave immediately,” Lydia said. “I put some clothes into a plastic bag and got everyone to the front door, but the water had risen so fast it was already coming in under the door. By the time we reached the road in our car, it was almost up to the top of the hood.”
The extended Smith family lives in the same neighborhood, so all were able to escape the flood together. “We were the first ones to leave and I could see a line of cars behind us,” Lydia said.  “Some vehicles were left behind and are still under water.” But at least the family is safe.

“I put some clothes into a plastic bag and got everyone to the front door, but the water had risen so fast it was already coming in under the door,” Lydia said, as a deputy Sheriff warned her family to evacuate her home immediately.

Sheriffs informed the family about the Red Cross shelter in Giddings and the clan headed there.  “The Red Cross gave us someplace to go when there wasn’t any other place,” Lydia said.  “Thanks to the Red Cross, we all have a place to sleep and plenty to eat. The Red Cross workers entertain the children but they also sit with the grown-ups and comfort us too.”

The family is not letting their temporary living situation hamper joyful events — they have celebrated two birthdays, a kindergarten graduation, and a high school graduation in the shelter.

Lydia and her husband recently visited their home site by boat to assess the damage and said the house has shifted on its foundation, with major cracks in the roof and sides. Water on the inside of the home remains about 3 feet high and they cannot get inside to salvage any of their belongings. Officials have estimated that it may be more than a month before electricity is restored in the area.

It will be a long road to recovery, and The Red Cross will be here with resources for the Smith family and others long after they leave the shelter and make their way through the recovery process.

 

*Names have been changed in respect of client privacy.

 

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 www.redcross.org

Family of 57 Finds Refuge in a Red Cross Shelter

Dynamic Duo: Why the Bergerons Keep Coming Back to the Red Cross

By Monique Knight and Lena Morris, Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteers

Roy and June Bergeron have been volunteering with the Red Cross for 13 and 12 years, respectively. The retired couple from Baton Rouge, LA, spends much of their time travelling to assist with relief efforts during national disasters. In fact, they have been on 32 Red Cross deployments across the country and have provided assistance in nearly every type of natural disaster – flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire and snow storm.

DSC_0159It was a hurricane in Florida that called them to action.  “We saw an article in the newspaper, asking for volunteers to help with the Red Cross,” June explains.  “Roy responded then, and I joined a year later.”

The couple volunteers primarily in shelter settings. “We find it very rewarding,” said Roy.  “We get to meet a lot of people, and they are all very thankful for our presence.”

Both said that they have enjoyed a good clientele through the Red Cross shelters.  “We get to know them and develop friendships, sharing laughs and tears,” said June.  “We’ve had people who cry when they leave the shelter because they don’t want to go.”

June and Roy say that volunteers just have to relax and have fun, because the clients have a lot going on.  Roy added that you just have to be flexible. “Sometimes we start doing mobile feeding and bulk distribution, then open shelters,” Roy said.

The couple says they have met lifelong friends through their Red Cross experience. In fact, they travel to Minnesota to visit another Red Cross husband-wife team every year.  It’s the human connection that keeps them coming back year after year.

Dynamic Duo: Why the Bergerons Keep Coming Back to the Red Cross

Everyone’s doing it #GivingTuesday

By Katherine Powell, Communications Intern, Fall 2013

Today is Giving Tuesday at the American Red Cross!  #GivingTuesday is a national movement to kick off the giving season. Just as retail stores do on Black Friday, we want this to be a day for communities to come together. But rather than just acquiring a bunch of stuff, #GivingTuesday is a way to give back while you take care of your holiday shopping.

A Red Cross Volunteer Gives Back with a Hug
A Red Cross Volunteer Gives Back with a Hug

Follow the National Red Cross on Twitter @RedCross or like our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/redcross). Throughout the day, we will be posting items from this year’s Holiday Catalog:

  • Military Comfort Kits
  • Vaccinations
  • Hot meals
  • Blankets
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Red Cross Volunteers serve up some food

All you have to do is comment on our posts to social media. Tell about your personal connection to the item or describe a way you’ve seen it impact others during the past year. Most important of all, we want #GivingTuesday to be a way to give our donors and volunteers a much deserved appreciation of thanks.

It doesn’t take tons of money, either. With a $50 donation, one disaster victim can have a full day of emergency shelter. With a $30 donation, three people can enjoy hot meals.

Don’t worry if you accidentally miss out on #GivingTuesday – there are plenty of other opportunities to give something that means something this holiday season.

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Have a Merry Red Cross Christmas!

Simply explore our Holiday Giving Catalog at http://www.redcross.org/gifts. The catalog is full of symbolic gifts that represent all the different Red Cross lines of service. The gift(s) you select are tax-deductible and can be made in your name or in the name of someone else. The money will be put directly toward supporting the mission of the Red Cross—to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

Everyone’s doing it #GivingTuesday

Rigo’s Red Cross story: help and hope in Colorado

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.

Flood damaged areas in Loveland, CO
Flood damaged areas in Loveland, CO

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.

American Red Cross emergency response vehicle on September 17 in Evans, CO
American Red Cross emergency response vehicle on September 17 in Evans, CO

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 road is barricaded due to rising flood water on 1st Ave in Evans, CO
The road is barricaded due to rising flood water on 1st Ave in Evans, CO

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.”

Rigo’s Red Cross story: help and hope in Colorado