Red Cross Assesses Tornado Damage in Texas

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


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.

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

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

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

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

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

This Valentine’s Day Keep the Sparks Flying in Your Romance…Not Your Home

By Jennifer Paysen, Communications Intern, Spring 2015

Hearts header

Love is in the air. The big date night is fast approaching. Planning the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner at home? Perhaps you’re testing out a new recipe to impress your sweetie, or maybe you’ll be enjoying hot cocoa by the fireplace? Keep your dream date from turning into a nightmare with these simple safety tips.


If you plan on cooking a romantic meal, don’t forget to take proper fire safety precautions in the kitchen. First and foremost, make sure your smoke alarms are working by using the test button. The batteries might need to be replaced if they’re on the older side. If you don’t have a smoke alarm, call the Red Cross or the Fire Department to get one installed for free.

2. COOKING Burner crop

Now that the smoke alarms work, you can start your romantic home cooked meal. Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food, and turn the burners off if leaving the kitchen. Make sure all cooking surfaces are clean to prevent grease buildup, and keep children and pets at least three feet away from the cooking area. Also keep a pan lid or baking sheet nearby and use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire.


It’s time to dim the lights and set the mood. While very romantic, candles can be dangerous if you don’t take a few precautions. Keep them at least 12 inches from anything that can burn, such as curtains, bedding, mattresses, paper, books, flammable decorations, clothing, and upholstered furniture. Keep them out of reach of pets and children. Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn, and are large enough to collect dripping wax. Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.

4. FIREPLACEFireside champage

If you plan to cuddle up by the fire, make sure your fireplace is clean and has been inspected during the last year. Never leave it unattended and make sure your fireplace has a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs. Also make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home. Always keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away.


You want everything to be just perfect, but accidents are bound to happen. To avoid cutting or burning yourself while cooking, schedule plenty of time to prepare your meal so that you aren’t rushing. In case of a minor injury, keep your first aid kit handy. Download our free First Aid App today, so that you’ll have first aid information right in your pocket in preparation for Valentine’s Day and every day.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the American Red Cross Central & South Texas Region!

This Valentine’s Day Keep the Sparks Flying in Your Romance…Not Your Home

May Volunteer Spotlight

West Central Texas Volunteer of the Month:  Fred Anderson  

FVolunteer_May_Fredred has been with the West Central Texas chapter for more than a year and has recently assumed an increased leadership role.   He is currently a Disaster Assessment Team member who has responded to several fires.  Additionally, he took on the role of Disaster Assessment Lead and has been analyzing potential points of concern within the chapter area.


Hill Country Volunteer of the Month:  Jacquelyn Lacefield

Volunteer_May_JackieJackie has been volunteering with the Red Cross for only a few months, but has become active in many different areas. She primarily volunteers with Preparedness Health and Safety Services, and she recently completed a large inventory project and helped out with a first aid tent at a large event over the Easter holiday.




Heart of Texas Volunteer of the Month: Edward Jaworksy

Ed JaworskyEdward Jaworsky has been a fantastic Red Cross volunteer with us since October when h​e immediately stepped up to help during the Austin Flooding. Aside from being a Disaster Assessment volunteer, he recently became one of our newest Disaster Services Technology volunteers in Waco! Edward has spent part of the past month whipping our office technology into shape. We are so thankful for his expertise and service.




Central Texas Volunteer of the Month: Jo Anne Ortiz

Volunteer_May_JoAnneJo Anne is a fearless leader of the Public Affairs team and a skilled Red Cross instructor. From teaching workshops to responding to fires to attending community outreach events, she never hesitates to represent the Red Cross in our community. Thank you, Jo Anne!

May Volunteer Spotlight