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