Red Cross and the Minneapolis Tornado

A year ago, May 22, 2011, an EF1 tornado swept through Minneapolis, mostly on the North Side where it ripped up homes and trees, displaced hundreds of our neighbors, killed two people, and injured dozens of others. The American Red Cross responded immediately, providing safe shelter, food, water, and emotional support to survivors. Like others, right now we’re remembering this tragic event. Watch our tribute video.

Disaster relief workers at the Red Cross shelter lifted spirits and gave people a shoulder to cry on. They connected displaced families with a network of organizations focused on long-term recovery. In all, the Red Cross provided 1,377 overnight stays for people with no place else to go and more than 151,000 meals and snacks. (Photo credit, left: Amanda Mark, American Red Cross)

“People often enter a shelter at their lowest point. Sometimes that’s really what people need…someone to support them and provide energy they don’t have.” A Red Cross Shelter Worker responding to the Minneapolis tornado that hit May 22, 2011.

Red Cross emergency disaster relief also includes distribution of bulk items, such as blankets, personal hygiene items, and cleaning supplies. Red Cross workers distributed more than 10,800 such items, including 1400 comfort kits for individuals, to meet basic needs after the tornado. (Photo credit, left: Carrie Carlson-Guest, American Red Cross)

“Thank you Red Cross! We’re getting what we need thanks to you.” A Minneapolis Tornado Survivor after receiving relief supplies from the Red Cross.

 

Disasters affect everyone, adults and children alike. Red Cross disaster mental health volunteers responded and met with individuals and families, providing more than 2,800 health and mental health consultations to help people cope with the tornado, its destruction, and the stress of rebuilding a life after disaster. (Photo credit: Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross)

“Without the American Red Cross we would have nowhere to go.” A Tornado Survivor who relied on the Red Cross shelter for many nights after the disaster.

 

More than 350 Red Cross workers were part of the Minneapolis tornado relief operation. Ninety-five percent were Red Cross volunteers from Minnesota and around the country who contributed more than 25,000 volunteer hours worth nearly $600,000. (Photo credit, left: Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” From everyone…

 

The Red Cross relies on donated money and goods from individuals and organizations to help our community. Donations for Red Cross disaster relief from the storm included $525,000 in money and $188,000 in goods – totaling $713,000. However, due to the scope of the disaster, the Red Cross spent $793,000 on the response – $80,000 more than what was donated – to help those in need.   (Photo credit, left: Anne Florenzano, American Red Cross)

If this post inspires you, consider becoming a part of the Red Cross. There’s a place for everyone. You could give time, money, or blood. You could help us prepare for the next disaster, tornado, or emergency. You could learn CPR or First Aid. You could provide comfort when people need it the most. Learn more on our website.

“Many many thanks…” From all of us…

Apartment Fire Survivor “Worse than Back to Square One”

On Friday, March 9, 2012, a fire burned an apartment building in Minneapolis. That afternoon at the Red Cross service center volunteer relief worker Kevin Berger spoke with two people affected by this disaster and learned more about them.

Kimberlee Overvold and Carl Robinsen survived the March 9, 2012, St. George apartment fire in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Kevin Berger/American Red Cross

Kimberlee Overvold was at the temporary Red Cross service center just a few blocks from where she had lived for 11 months before a fire destroyed the St. George apartment building on 17thStreet. She was trying to collect herself and figure out her next steps. Overvold and her boyfriend were in the process of finding a bigger apartment but then the fire took it all away. Overwhelmed with the emotion of the situation she said,“I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and it’s going to be a dream.”

They had just gone to bed around 1:45 a.m. when the fire alarms sounded at 2 a.m. Kimberlee said at first they thought it was a false alarm because even as they headed out of the building there was no signs of smoke or fire. However, it wasn’t long before flames rushed through the building and they found themselves meeting up with their neighbors in a bus temporarily used as a shelter.

Before moving into the St. George apartments she had been homeless for nearly 2 years. Back then she said at least she had some possessions, but now “I’m worse than back to square one” as she’s lost everything. Pointing at herself with her mobile phone in hand, she said, “this is my living room now as all my stuff is gone.”

She reflected on some of her family pictures and watercolors she had from her late grandmother. “That’s the stuff I’m going to miss.”

The St. George apartments burned, displacing more than 30 residents of Minneapolis. Photo credit: Kevin Berger/American Red Cross

Her boyfriend, Carl Robinsen, was also considering how to move forward. “I’m not worried about what caused this to happen, we just need to fix it.” He said they were thankful that no one was seriously hurt or killed in the building that housed 32 units. “You can’t replace life,” he said.

One concern is replacing clippers and shears valued at more than $1500 and needs for the barber program he’s just four months from completing at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). As lunch passed by at the Red Cross service center Robinsen was wondering if he should make his way to his job as a janitor in Edina so that he could at least think about something else for a while.

The couple left the service center with information from the Red Cross and The Salvation Army for a temporary place to stay and getting some clothes before finding a new home.

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross disaster relief, helping people recover from this fire and similar disasters. Or go to redcross.org to donate even more financial support. This story and the accompanying photos are by Kevin Berger, a volunteer American Red Cross disaster relief worker based in Minnesota.

Generosity Abounds in Minnesota

Red Cross responder Carrie Carlson-Guest helped promote Give to the Max Day at a giveMN.org event.

We’re not surprised by your generosity even though others around the country might be. Minnesotans have long been givers–of time, wisdom, and money. This was no exception during the 2011 Give to the Max Day.

The American Red Cross in Minnesota ranked 35 out of nearly 4000 and made the Top 100 leader board. YOU donated more than $35,000 to support our mission to provide humanitarian relief during disaster and to help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.

And so we extend our appreciation most heartily during this season of giving thanks. We can also say without a doubt that the beneficiaries of your generosity are incredibly grateful as well.

If you missed Give to the Max Day, you can still share with others. Check out our 2011 Holiday Giving Catalog.

Busy Day Two At A Red Cross Shelter

By Cathryn Kennedy, Red Cross Volunteer, Twin Cities Area Chapter

Riley, 2, gets a snack with help from Red Cross volunteer Bonnie Reyers at the Bloomington shelter. Riley and his mother escaped the apartment fire early Tuesday morning. Photo credit: Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross

By 10 a.m. the list of tasks was getting long. Shelter Manager Ruth Talford needed to order pizzas for lunch, arrange transportation to off-site showers, and set up two family meeting rooms, including one for discussing financial assistance and another for providing stress relief and counseling. Later in the afternoon, Talford would need to help families get to where they could request government emergency assistance funds.

Meanwhile families in the shelter were busy, too.

Grandmother Eva Dale needed emergency medical care for care of her feet, but first she had to prepare granddaughter Kiara for kindergarten. That meant finding some school clothes and transportation to Kiara’s elementary school.

Red Cross volunteers sprung into action and within 15 minutes Kiara was decked out in a school outfit and winter coat, but she still needed shoes.  So did her sister, Kiana, as well as Grandmother Eva.  Shoes were in short supply so one volunteer was given names of two nearby neighbors who had offered to help.

School bus driver Tim Hamm stopped by the shelter to check on one of his students. Hamm offered to help and later dropped off diapers for younger children. Photo credit: Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross
School bus driver Tim Hamm stopped by the shelter to check on one of his students. Hamm offered to help and later dropped off diapers for younger children. Photo credit: Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross

The night of the fire Eva was caring for her granddaughters, while their mother was in Iowa. Eva woke up in the night smelling smoke and when she opened the window for ventilation, she saw flames leaping out of a neighbor’s apartment and a parent yelling for help. She awoke her granddaughters and dropped them out the window to waiting rescue workers before jumping out herself. With no time to get shoes, Eva suffered frostbite, and getting her to a doctor was added to the shelter manager’s list urgent things to do.

Meanwhile, Bloomington school bus driver Tim Hamm, who had Kiara on his route, stopped by to see if she was all right. Asking how he could help, he offered to purchase some diapers for a couple of younger children.

Two-year-old Riley and his mother were waiting for a cab to take him to day care, and other families were headed out to go buy new clothes with Red Cross vouchers.

Before noon nine pizzas arrived and after some nourishment everyone went back to work helping families get lives back in order after a fire disaster.

Red Cross Responds On Sub-Zero Minnesota Morning

By Red Cross Volunteers Dave Schoeneck and Grace Thompson

When fire struck an apartment building on a recent sub-zero morning in Minnesota, residents had little time to do more than escape. Some leaped from second- and third-story windows while others dropped their children into the arms of first responders.

Eleven apartments suffered extensive damage, displacing more than 30 people. Within minutes, Twin Cities Red Cross volunteers responded to assist them.

Red Cross Comfort Kit
A simple Red Cross Comfort Kit, which includes shampoo, soap, and other essential personal care items, helps people with immediate disaster relief. Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

“Some people fled the burning building in nothing more than shorts,” said Anne Florenzano, a Red Cross volunteer who arrived on the scene early Tuesday.

Heated buses provided initial refuge while residents wondered where they’d sleep that night. By 10:30 AM, the Red Cross had opened a shelter offering a safe and warm place for families to sleep and make plans for rebuilding lives torn apart by disaster.

Kiara Faalafula, a six year-old girl living with her grandmother, was dropped from the second story window because smoke filled the halls made escape by stairs impossible. A police officer caught the kindergartener and took her to a heated bus where she was given a blanket, and later a coat.

Melvin Saballos, 31, who also lived on the second floor, was woken by his father about 5:45 AM. The hall was so filled with smoke that the only exit was through a window.

Melvin, 31, escaped the burning building on a ladder and later sought refuge in a Red Cross shelter. Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

“The Red Cross has been very attentive to the needs of the people, making sure that nobody panics,” said Saballos. “The Red Cross has been incredibly helpful. We are warm and safe.”

Britney Godfrey and Roderick Diggins, along with their daughter, MaKayla, and Roderick’s sister, Ladietra Diggins and her son, Tre’von Diggans, lived in a third floor apartment.

MaKayla, 3, was dropped from a third-story apartment window and caught by a police officer. Here, she's getting clean socks and pants (that are way too big for her). Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

Britney woke up, smelled smoke, and tried to get everyone out, but the smoke-filled hallway was impassible. Godfrey realized that the window was the only way out. After dropping the children into the arms of first responders, the three adults then jumped to save their own lives. All are grateful for the Red Cross help they’ve received.

Since January 1, The Twin Cities Red Cross has responded to 80 fire disasters, providing comfort and other immediate disaster relief for more than 250 people. More than 75 Red Cross volunteers have assisted these families.

Residents affected by the Bloomington apartment fire or other recent disasters can call (612) 871-7676 for more information about the Red Cross and disaster relief services.