Red Cross workers: Tirelessly delivering disaster relief services

"I am so thankful to this community, my neighbors, and the Red Cross," says Monica Smith lost nearly everything when her home in floods in Deweyville, Texas. Photo Credit: Danuta Otfinowski/American Red Cross
“I am so thankful to this community, my neighbors, and the Red Cross,” says Monica Smith lost nearly everything when her home in floods in Deweyville, Texas. Photo Credit: Danuta Otfinowski/American Red Cross

As much of the country looks forward to Easter weekend, thousands of people in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi are still dealing with the impacts of severe and widespread flooding.

For more than two weeks, communities across the South and Gulf Coast have endured intense rainfall and record-breaking flooding. The Sabine River flooding on the Texas and Louisiana border has broken records held since the 1880s and the Red River in Louisiana hit its highest level in more than 70 years. And this week, portions of the southern U.S. will face the return of severe thunderstorms and flooding, raising additional flooding concerns for already drenched terrain throughout the lower Mississippi Valley.

The American Red Cross is there on the ground, working around the clock to support individuals and families in need. On Tuesday, March 22, more than 270 people spent the evening in 16 Red Cross and community shelters in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Since severe storms and flooding began earlier this month, more than 1,500 Red Cross disaster relief workers, both staff and volunteers have:

  • Opened 60 shelters which have provided more than 4,000 overnight stays;
  • Distributed more than 70,000 relief items; and
  • Served more than 170,000 meals and snacks for impacted residents.

As people return to their neighborhoods, many are finding their homes inundated with muddy brown water and sewage, and their property strewn with heavy piles of debris. Even if their homes don not appear destroyed from the outside, some people have mobile homes that were immersed in several inches or a foot of water and inaccessible for over a week—many of those homes are a total loss because of the duration they spent with water inside.

Monica and Robert Smith lost nearly everything when their Deweyville, Texas home filled with five feet of water last week. “Everything that we own is now in the yard. We only had a few hours to evacuate, so we left it all behind,” says Monica who has lived with her family in Deweyville her entire life and has never seen a flood of this magnitude. In the photo above, Monica shows a Red Cross volunteer just how high the water was. “I am so thankful to this community, my neighbors, and the Red Cross,” says Monica. “I am not sure how I would have handled this situation without help.”

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“Everyone here is so friendly and kind,” says Maybel Bordelon who received Red Cross relief supplies in Orange, Texas. Photo Credit: Danuta Otfinowski/American Red Cross

In addition to sheltering, the Red Cross is also helping to operate Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARC) throughout impacted areas. At these resource centers people can sit down a with Red Cross caseworker, as well as with government and community partner organizations that are offering assistance. Recovering from a disaster can be a confusing and trying process; resource centers help streamline relief information and aid so people can more easily find the help they need.

Impacted residents visit MARCs for cleanup supplies, hot meals, emotional counseling and health services, including 75-year-old Maybel Bordelon (pictured above) from Orange, Texas. “Everyone here is so friendly and kind. Everyone is town is talking about the help that Red Cross is providing. We are so thankful you are here.”

You can help
We need your continued support now to help people affected by disasters big and small. Those who would like to help people affected by disasters like flooding and countless other crises can make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

Thank you!

In pictures : Red Cross responds to flooding in Louisiana

Hundreds of Red Cross workers are operating shelters and providing meals, relief supplies and health and mental health services in four southern states where thousands of people have been forced from their homes by floodwaters, many leaving with little but the clothes on their backs. More than 380 people spent Sunday, March 13, in 30 Red Cross and community shelters in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas.

Volunteers like Ethel Payne of Monroe, Louisiana, help provide comfort for families staying at Red Cross shelters. Volunteers often come prepared with toys and activities for children at shelters, which helps make them feel safe during difficult times. Flooding_LouisianaCima1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Terina Smith, Michael Stevenson and their three small children were rescued from floodwaters in Monroe, Louisiana, they found safety at a Red Cross shelter. Volunteer Ethel Payne has helped provide comfort and lifted their spirits during their time at the shelter. Flooding_LouisianaCima2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clifton Winsor has lived by himself in his Rayville, Louisiana, home since his wife’s passing in 2013. At 87, he’s lived through a lot, but this is the first time his home has flooded. Now, he looks toward the future. “At my age, it’s hard enough to think about what happens next after something like this,” he says with tears in his eyes, “but facing it alone without my wife makes it even harder.”Flooding_LouisianaCima5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Red Cross delivered water and snacks to neighborhoods affected by flooding in Rayville, Louisiana. For many residents, it was the first day they were able to get back into their homes to assess damage.
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When Carroll Taylor saw the water rising in the backyard of her West Monroe, Louisiana, home, she knew she had to leave. When she came back the next night, she found about 6 inches of water had entered her living room. When the Red Cross came through her neighborhood, she had spent two days pulling carpeting out of her home, bleaching her walls and cleaning the concrete floor below. “I was mad that this happened to me at first, but then I realized I was lucky,” she says. “I didn’t get it as bad as others – and I won’t need as much as others – but I’m so grateful that the Red Cross is here to help those who will need it.”Flooding_LouisianaCima7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can help people affected by disasters, such as the current flooding and countless other crises, by making a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. You can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. To learn more about the Red Cross relief effort across flood-affected areas, click here.

Photos by Daniel Cima. Captions by April Phillips.

Overwhelming Response Includes the Red Cross

Story and photos by Andrea Bredow, Red Cross Volunteer

Scott Webber & Mary Ellen Fox, volunteers on the sand bagging line in Hastings, Minnesota. Photo credit: Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross

It was a chilly 17 degrees on Saturday morning, but the cold spring air and piles of snow did not stop the Hastings, Minnesota, community from banding together to fight the looming Mississippi River waters.

An estimated 700 volunteers spent Saturday sandbagging homes along the river.  The American Red Cross Twin Cities Chapter volunteers were there as well. The Red Cross feeding vehicle, also know as the ERV, was on hand to provide hot beverages and snacks to keep volunteers warm and energized.

Red Cross volunteers served coffee, hot chocolate, & snacks to people sand bagging in Hastings, Minnesota. Photo credit: Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross

The call for volunteers went out early in the week and hundreds responded with shovel in hand.  Family’s worked filling bags, youth groups stood in the “bucket line” delivering sandbags to homes and Scott Webber even showed up on his birthday to help.

“This is what the city of Hastings does. We help each other,” said Webber.

Webber and a hundred other volunteers were sent to surround Lloyd Fanum’s river side home with sandbags.  Fanum has lived on the river for 30 years and is always overwhelmed by the communities outpouring of help.

“The boys and girls giving their weekend to help me is overwhelming!  I can’t thank them enough,” said Fanum.

Homeowner Lloyd Fanum is interviewed about the outpouring of help to save his home from the impending flood. Photo credit: Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross

The army of volunteers turned out 20,000 sandbags in only four hours!

“When the neighbors are in trouble, we are ready to reach out and help,” said Patrick Walker, one of the sand bagging organizers.

Walker says they are ready to gear up the sandbagging operation at any time.  If more homes along the river need help, the Hastings community will be there.

Click here to learn more about Red Cross services and opportunities.

Red Cross Prepares for Spring Floods

It’s hard to escape the news about potential flooding in the upper Midwest this spring. We wanted to let you know that we, the American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter, is preparing to provide disaster relief in our backyard and, if needed, around the region.

Graphic courtesy of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press

There are two phases for us: preparedness and response. We anticipate an all-hands-on-deck spring, with plenty of ways that Red Cross volunteers, donors, and others, can pitch in, whether you prefer to be on the front lines assisting clients through damage assessment, sheltering, feeding, and casework, or in supporting roles such as public affairs, staffing, logistics, dispatching, fundraising and more.

Our flood preparedness goals:

  • To meet with emergency management from each county and major city in our service area. The goal is to clarify expectations and to learn more about the population and demographics in potentially flood affected areas. Our initial discussions indicate that the areas of highest risk include Hastings, St. Paul, Newport, and Shakopee.
  • To have facilities on standby for use as shelters in high-risk areas. We are meeting with owners and stakeholders of buildings that would be best suited for use as Red Cross shelters. This will allow us to determine building availability, to conduct walk-through for shelter set-up and to handle paperwork in advance.
  • To practice our disaster response skills with staff and volunteers. Like you, we want to be ready for the floods. Veteran responders will be offering skills refreshers in all areas of disaster response.
  • To have all available volunteers in our database up-to-date. The Red Cross responds with volunteers who are ready and willing to help. We will reach out to our volunteers asking them to double check that their paperwork is complete.

Our flood response plans:

  • If we are called upon to assist, we will respond. We have good relationships with our local emergency managers and will be working closely with them as always to verify news reports if it appears that we are needed, but not called.
  • We will provide a Red Cross shelter for families who need a safe and warm place to stay. During a flood response, this is generally the best action choice because we can publish the location and be ready to accept those who need safe and warm shelter. At the shelter we will be able to provide health and mental health assistance as well as tending to basics such as water and food.
  • In anticipation of widespread effects, we will treat calls as having an impact on multiple families. Our working assumption will be that the first flood call will be followed by more calls for assistance. We will open shelters in the areas of greatest need and ask others to travel to those shelters.

We will update you as preparedness and response plans are fine-tuned.

Thank you for everything you do year-round to make sure that the Red Cross stands ready to help those in greatest need during the most difficult times.

Click here to learn more about Red Cross services and programs.

Ready to roll again

“Oh the wonderful, productive chaos of a Red Cross deployment!”

By Kris Posey, Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter Disaster Services Volunteer

Kris on a Red Cross mass care vehicle

The first day: one plane trip, one rental car shared with two Red Cross volunteers from Connecticut, and no “room at the inn” because they’d been rented long ago for a Georgia Tech football game. After much effort by Staff Services Lodging volunteers, thirty-four of us were able to drive about twenty miles to a motel for the night. My roommate was from Tennessee. After we determined that I was older–much older–she decided to call me Mom for the remainder of our time together. I loved that!

My second day in Georgia meant a new assignment, a new motel, and a new roommate from Long Island.

The new assignment was working as Staff Support at a satellite Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) kitchen in a church in Mableton, Georgia, that would be closer to the mobile feeding routes. This meant moving to another motel room (a very nice one thankfully) so the ERV drivers would not need to spend as much time commuting back and forth to the job. We shared the church offices with the Southern Baptists who were there to cook the food that the Red Cross ERV’s delivered. There were 20+ ERV’s working out of this kitchen and the collaboration between Red Cross and Southern Baptists was run like a fine tuned machine!

I had an opportunity to ride on two different ERV runs and see some of the people who were affected by the floods—many of them had nothing much before the floods. They were very appreciative of the two meals a day Red Cross was delivering to them. I was glad that I had attended the “Ready Set Roll” ERV class because I was able to help in a productive way instead of being a third wheel. I knew what to look for when the drivers asked for a spoodle!

After ten days, Red Cross had met the needs of the residents and it was time for everyone to head back home. We out processed all of the drivers and after their ERVs passed the road inspection 20+ ERVs headed back home to places all over the South.

I stayed another three days to finish my assignment at Red Cross Headquarters. Yes, this meant moving to a fourth motel. Then I returned home where I crashed for two days (a given after a deployment) and now I am ready to deploy all over again!