“They probably would have helped with that too…”

“Well, I’m doing ok, now. At least the water isn’t in the trailer,” said Darlene Tomczak, referring to the Rainy Lake Basin flooding that started in May. “But the skirting, insulation and ductwork are all ruined.”

Originally from Canada, Darlene moved to the United States in ’64, for – you guessed it – love. She and her late husband survived their share of hardships over the years, including other floods, but “this one is by far the worst – just devastating – worse than 2014,” she added.

“This time the water came up fast. I told the kids, we gotta get you out now or we won’t get you out,” Darlene said referring to her daughters and granddaughters who were visiting her at the time.

View of Darlene Tomczak’s home, Rainy Lake, MN. She and her family had to be rescued from rising flood waters via boat. May 2022. Submitted photo.

Her daughter and sons rescued Darlene from Rainy Lake via boat. “We were lucky,” she said. In the following weeks, she stayed with her daughter and extended family, waiting on mother nature.

Flood waters receded slowly, revealing not only mud and sand, but mementos of drier days. Water pumps drone on keeping additional damage at bay as people watch their electric bills rise like flood waters.

Bill Parker, from Side Lake, MN, is one of the many Red Cross volunteers who helped with those so deeply affected by this disaster. Assessing their immediate needs, including safe shelter, help with food and health services, cleanup supplies, and emotional support, he determines what services Red Cross can provide and what our community partners can do.

Darlene shares a smile outside her home. Submitted photo.

“My jaw dropped open and I almost lost my teeth!”
chuckled Darlene, referring to the support from the Red Cross.
“But they probably would’ve helped me with that too.”

Part of the Red Cross recovery process includes getting money into the hands of disaster victims as soon as possible to support their specific needs. In Darlene’s case, the funds came at the perfect time – helping her pay the electric bill for her water pumps running 24 hours a day. “My jaw dropped open and I almost lost my teeth!” chuckled Darlene, referring to support from the Red Cross. “But they probably would’ve helped me with that too.”

Darlene is just one of the hundreds of people Red Cross disaster responders continue to help as they wait for the flood waters to finally go down.

Since the Rainy Lake Basin waters began to rise in May, more than 70 Red Cross disaster responders (+90% volunteers) have supported sandbaggers, community members and people directly impacted by the floods, including:

32,527 snacks and beverages

1,120 physical and emotional health services

150 residents impacted by flooding received direct financial assistance

1,403 meals delivered from partners at the Salvation Army

1,220 cleanup kits comfort kits and emergency supplies

“Red Cross volunteers were grateful to help people like Darlene affected by these historic floods,” said Dan Williams, Executive Director for the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Chapter. “We always need more people like all of the volunteers who helped with this response to raise their hand to help our neighbors in need,” he added.  

“The support from local Government, business community and response partners was incredible.  Huge thanks to the International Falls Coca-Cola distributor, the Virginia Walmart store, Cub Foods and the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (among many others) for their amazing nimbleness and generosity.” 

Learn more about volunteer opportunities near you at redcross.org/volunteer.

Showing how much has to be done

Photo credit: John Decker/American Red Cross

The photo above, sent from one of our Red Cross volunteers, captures a tiny fraction of the sandbags being used to fight back water rising in the Rainy River watershed (and others) across northern Minnesota since last Friday. These sandbags are filled by community volunteers: families, students, neighbors and out-of-towners. They get thirsty, they get hungry and they get blisters. So, we’re there supporting them with hydration and snacks as well as basic health services – we’re helping the helpers! We’ve been working primarily in International Falls (Koochiching County) and doing deliveries to Lake Kabetogama and surrounding areas (Northern St. Louis County).

FAST FACTS

By end of day today, we’ll have provided since last Friday:

💧 Bottled water: 3,288

✔️ Powerade/Gatorade/BodyArmor: 1,370

🍿 Snacks: 1,942

🍊 Fruit: 392

🚚 Remote distribution of Salvation Army meals: 60 meals

🤕 First aid services at sandbagging location: 96

Many thanks to the great groups below, and to all of our amazing partners, for supporting the flood response – Boise Paper/PCA, Walmart in Virginia, MN, United Way of Northeastern Minnesota, Coca Cola Bottling of International Falls, International Falls Hockey Arena, and Cub Foods Duluth. You’re the best! 🤩

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