Red Cross shelter night shift suits former theater manager

Red Cross shelter night manager Sharon Collin says that she prefers volunteering during the night shift because "it's when you get to know the people and talk through the day." Sharon and McKai have a nightly chat. Photo credit: Amanda Mark/American Red Cross

Red Cross volunteer Sharon Collin is a natural organizer. A former movie theater manager, accountant and school teacher, she’s at ease while directing the flow of traffic that comes through the North Commons Recreation Center where the Red Cross shelter is housed.

Sharon is the night manager at this Red Cross shelter where 43 residents are attempting to rebuild their lives after the May 22 tornado destroyed blocks of North Minneapolis. One week into working at this shelter and Sharon has her routine down.

“I’m calling it organized disorder,” she says. “People are welcomed to come and go as they like as we try to create normalcy in the abnormal.”

Nearly all at once, Sharon sends someone to the snack room, finds a caseworker for another shelter resident, and hugs three kids in between the two tasks, promising one that she’ll tuck her in later.

“We have a lights out time,” she explained. “But one man works nights. Other people are night owls. I offer to fix snacks and hot meals during the night as people come through.”

Red Cross shelter night manager Sharon Collin shares a quiet moment with Willtin, 4. Photo credit: Amanda Mark/American Red Cross

While Sharon has responsibilities and organizational tasks to ensure that the shelter runs smoothly, she says she spends most of her time listening.

“No one wants to be here,” she said. “I listen to where they’re at, answer Red Cross questions, and match them up with services so they can move forward.”

Sharon travelled from Cumberland Foreside, Maine, to be the shelter night manager. She’s volunteered for the Red Cross in various ways for the past 6 years: working on disaster teams, supporting call centers and filling in any way she can, but her favorite assignment is working at shelters.

“People often enter a shelter at their lowest point. Red Cross volunteers enter a shelter, fresh with adrenaline and ready to help. Sometimes that’s really what people need. Someone to support them and provide the energy they don’t have.”

(Reporting and photos by Amanda Mark, Red Cross Volunteer)

Red Cross Strata

Red Cross disaster responder, Ann Layton, offers a slice of her homemade "strata," an Italian casserole she made from leftover bread slices at the Red Cross tornado response headquarters in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Red Cross disaster response volunteers are extraordinary in many ways, but only a few would turn unused slices of bread into something yummy for dozens of fellow responders who’ve been working for days helping hundreds of families rebuild their lives after the May 22 tornado in Minneapolis.

Ann Layton, a Red Cross volunteer, saw the bread on her way out the disaster operation doors last night and brought the bread back this morning all done up as “strata,” an Italian casserole that’s darn comforting.

“The bread was dry and I needed to add more milk,” said Ann, who made three variations of the dish, which you assemble and refrigerate before baking and serving.

We think your strata dish is perfect… and we thank you’re extra great, Ann, for taking time to provide additional comfort for Red Cross disaster responders who are working hard helping others recover from this awful disaster.

Some more fortunate than others

Minneapolis tornado survivor Cathy Stolte shares her harrowing story with Red Cross volunteer Dave Schoeneck. Photo credit: Jason Viana/American Red Cross

Kathy Stolte was working on a cross word puzzle Sunday when she heard a crashing sound. She grabbed her dog and headed for the basement, but the tornado had already passed her north Minneapolis bungalow, leaving behind a path of twisted trees, broken homes and destruction.

Kathy, her husband, and her dog were fortunate — no injuries, just property damage. Part of the roof of their home blew off, and rain soaked the insulation, making the house uninhabitable. Her son’s car was skewered by a five inch tree branch, from windshield to floorboard. The worst damage was to the garage, parts of which currently reside in her neighbor’s kitchen.

Red Cross volunteers are providing water and snacks to people helping to remove debris after the May 22 tornado in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Jason Viana/American Red Cross

On Wednesday, as repair crews from the City of Minneapolis were hauling away the remains of large trees from their block, and crews from Xcel Energy were restoring electric power to their block, Kathy was grateful when a Red Cross disaster team from the St. Croix Chapter of the American Red Cross came down the street, offering food and water to anyone who needed it. Eric Nickolai and Sherm Boucher were busy handing out water, sandwiches, energy drinks and fruit to residents, volunteers, and work crews.

While Kathy faces weeks before her house can be reoccupied, she is one of the lucky ones who had homeowner’s insurance and has a place to stay temporarily. Hundreds of others were out trying to salvage their belongings and working to find food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their families.

(Reporting by Red Cross volunteer Dave Schoeneck)

Many wonder where they’ll live

The reality of a long road to recovery is becoming clear for families displaced or homeless following the powerful tornado that swept through Minneapolis on Sunday, May 22.

Red Cross responder Sarah Russell talks with Lillian Scott and her son Damon about next steps for their recovery from the May 22 tornado in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Standing outside the shelter located at the armory in northeast Minneapolis Lillian Scott welcomes her son Damon, 9, who has returned from a day at school.

Scott has been living at the shelter since Sunday, when the tornado touched down in what she describes as a neighborhood that now faces even more challenges.

“Already the neighborhood was bad,” says Scott. “Now it’s not safe for my son to play. There’s so much debris. It’s covered with trees. We can’t stay there. It’s just bad.”

An estimated 5,000 people are affected. Many have found temporary refuge with friends and family.  While others, like Scott, have made a new home at a shelter where the Red Cross is providing cots, blankets, and hugs during a tough time.

Scott, whose top priority is finding a new home, is standing strong for her son.

“If I cry, then he’ll cry,” says Scott. “If I’m okay, then he’s okay. Eventually we’ll be taken care of. I know something good will happen.”

(Reporting by Red Cross responders Lynette Nyman and Sarah Russell)

Letter from Alabama

(Guest Post from Karen & Rick Campion)

Some of you already know this information, but we wanted to update everyone at the same time. We are deployed by the Red Cross to the Alabama tornadoes for up to three weeks.

We are on the Disaster Assessment team – the first Red Cross representatives on site to do initial damage assessments.  Our data gets relayed to the Red Cross Command Center and then on to FEMA. We’re using new technology – hand held collection units.  The info is used to assess future aid and services needed.

So far, we’ve been assigned to gather data in 3 counties, which includes the city of Huckleburg.  Most of the homes here were destroyed and there is no electric and limited cell phone coverage.

We’ve included a couple pics of what we’ve seen.  One of the interesting sights in the middle of town was the cemetery.  Headstones had beautiful flowers completely untouched and the grass was perfectly manicured.  Total chaos surrounded the cemetery.

The affected people are doing amazingly well (at least for now).  They are very gracious and appreciative of those who have come to help.  Keep them in your prayers.

Take care,
Karen and Rick

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