The calls came in the early hours Thursday, August 8, as the rapidly rising Turkey Creek forced families in sections of Hollister to move quickly and, the American Red Cross and its partners responded. A call from the Taney County Emergency Services to the Southern Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross came just before 5 a.m. By this time first responders in Hollister had been assisting a number of people. There were about 25 survivors being taken to two local fire stations. The Red Cross responded with a shelter opening within hours.
Other calls brought in Red Cross partners, among them the Salvation Army and New Beginnings Fellowship of Hollister. The Salvation Army began the process of bringing in donations of much needed clothing, food and other articles. The fellowship opened its doors at 151 Elm Street for the first time to serve in a disaster. New Beginnings had established a relationship with the Red Cross at least three years earlier. The facility was designed for multiple uses and most of the 275-person sanctuary’s folding chairs were moved out to make room other purposes – such as the 28 Red Cross cots that were quickly assembled by volunteers.
“We just opened up to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. It seems to be going good,” Larry Stenzel, a deacon of New Beginnings said Thursday morning. He said 10 to 12 church members had joined with the Red Cross volunteers to staff the shelter. Those volunteers included Al Bailey, Red Cross shelter manager, bringing staff and resources together to serve the people in need. Bob Taylor, a member of New Beginnings, serving coffee and snacks and Megan Wells, who was putting her recent training in Red Cross shelter procedures to use.
Also at her first disaster was Alexandra Heddings, of Forsyth. She volunteers alongside Sandy Posten, her mother-in-law-to-be, working at the shelter. But this was not Sandy’s first disaster. She’s been with the local chapter for about two years but is a longtime Red Cross volunteer. The two women staffed the desk where disaster victims got their first, “Come on in.” They were the reassuring voices in a trying time. They took the people through the paperwork and found out what a family or individual needed. Like the family of five adults and a child forced out in the dark but gathered around a table in the safety of the shelter. They were among those who registered on the Red Cross Safe and Well website to alert other family members that they were OK. Or another flood victim, Tracy Nelson of the Hidden Valley Mobile Home Park took refuge in a tree and saw her trailer floating away with her family inside. All were now safe, and the mother and son at the shelter.
Also checking in under Sandy’s firm and friendly guidance was John Hughes. He and his year-old daughter Vellasky plus two other adults watched as water rose from the bottom step to the floor of their trailer in less than 15 minutes. From eyeglasses to medicine and diapers, the Red Cross and its partners are helping them.
And there were others showing up to offer aid and support: Raeanne Zurn, manager of Cedar Creek Coffee, bringing in supplies. Robert Stricklin, executive chef of the Keeter Center, asking what supplies might be needed such as towels and toilet paper. Jeff Justus, state representative from the 156th district, observing and meeting victims and volunteers, a Taney County employee from Animal Control accepting pets needing a place to stay until owners can take care of them and Don Perkins, of Ridgedale, who brought an offer to feed the volunteers with a large amount of barbecued pulled pork and rolls leftover
Nearly a week later, the shelter has closed and those families who sought refuge have been provided for with a place to stay, clothes and food to help them get back on their feet. The Red Cross has set up a team of Long Term Recovery caseworkers who will continue to follow up with the families to ensure that they are not only recovering from this storm, but are better prepared and more resilient for potential future disaster that could come their way.
Story and photo by: Don Underwood, Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer