What The American Red Cross Means to Disaster Survivors


The American Red Cross means many things to people at different times and through different circumstances. Today the Red Cross is comfort in a storm for many families who have been displaced from their homes due to the flood waters that have ravaged several communities across the state of Missouri.
When Joyce Parks, of Hollister, MO. went to bed on Wednesday night, she expected the thunder from the predicted storms rolling in to wake her, not her son’s panicked voice saying “you need to get out of bed right now.” Joyce was surprised to look out and see what appeared to be a lake in her front yard. She approximated the water level to be a foot deep but could tell it was rising quickly. Reacting on instinct alone Joyce quickly roused the remaining members of the household, including 5 year old granddaughter Christina, and hurriedly ushered them to the highest point of their multilevel home. Joyce placed the still half asleep toddler on a couch and began to assess the situation. The water level was rising very quickly, at this point already covering the front steps and her family was beginning to panic. Drawing from the life experience only a grandmother would possess, she realized, she would need to calm her family and be ready to make quick decisions in order to keep her family safe.
The once seeping water now began to gush into the house and within a few minutes the family found themselves standing in knee deep water. Joyce heard a groggy, little voice exclaim, “Grandma, why are we in the lake?” as the couch lifted from the floor and began to float about the room. For the next hour Joyce continued to calm her family and comfort her grandchild as the water rose to a few feet deep inside their home, but then almost as suddenly as the water had rose it began to dissipate. Shortly thereafter they were greeted by the sound of fire trucks coming to the rescue. Joyce said this was the first of many small moments of relief. The firemen could of course get them to a safer place, but then what? Joyce and her family did not have the financial means to move into another home, let alone the unknown amount of money it would take to obtain shelter, food, and clothing in the interim. The second, and much larger, waive of relief came shortly after getting to safety. The American Red Cross had a shelter open and ready. Through partner programs with other community organizations such as The Salvation Army, they had food, clothing, and even cleaning supplies to begin the long process of rebuilding and recovery.  Now, after the first night stay in the shelter Joyce feels hope for recovery rather than loss and despair.
As I sit here and play a game of ‘Old Maid’ with Christina I ask her what she thought of spending the night in the shelter. “It was fun! Just like camping with lots of people!” she exclaimed with an ear to ear grin.
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.
Story by: Steph Burns, American Red Cross Volunteer; Public Affairs
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