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Stories from the Scene 5

Lynne Leeds and John Puckey

pittsburgh fire

Past Volunteer Becomes Fire Victim

Dec. 18, 2010 - Lynne Leeds volunteered with the American Red Cross for a number of years providing aid and assistance to emergency victims throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, but she never thought that one day she would be the one needing help.

On the afternoon of Dec. 18, 2010, John Puckey and Lynne were at a funeral service for John’s grandmother when they received word that their Cokeburg home had caught on fire. After the services had finished, John and Lynne rushed home to discover their house ablaze.

“There were fire trucks everywhere and smoke was filling the air,” John recalled. “Firefighters kept rushing in and out of our home; it wasn’t good.”

After already having a difficult morning at the funeral service, coming home to a tragedy like a house fire was the last thing that John and Lynne wanted to experience.

“It was just very confusing,” said Lynne. “There were a lot of people running around and we didn’t know where to turn.”

Amidst all of the uncertainty and heartbreak, John and Lynne were greeted by Red Cross volunteers who brought them into the next door neighbor’s house and provided them with basic needs and a friendly face. They gave them water and food and helped call their family members. Red Cross volunteers assisted John and Lynne for the next three days, giving them the support they needed to begin a new life. However, of all the services the Red Cross provided, Lynne is most thankful for the clothing they received.

“We had nothing, not even our winter coats,” described Lynn. “The Red Cross gave us clothing to keep us warm because we couldn’t go into the house and all of our belongings were damaged.”

A few days after the fire, Red Cross volunteers even followed up with John and Lynne with a phone call to make sure they were recovering well.

Lynne had previously volunteered with the American Red Cross Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter for two years as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member until early 2007. Red Cross DAT volunteers provide disaster relief to families like John and Lynne who have been affected by fires, floods, storms, and other disasters. Lynne once helped emergency victims, but now she found that the tables had been turned.

“Being on the other side of things was surreal,” said Lynne. “But with all of the confusion the Red Cross volunteers stayed calm and collected. They were wonderful. They anticipated what we needed and provided it.”

Even after all of the hardships she has faced, Lynne still wished to help others in the community. She plans to pursue volunteer opportunities with the Service to the Armed Forces program at the American Red Cross.

Stories like the one told by John and Lynne are all too common. In fact, right here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Red Cross responds to a disaster once every 29 hours. But the Red Cross is only able to help families like this thanks to the generosity of the community.

To make a donation or for more information, call 412-263-3100