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Hawaii Volcano Claims Volunteer’s Home – ‘Everything is Gone’

The Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island in Hawaii began erupting on May 3 and has destroyed more than 470 homes since the lava flow began. The American Red Cross has been responding from the beginning, providing shelter, relief supplies and comfort to those affected.

Here is a firsthand account of how destructive the volcano is by a Red Cross volunteer who lost her home to the lava:

Roberta Messenheimer knows very well how life can change within minutes. After two sleepless nights of constant earthquakes, she was sitting in her kitchen enjoying her breakfast when her husband returned home from his morning walk looking quite upset. While walking through their beautiful neighborhood of Leilani Estates, he noticed that the streets were beginning to crack. The Hawaii resident walked outside to greet her husband and together they saw that their private driveway had begun to develop small fissures.

Within an hour, lava began to flow out covering their driveway.

As Messenheimer turned to walk back into her home she heard her husband screaming “Oh my gosh the lava has erupted and its covering the neighbor’s home across the street.” He then quickly ran back into their home and told her, “Grab what you can and get in the car; we have to get out of here!”

Driving away Roberta turned back to see the home and yard they so tenderly loved and developed over the past 11 years engulfed in flames from the lava flow.

The next few days were filled with the thoughts of what they had lost. Messenheimer was grateful for information she received from county officials about preparing to quickly evacuate. She had packed only the precious mementos she knew that they could not replace. These included scrapbooks that held pictures of the nearly four decades that she and her husband have shared together, along with a few watercolor paintings that were precious gifts from family.

Filled with gratitude because of a friend’s generosity in lending them a home to stay in, Roberta’s thoughts traveled to those less fortunate. An appeal for Red Cross volunteers appeared on Facebook and she quickly signed up to begin training. She has successful completed several classes and can now be found volunteering as a shelter worker assisting her beloved community. Her compassion and understanding for all those who, like her, have experienced the loss of their homes, has given her unique insight as a volunteer into the trauma her community is suffering.

As Messenheimer finished sharing her story, her eyes began to well up with tears. She shared a letter that she and her husband had received the night before. The letter stated that the county has assessed their now destroyed home and property with a monetary worth of zero. She lowered her head and almost inaudibly remarked, “Now it’s final.”

RED CROSS RESPONSE Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers like Roberta Messenheimer are providing shelter, relief items and snacks. The Red Cross is also working with the Salvation Army to provide meals. Additionally, volunteer Red Cross nurses and mental health volunteers are staffing the shelters and have provided thousands of services to those in need.

Red Cross volunteer caseworkers are continuing to meet with affected residents to ensure that immediate emergency needs are met and to provide referrals, guidance or additional assistance as needed, to help with the recovery process.

HOW YOU CAN HELP Please click, text or call to donate to American Red Cross Disaster Relief to help people affected by disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Every single donation brings hope to those in need. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

STAY IN TOUCH People can reconnect with loved ones through both the Red Cross Safe and Well website at and by using the “I’m Safe” feature of the Red Cross Emergency App. The Safe and Well site allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to indicate that they are safe, or to search for loved ones. The site is always available, open to the public and available in Spanish. Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website. Registrations can also be completed by texting SAFE to 78876.

You can download the free Red Cross Emergency App at to receive emergency alerts as well as locations of shelters. Users can also find the app in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross.

STAY SAFE Important Red Cross volcano safety information is available here.

About the American Red Cross:

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 or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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