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Katrina Survivor Assists Families in Mississippi Shelter

La Cruz Roja Americana Refuerza Y Amplia La Ayuda A Oklahoma | Volunteer hugs woman after tornado destroyed her home

After a tornado devastated sections of Louisville, Miss., on April 28, scores of residents were left with destroyed homes and many turned to the American Red Cross shelter for a safe, dry place to stay.

Among the first to meet them at the shelter was Red Cross volunteer Sheila Dillon, of Gulfport, Miss., who has managing the shelter at the First Baptist Church, which donated space  to help those in the greatest need for immediate help.

The shelter started out with about 100 people and the number of people staying has been decreasing steadily each day, she said.

For Sheila, it was a matter of offering a helping hand to those who needed it as arrived in varying stages of shock and disbelief. She knows what that is like, having lived through Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, Miss., and worrying for two weeks about the fate of her son.

 “When we finally found him, it turned out he had been helping rescue people,” she said with the sound of a mother’s pride in her voice.

  Much of time has been spent talking to those at the shelter

“My thing has been talking to the people and letting them know we’re here to help,” she said. “It’s easy for me to talk to them because I tell them I understand … I know it’s not easy.”

Among those who Sheila and the other volunteers have helped is Jerry Stephens, 52, whose apartment complex was destroyed. His situation was complicated because he lost both legs to diabetes and has been using a wheel chair for nearly five years, making it hard to get to shelter.

But when the storm came, he and his daughter-in-law, sister-in-law and three grandchildren huddled against the kitchen wall. After the tornado passed, the wall was the only thing left standing.

While at the shelter, Jerry said the Red Cross has been helping him along the way.

“To tell you the truth, they have done everything,” he said.