On Monday, April 15th, the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) honored Philadelphia Fire Commissioner and American Red Cross SEPA Board Member Lloyd Ayers by dedicating the Red Cross House locker storage area to him.
An anonymous donation of $100,000 was given to Red Cross House to honor Ayers’ leadership. Red Cross SEPA CEO Judge Reneé Cardwell Hughes and Board Chairman, Tom Hays were on hand to celebrate a devoted partner in helping disaster survivors recover. April 15th is also the 10th anniversary of the day Red Cross House accepted its first ever overnight fire survivor.
“Commissioner Ayers is a tireless advocate for Red Cross House to fellow firefighters, city leaders, community groups and donors,” said Hughes. “He is a great listener and friend to those who need to stay at Red Cross House and for that we are eternally grateful.”
The idea for Red Cross House was conceived in 1994 in the wake of a devastating fire in North Philadelphia that destroyed dozens of homes. As the idea took shape, a comparison study was done looking at the longer term recovery for fire survivors entered the City of Philadelphia shelter system and those who were assisted by the Red Cross. The study showed that the Red Cross had more success helping survivors move on with their lives in a timely manner.
“Red Cross House keeps families together during a stressful time in their lives when they need that support most,” said SEPA CEO Judge Renée Hughes, “The Red Cross strives to help these families recover faster and keep them from entering the shelter system.”
With funding from the Hamilton Foundation, the Arcadia Foundation and others totaling $5.8 million, Red Cross House was built as a one of a kind, Red Cross operated, short term recovery facility located in University City.
Red Cross House can accommodate 120 individuals at a time in 26 private hotel style family suites that serve to keep families together as they begin their recovery. In addition to being provided shelter, residents receive three hot meals a day served in Red Cross House’s cafeteria. Residents also get case workers, counseling and training, children’s play areas, and laundry facilities.
The storage lockers, now named after Ayers, hold belongings salvaged from homes damaged by disaster. Sadly, these lockers usually have very few items in them or are completely empty, demonstrating exactly what families face when they have lost everything and begin their journey to recovery.
Despite the challenges facing clients of the Red Cross, the goal of Red Cross House is to move them into permanent housing within 21 days.
“Families come to Red Cross House with nothing. What they get is their lives,” said Commissioner Ayers.
“Because Red Cross House means so much to me and this city, I am humbled by this honor and to be so closely associated with Red Cross angels of the night.”
Today’s plaque dedication and unveiling is the unofficial kickoff for SEPA’s year-long 10th anniversary celebration of the founding of Red Cross House. An accompanying endowment campaign hopes to raise eight to ten million dollars to ensure Red Cross House is available for future generations.