Floodwaters are covering communities across the Midwest, destroying or damaging homes. The American Red Cross is helping, making sure people have a safe place to stay, food to eat, items to help begin the clean-up and emotional support.
STAYED BEHIND TO KEEP WATCH When the waters rose in Lowell, Michigan, Lowell and Brenda Raymor stayed behind to keep watch. “We paid our last house payment this month,” Brenda said. “We officially own this house and we’re not leaving it.” Their home had water on the first floor, their yard was flooded and people had to use small boats to get around the neighborhood. “I’m the guy on his porch making sure the neighborhood stays safe,” said Lowell.
He’s also the guy with a huge heart, bringing back supplies from the Red Cross to help his community recover from the flood damage. Volunteers at a Red Cross shelter gave the couple a shovel, snacks, bottled water, and clean-up kits, which have cleaning supplies, gloves, a mop, and more. The Raymors then took those things back to their home and shared extra supplies with their neighbors.
HALF HOUR TO EVACUATE Rita Edwards has lived in Barstow, Illinois since she was a teenager. She has seen the river flood before, but she has never seen anything like this. Her entire neighborhood was flooded. Edwards returned home after running an errand, unaware of the evacuation notice issued 24 hours earlier while she was at work. Firefighters told her the levee had broken, that she had 30 minutes to get out and most likely would never be coming back. She panicked, thinking of the children at her house and knowing that she needed help.
Edwards immediately went to her 12-year-old son and told him to grab everything that he could in five minutes, then to take the two little ones outside to the porch and distract them from what was occurring inside. “I couldn’t believe what was happening. I tried to get everything that we would need, but it was impossible,” she said. Edwards is living with her family in a friend’s mobile home right now. “I’m in good spirits considering all that has happened, but we need help.”
Red Cross caseworker Karen Nelson gave Edwards a clean-up kit and talked to her about options for housing and other assistance. “Sometimes people need to be able to tell their stories and we are there to listen,” Nelson said.
VOLUNTEERS COME TO HELP Water was everywhere when the Grand River overflowed its banks in Michigan and surrounded homes, parks, and roads. Two Red Cross volunteers from the Detroit area learned of the disaster and immediately came to help. John McGill and Evans Lucas drove an Emergency Response Vehicle through Grandville and stopped at several houses to see if people needed help. At one home, they found an elderly couple with water damage in the basement.
“They were worried about getting mold and mildew down there,” said Lucas. “They said they called some carpet companies, but it would cost $300-$400 to get the carpet removed – something they couldn’t afford and they weren’t able to do it themselves.” That’s when McGill offered to rip the carpet up himself. With the couple’s permission he pulled it up and took it outside. The couple was so surprised at this Red Cross volunteer’s generosity, they could only cry. Before leaving, the volunteers both got big hugs and a prayer from the couple.
But the volunteers’ day didn’t end there. They continued down the streets of Grandville offering help. One woman opened her garage door as McGill and Evans were walking up the driveway. She was startled to see two men approaching her house, but when she realized it was the Red Cross, she just started to cry.
“We’re with the Red Cross,” Lucas said. “Do you need any help?” The tears continued as the woman replied, “Thank you for asking.” Another man found the Red Cross volunteers standing on his front porch and was amazed to see that the Red Cross came right to his house. “We knock on their doors and people don’t expect that,” McGill said.
The Red Cross was in the affected areas before the flooding began and is there now providing food, shelter, relief supplies and emotional support to those affected. More than 1,100 Red Cross staff and volunteers across the Midwest have served more than 81,000 meals and snacks, provided more than 1,400 overnight stays in shelters, and handed out nearly 40,000 relief items since the floods began April 17.
HOW TO HELP In the last ten years, the Red Cross has launched 127 large relief operations across 38 states to help people affected by flooding. These responses are costly and can last a long time as floodwaters have to go down before people can begin cleaning up their homes. If someone would like to help people affected by floods and other disasters, they can make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief at www.redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.