When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is there to help, but that only can happen when people are willing to reach out to help those in need.
Red Cross volunteers showed up at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church to urge members to pitch in and help those affected by the widespread flooding in Louisiana and to help with the Red Cross after the immediate disaster is over.
“We’re trying to fill the gap and to bridge the gap,” said Smyther Fallon, the Red Cross partner relation manager for the Southeastern and Caribbean Division. “This is their Red Cross and we want them to be a part of that.” His job is to engage partners and mobilize communities to help deliver the Red Cross mission.
Red Cross volunteer Donna Young, from Alexandria, explained to the some two dozen gathered in the small church that there ample opportunities for people to help, and it was clear from the comments that they were eager to help. As Donna spoke, her throat became dry and a church member quickly fetched her a bottle of water.
“We need volunteers. Without the volunteers, we can’t run the Red Cross. Remember, it’s not the Red Cross, it’s your Red Cross,” Young explained.
Smyther said volunteer opportunities include such activities as assessing flood damage and determining immediate and long-term needs.
“We need to train you as soon as possible. We need your help now. We don’t want you to wait. We want you to help your neighbors,” he said.
That prompted a rash of suggestions from the church members. One said he could get a van to carry people forced out by flooding to where they can shower. Another said she could call around and find nurses willing to help.
Before long, other church members chimed in with suggestions, from providing food to spiritual comfort.
“If there’s a crisis in our community, it goes beyond the water. Remember, it’s up to you to be your brother’s keeper,” the Rev. Floyd Kirts, the church’s pastor, said as members nodded in agreement and a few quietly replied with “Amens.”
The Rev. Leonard Favorite, a Red Cross volunteer and pastor in the National Baptist Convention USA, then stood up and unleashed a round of rousing comments.
“This is about what goes around comes around. This is about casting your bread upon the waters,” he said. “I want you to wear the Red Cross vest and be part of the community. I’m challenging you to not only be a volunteer, but bring somebody with you.”
Pastor Floyd, who is home and foreign mission board chairman of the United Educational Missionary Baptist Association, said afterward that the Red Cross is a welcomed partner for the church community.
“We’re always willing to serve others with gladness because helping others is a way of life for us,” he said.
In addition to these churches are community partners serving in Louisiana after extensive flooding: faith-based groups like the Southern Baptists, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Catholic Charities, Missionary Baptists, National Association of Christian Churches, National Baptist Convention of America, National Baptist Convention USA, Progressive Baptists, Islamic Relief USA, Friend Ships; local food banks; Louisiana Emergency Management Disability and Aging Coalition, NAACP, Operation BBQ Relief, Project Blessings, Rubicon, Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, the state VOAD, United Methodist Committee on Relief, United Ways and others.
“The American Red Cross is about more than just one organization. It’s about people and organizations coming together to address a community’s needs when they need it most,” said Craig Ryan, Disaster Specialist for the Red Cross in Southwest Louisiana. “And that’s exactly what’s happening here with our partners.”
In Southeast Louisiana, Dr. Mallery Callahan, pastor of the Greater Starlight Baptist Church in Covington, has been helping his neighbors by distributing Red Cross supplies. "It has been a great experience, a great collaboration," Callahan said. "We are working together as a team, as it should be."
In Northwest Louisiana, the Mexican Consulate has partnered with the Red Cross to serve Spanish-speaking residents at a multi-agency resource center.
In Northeast Louisiana, a dozen volunteers with Islamic Relief USA have come to Louisiana from across the Unites States to offer disaster assessments, shelter and financial assistance to those affected by the widespread flooding.
"We have seen a lot of tragedy," said Hani Hamwi, a disaster response manager deployed from Washington, D.C. "We were doing a disaster assessment for a home in Caldwell the other day, when the owner came out to speak with us. You could still see the water soaked into the carpet through his open door."
The Red Cross is always seeking committed, qualified long-term volunteers to help our local communities before, during and after disasters. Anybody wanting to become a Red Cross volunteer can go to www.redcross.org/louisiana or call toll-free via 855-489-2528 to begin the application process.
RED CROSS RESPONSE
Red Cross disaster workers and partners are serving meals and providing supplies in affected communities across the state as it is safe to do so. Trucks and nearly two dozen Emergency Response Vehicles have served more than 134,600 meals and snacks, and distributed 32,450 relief items including personal care kits and cleaning supply kits. Red Cross volunteers also have made more than 2,200 health and mental health contacts.
With storms forecasted the next couple days, the Red Cross team continues to monitor the situation with state and local officials to ensure people get the help they need.
Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to have safety information and shelter locations available on your mobile device. The Emergency App features emergency weather alerts to help keep the user safe, and provides information about what to do in during and after floods and storms as well as the locations of open shelters.
The following Red Cross managed or supported shelters were open overnight with more than 175 people staying:
• Knights of Columbus Hall – 1601 Horridge St., Vinton, LA 70663
• Saul Adler Community Center – 3900 Westminster Ave., Monroe, LA 71201
• Kingsville Baptist Church – 3911 Monroe Highway, Pineville, LA, 71360
• Rayville Civic Center – 706 N. Louisa St., Rayville, LA 71269
• National Guard Armory – 746 E. Railwood Ave., Independence, LA 70466
A community-run shelter is open:
• Caldwell Parish Community Center – 6539 Highway 165 South, Duty Ferry, LA 71418
HOW TO HELP People in Louisiana need your support today. Help by making a gift to Louisiana Floods. Your donation enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters. Call toll free via 855-489-2529, or mail a donation with “Louisiana Floods” in the memo line to your local Red Cross or: American Red Cross of Louisiana, Attention: Helene Vance, 2640 Canal St., New Orleans, LA 70119.
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 redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.