As flood waters crest in multiple cities this week, the American Red Cross is working around the clock to ensure residents along the Mississippi River are prepared.
In Mississippi, the Red Cross has opened nine “information stations” where people can get flood preparedness information and talk to Red Cross workers about the services the Red Cross provides during a flood.
Residents who visit these stations can learn where shelters are located, and can also pick up bottled water, snacks and comfort kits (which contain daily personal items such as shampoo and toothpaste).
Teams of Red Cross workers trained in mental health, health services and spiritual care are also going door to door in some areas to talk to residents about flood preparedness. Volunteers from AmeriCorps National Community Civilian Corps (NCCC)—a long-time partner of the Red Cross—are also involved in these efforts.
In addition to distributing preparedness information, the Red Cross has opened seven shelters in Mississippi, with more on standby to help residents who evacuate from their homes.
In Louisiana, where the opening of the Morganza Spillway on Saturday is expected to affect thousands of people, Red Cross workers are also distributing flood preparedness information in potentially impacted parishes.
The Red Cross is prepared for a prolonged feeding and shelter response, with more than 20 shelters ready to open if needed in Louisiana. To ensure there will be enough volunteers to support a long-term sheltering operation, the Red Cross in Baton Rouge, La., is also recruiting and training more local volunteers.
Meanwhile, truckloads of Red Cross relief supplies made their way into the state over the weekend, including thousands of cots, blankets and comfort kits. The Red Cross is working closely with government and community partners to ensure workers, equipment, shelters, food and relief materials are in place as people evacuate from their homes.
Residents in inundated towns along the river not only need things to meet their physical needs, such as food and shelter, but also someone to listen and support them through this difficult and uncertain time.
Brenda Griffin has been through great emotional upheaval this year, and that was before the area known as “the cutoff” in Tunica, Miss., was covered by flood water. Many of the homes in the area were stilted as a precaution, but those homes and three fishing camps were wiped out by the Mississippi last week.
As Griffin talked with Red Cross emotional support worker Dominic Di Girolamo, she told him that her mom had recently died after a battle with cancer, and she that had to put down one of her beloved pets. The small town has also lost several of its residents to illness in the past few months. And now she’s lost her home.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I don’t have anything,” said Griffin. “I’m separated from all my stuff; I feel disoriented, like I’m floating on a raft in the ocean. My mom was always there for me and now she’s gone. She was the person who grounded everything.”
Griffin described the Red Cross shelter in Tunica as a safe haven where she and other Tunica residents from the cutoff can meet to catch up. Local restaurants and businesses have been closed, so the folks from the cutoff meet at the shelter to check in with each other.
For weeks to come, as waters remain high through many parts of Mississippi and Louisiana, Red Cross volunteers like Di Girolamo will be there to help residents through what is for many a life-changing disaster.
The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster. Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; you can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.