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Red Cross Workers Help Their Neighbors in Washington State

Red Cross Workers Help Their Neighbors in Washington State

Red Cross workers serve hot coffee and food to first responders at the scene of the mudslide near Oso, Washington.

We're here to help the people and other disaster workers too.

Since the March 22 mudslide, hundreds of American Red Cross workers have been helping residents living near Oso, Washington whose lives have been changed.

RED CROSS SUPPORT More than half of the hundreds of volunteers are from Washington State who are reaching out to help their neighbors. They have shelters open where people are not only spending the night, but coming to for information, meals and mental health and health services.

Through our partnerships with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and local organizations, more than 11,600 meals have been served to the affected communities and emergency responders. Red Cross Family Care Centers are open to provide emotional and spiritual support to the affected families. Mental health volunteers are caring for the families and responders and health services volunteers are reaching out to families and visiting the homes of the injured if needed. They have provided nearly 2,000 health and mental contacts since the slide occurred.

SUPPORTING RESPONDERS "My whole life I’ve wanted to help; now is my chance," says Matt Dunnigan, a Red Cross volunteer from the Mt. Baker Chapter in Bellingham, Washington. Every day he prepares his Red Cross emergency vehicle to take lunches to emergency responders working at the site of the mudslide near Oso.

Dunnigan cleans the vehicle before he departs and drives to a staging area where he picks up the lunches. Then he’s off again, driving past the roadblocks. As he passes by, Dunnigan rolls down the window and thanks every Search and Rescue worker, National Guard member and law enforcement officer he sees. "We're here to help the people impacted by the slide, but we're here to help other disaster workers too," he says.

Dunnigan’s next stop is with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1. He's on a first name basis with the team and they load meals onto gators, four-wheel-drive vehicles that can navigate the mud and bring lunch to the hard-working rescue and recovery workers. It looks like they've done this before, and it should, because Dunnigan has been working to feed people affected by the slide since it happened. And he says he's ready to keep up his new-found routine for as long as it takes.

HELPING NEIGHBORS Tracey Sheehy and John Deibert are both volunteers with the Mount Rainier Chapter of the Red Cross in Tacoma, Washington. The pair never met before last week, but are helping people impacted by the mudslide. They drive the vehicles that bring food to the families and first responders.

Sheehy has been a Red Cross volunteer for more than 6 years. Her background includes being a fire fighter and working in Emergency Management but she really wanted to do something more. “Given my background, it’s in my blood to help people,” says Sheehy. She trained to be a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) member and for several other response positions including being a mobile feeding driver, which is what brought her to Arlington.

Deibert has been a Red Cross volunteer for almost 7 years. He works with the Department of Fish and Wildlife but was looking to do more. “I feel the need to help people wherever I can,” he said. He, too, worked as a DAT member before training as a mobile feeding driver. “I found my nitch. It allows me to be more hands-on with the people, to be on the front lines,” Deibert explained.

Both Deibert and Sheehy knew this wasn’t going to be an easy assignment. “It’s cold, wet and exhausting,” says Sheehy. “But when you see the appreciation from the firefighters and the families, it’s heartwarming to see we are making a difference.”

FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES The Red Cross will be in Washington in the weeks and months to come to help residents get back on their feet. Red Cross caseworkers are helping people plan their next steps, navigate paperwork and locate help from other agencies. In some situations, the Red Cross may also provide direct financial support to people who need extra help.

Right now, the Red Cross has the supplies and volunteers that it needs to respond but financial donations allow the Red Cross to pay for the full range of help this community needs. If you would like to help, the best way is through a financial donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Donations to Red Cross Disaster Relief allowed us to respond immediately to this mudslide and are being used to provide help right now to people in need. You can click, text or call to donate to Red Cross Disaster Relief.

  • Donations will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. This includes the Oso landslide and nearly 70,000 other disasters we handle every year around the country.
  • Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • 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.

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