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Texas Floods: Red Cross, Partner Help the Littlest Victims

People in Texas affected by the recent flooding are still trying to recover and the American Red Cross is with them, providing shelter, food, relief supplies and helping people plan their next steps.

Almost 400 Texans are still in nine Red Cross and community shelters. Multiple Red Cross emergency response vehicles are moving through the affected areas, handing out meals and relief supplies.

Red Cross mental health workers are helping people cope, many of whom have been hit with flood damage more than once. Health workers are assisting with minor first aid needs and helping replace things like lost medications and eyeglasses. Red Cross caseworkers are meeting with families one-on-one to help them get the help they need.

Helping the Littlest Victims

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to carry out the Red Cross mission. The Red Cross depends on partner organizations to help provide services to those affected by disaster.

One of those partners is Children’s Disaster Services, a Church of the Brethren Disaster Ministry. Teams of dedicated volunteers set up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation when requested by organizations like the Red Cross or FEMA. They arrive with “kits of comfort,” filled with toys that allow children to express themselves, aiding in the healing process.

“Children express emotions and feelings through play,” says Children’s Disaster Services volunteer Connie Rutt. “This is a space where kids can come and feel safe and deal with change and trauma.”

Connie is from Drumore, PA and deployed to a Red Cross shelter in Richmond, TX. She says it’s not only about providing kids a safe place to play and express themselves. Children’s Disaster Services also provides respite to parents who are dealing with the aftermath of a disaster. Sometimes having an hour or two to just shower and do laundry makes all the difference.

Children’s Disaster Services volunteers are located throughout the country. No special skills are required other than a love for working with children. They receive training from the organization and then deploy as needed for two weeks at a time. Local churches create “Kits of Comfort” filled with toys, books, art supplies and other items. These items are loaded into suitcases and volunteers take these with them when they deploy.

Safety is their first priority. They have wristbands that they provide for the parents and children. The parents’ wristband must match the child’s when they pick them up. They also have evacuation plans that are communicated with parents in the case of an emergency. Rutt explained that sometimes it’s hard for parents to trust them when they first move into the shelter, but after a day or two, they’re grateful for the extra support. “We care and we are trained to deal with traumatic experiences. If we can help parents have less stress, they can plan for their recovery,” Rutt said.

Another Children’s Disaster Services volunteer, Carol Smith of South Bend, IN, began volunteering because she plans on traveling to Nigeria to open a school for refugee children and she thought the training would be helpful for her future plans. When asked why she felt it was important to serve others, she said, “None of us know when it’ll be us that need help.”

No one expects to experience a disaster, but when it happens, organizations like Children’s Disaster Services makes coping a little easier. Rutt says, “If we can help children get through the trauma of a disaster, it can impact them the rest of their lives.”

HOW TO HELP

The Red Cross needs the public’s help now. You can help people affected by the Texas Floods and Tornadoes by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word TXFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Texas Floods and Tornadoes will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters.

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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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