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Napa Resident Helps the Red Cross Help Her Neighbors

2014-09-02 - Bay Area - Napa Resident Helps the Red Cross Help Her Neighbors

Red Cross volunteer Alzinia Pailin and Deanna Reiger of Napa discuss ways Deanna has been working alongside the Red Cross. Photo by Barbara Wood.

I was raised that the village is supposed to work together. I feel like that's my purpose.

In a disaster, the American Red Cross often depends on local residents to help them help those affected by the disaster.

Deanna Reiger of Napa, California, falls into both categories. Although the earthquake caused enough damage in her apartment that it was temporarily unlivable; Deanna spent the first four days after the earthquake helping her neighbors and volunteering with the Red Cross.

On Saturday night, Aug. 23, Deanna fell asleep in her living room recliner, as she often does.

Sometime in the early morning Deanna awoke and moved to the nearby sofa. Soon after, the earth shook. The treasured grandfather clock Deanna had inherited from her father crashed onto the recliner. A large mirror shattered beside her and she watched a crack move up her wall before the shaking stopped.

Deanna, dressed only in her nightgown, slipped on her sneakers and made her way from the apartment.

Then, she says, "I remembered my teeth." She made her way through broken glass and fallen objects and grabbed them. Now, she says, at night "my teeth are left at the front door in a baggie full of water."

Without thinking of the mess in her apartment, or of getting dressed, Deanna drove to the senior living center where her 84-year-old mother had recently moved. Because most of her belongings were still packed in boxes, her mother was in relatively good shape. So Deanna started going door-to-door and helping her mother's neighbors.

With the power out and things scattered across rooms, "seniors were still in their units, just screaming," she says.

Without returning to her apartment, Deanna spent the next four days helping the seniors living in two complexes. She picked up prepared meals and water for them from the Red Cross shelter that had been set up in her church. While at the shelter she volunteered to help the Red Cross by transporting residents who needed to get to medical appointments or other places.

Because Deanna has lived in Napa for so long, she helped the out-of-area Red Cross volunteers figure out where they could get items donated needed for the shelter residents. She also directed them to local residents who could provide vital services, such as laundering the towels used by the shelter residents.

"I just jumped in and helped," Deanna says.

Deanna dismisses the heroics of her actions. "I do this all the time," she says. "When it's a person who needs some help you step in."

Deanna's brother, who had recently moved from Napa, also jumped in. He came back the day of the earthquake with his truck and helped people whose homes had been leveled by the earthquake, she says.

"I was raised that the village is supposed to work together," she says. "I feel like that's my purpose."

On Thursday, four days after the quake struck, Deanna finally cleaned up her own apartment. "I made sure I could get in my bathroom, get in my bedroom," she says. "I should be able to cook tomorrow."

Although she was exhausted, and many of those she'd been bringing meals and water to now were able to cook and had running water again, Deanna said she'd keep helping until she isn't needed any more.

"I love it and I'll keep doing it as long as I can," she said.

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To learn more about Red Cross disaster relief click here.

To see photos from the Red Cross shelter in Napa click here.