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Woman Finds Assistance, New Shoes at Red Cross Shelter

2014-09-02 - Bay Area - Woman Finds Assistance, New Shoes at Red Cross Shelter
I told her, ‘You’re okay now. You’re in a safe place.'

For most people, getting a new pair of shoes isn’t an emotional experience. A woman named Therese broke into tears when she was given shoes at the American Red Cross shelter at the Florence Douglas Center in Vallejo.

Therese arrived Thursday at the shelter fully clothed, but wearing only a pair of black, low-cut sports socks on her feet. She explained that she had made an arduous trek walking and hitching a couple of rides the 16-mile distance between Vallejo and Napa after the Aug. 24 South Napa Quake.

Therese told staff at the shelter that she was staying with friends in Napa when the temblor hit, and she ran outside.

After the shockwaves subsided, she discovered the house was so damaged that she couldn’t get back into her room to retrieve anything. The house was red-tagged, she said, and her friends went to stay with relatives. Suddenly, she had nowhere to go.

So she headed to Vallejo to look up some friends there who might be able to help her, but couldn’t find them. Then, she turned to the Red Cross.

Arriving at the Vallejo shelter, she appeared weary and emotional, said shelter manager Therese Wentzel of the Red Cross Capital Chapter in Sacramento.

“I told her, ‘You’re okay now. You’re in a safe place,’” recalled Wentzel.

Red Cross shelter workers coordinated with the Salvation Army to assist Therese. When she woke up, she was presented with a new backpack, new socks, and a spiffy pair of new athletic shoes with bright pink laces that Wentzel described as “happy shoes.”

Therese asked, “Are these for me? You got me shoes?” and began to cry.

“She was so happy and I saw a change in her demeanor – she just seemed so much brighter and walked taller,” said Wentzel, adding that Therese was very polite and very appreciative.

The next morning Wentzel helped Therese use a shelter phone to call her sister in Southern California. When Wentzel later checked in with the sister, she was advised it had been their first conversation in a long time. She said she was grateful for to know her sister was alright, and that Therese, “told me you were taking care of her.”

During every disaster deployment, said Wentzel, volunteers tend to meet one client with whom they really connect with or who makes an indelible impression. For Wentzel’s assignment for the South Napa Quake, that person was Therese.

The help provided to her at the shelter was “just a small, little moment in time that maybe made a difference,” Wentzel said.

“At least she’s not out there walking in socks and has very cute shoes,” she said, noting that Therese was still at the shelter Sunday afternoon, helping the people who had helped her by sweeping the floors.


To learn more about Red Cross disaster relief click here.

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