Even after Hurricane Irma ripped through the city of Frostproof, many residents didn’t expect much help. With a population of only 3,000, citizens of Frostproof felt that their small community would easily be forgotten.
Imagine their surprise to see a Red Cross vehicle drive through not long after the storm passed. Volunteers identified the Elkhorn Apartments as a community in desperate need. The damage from Irma was apparent: large pieces of roof had been ripped off, homes were flooded, and no electricity for over a week meant spoiled food in the fridge.
In the days that followed, the Red Cross sent in reinforcements. Hot meals were cooked up by Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief and delivered by Red Cross emergency response vehicles. Traditional comfort foods like pulled pork, sweet potatoes, and chicken and dumplings were a welcome sight, along with clean drinking water, fresh fruit, and snacks.
“It’s been great having Red Cross here,” said Frostproof resident Terry Weaver, “It’s been a blessing. They’ve been here from the start.”
The support didn’t stop there. In addition to hot meals, the Red Cross sent in trained emotional support specialists and spiritual care volunteers to help these families cope with the disaster. These volunteers went door to door, caring for the residents’ emotional needs, providing a shoulder to lean on or a warm hug.
Soon FEMA and local officials were on the ground as well, providing additional assistance and helping families file their claims. The residents of Frostproof, who assumed their community would be passed over, now found themselves the center of a major relief operation, with support coming from multiple organizations at once.
“Our little community has never seen anyone come in here and give us this much attention,” said Frostproof City Councilman Austin Gravley, “We are really grateful to Red Cross. They’ve come in and served thousands of meals.”
While many families of Frostproof still have a long recovery ahead, they are resting a little easier knowing that the Red Cross, and other community partners, are there to help along the way.
Story & Photos by Jessica Piffero, American Red Cross of Central California