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What Goes Around Comes Around

Fire Safety
"My grandmother was in shock, and the volunteer was wonderful with her."

Karla Lair of Des Moines, Iowa has donated to the American Red Cross for years, but never predicted she would need anything in return until a fire destroyed her home in early May.

Lair, 44, was at a friend’s when she got the call that her grandmother’s house was on fire. Her 95-year-old grandmother had recently been released from the hospital and needed a caretaker, so she and her sister had been living with her..

She received the phone call at 4:51 a.m. and immediately headed home. The Red Cross arrived within an hour and a half of the fire, she said. She recounted her experience with the volunteers on the scene that early morning.

“My grandmother was in shock, and the volunteer was wonderful with her,” she said.

Lair, her sister and her grandmother were each given vouchers to purchase any items they had perhaps lost in the fire. She and her grandmother had places to stay in the meantime, but the Red Cross gave her sister a voucher for a hotel, as well.

“Now we’ve all been split apart,” she said. “It’s just a different feeling.”

Since the fire, spring has brought an exponential amount of rain, creating dangerous mold in the house and making it difficult for Lair to go into the damaged area. With the voucher, she was able to buy coveralls and masks to safely sort through belongings. Sorting through these belongings is a now a typical day for her.

Lair also said since the fire, she’s received multiple follow-up phone calls from the Red Cross and has even stopped in to the Red Cross office in Des Moines to get a list of short-term lease properties while they try to rebuild. Everything the Red Cross provided for her and her family got them on their feet, and that is the reason she will continue to donate to the organization, she said.

“The Red Cross actually puts my money into play,” Lair said. “It’s not going to research to try to hopefully help people someday; it’s that they help right now, and I like that.”

When the volunteers arrived for her and her family after the fire, Lair was genuinely surprised. She would have never guessed the organization would respond to something that seemed so small.

“When I think of the Red Cross, I think of the large natural disaster,” she said. “To have them there so quickly to at least offer us money for a place while we sorted things out was wonderful.”