As evacuation orders went into place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Saturday, September 24, 2016, the American Red Cross had already been hard at work helping families impacted in the northern Iowa counties along the Cedar River.
In the town of Clarksville in Butler County, volunteers Ann and Ken Opatz of Lisbon delivered breakfast, lunch and dinner to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Clarksville. The Opatz’s brought cleaning kits so families could start cleaning up the mess left behind by the flood water. Residents were happy to see the Red Cross emergency response vehicle arrive in town and were grateful for the support for those in need.
Meanwhile, Red Cross volunteers Marilee Thomas of Kingsley, Iowa and Allan Van Beek of Rock Rapids, Iowa opened an emergency shelter for those evacuating in Palo and Cedar Rapids at Cedar Hills Community Church. Throughout the day volunteers worked to check-in them settle by serving a meal and giving them comfort items. As the population grew during the day, shelter residents and volunteers worked together to get everything set-up, to create a new temporary home for the families to be comfortable.
Roashell Hall of Cedar Rapids had to evacuate his home; he sought shelter at the Red Cross shelter. There he quickly became friends with the volunteers and helped to unload trucks. He was very grateful for the services.
“The Red Cross accepted me with open arms,” Hall said. “They set me up with a mattress, personal hygiene [items] and unbelievable food. I can only be grateful for what is going on with the Red Cross.”
Red Cross volunteers described Hall as “a bundle of energy” and when asked if he ever sits down, he just smiled and moved on to the next task.
“From the minute he walked in the door, Roashell started to work,” said Red Cross shelter manager, Brian Otto. “He doesn’t even have to be asked. He’s passionate about making this a safe and clean environment and if he sees something that needs to be done, he’s on it!”
“I do it out of my heart,” Hall said when asked why he is so passionate about helping out the shelter staff. “I’m only giving back for what’s been freely given to me.”
Working with emergency officials, the Red Cross opened a second shelter, this time across the Cedar River, knowing families on both sides may need a safe place as the river levels rose. The team identified St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on the southeast side and opened it on Sunday, and evacuees quickly arrived. Volunteers are working around the clock to deliver comfort and care to those in need.
Hall said while he doesn’t know what the future will mean for him, he knows he wants to help others in need.