The American Red Cross has deployed hundreds of volunteers to the flooded areas of Texas to financially and medically assist those affected by the floods. Some of the relief efforts in Texas include 171,000 meals and snacks served, 101,000 relief items distributed, and 51 shelters opened. The Massachusetts region has sent over 27 staff and volunteers to Texas so far and relief efforts will continue for the 8,000 homes that were affected.
Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. When flood waters take over a home, a lot of the devastation occurs once the water recedes. When the water drains it leaves behind mold which can destroy the walls, furniture, and clothing that it comes in contact with. Parts of a flooded home may be collapsed or damaged. Wild animals, especially poisonous snakes, continue to be a threat in flood waters.
The deployed Red Cross caseworkers and disaster assessment teams are canvasing neighborhoods to find homes and families affected by the devastating flooding and tornadoes that hit the area to provide them assistance.
In Houston, one group of caseworkers came across a family that was visiting their grandmother in another state the day of the disaster. The family came home to a house covered in mold, all of their belongings stolen by looters and their house torn apart. The food that was left in their broken refrigerator was rotting and added to the smell of the mold. The sight was devastating and the mother made sure not to let her children see the inside.
The family had lost everything. They were left only with the suitcases they packed for the trip. All of their clothes were destroyed by the water and their furniture had permanent water damage and mold. The walls, counters, and floors of the home all had to be ripped out. The family decided it was too much of a financial burden to fix the house so they chose to move. They were spending money from their savings paying for hotel rooms while searching for a permanent housing solution.
When the caseworkers canvased the neighborhood, they found the mother talking to someone regarding the looting. She could not get any money for the broken into home and their lack of insurance made the financial situation worse. FEMA, a government agency that gives financial assistance in times of disaster, was so inundated with cases from the flood that their case was still pending.
A team of Red Cross caseworkers quickly opened a case for the family. The mother was a bit hesitant while filling out the case. She was discouraged by all of her other efforts to receive aid with no immediate success. However, within 15 minutes the family’s case was open and the caseworker was able to give the family a credit card with $900 on it.
Tears started rolling down the mother’s face when she realized what the Red Cross was able to do for her family. She was left speechless. The Red Cross volunteer rose from the table and hugged the woman while she cried. The mother said, “I had no idea you were going to be able to help me like that, right away.”
It is this kind of rewarding work that leads Red Cross volunteers to keep coming back. There are many other positions other than caseworkers that deliver assistance to clients. The Red Cross also has volunteers in Emergency Response Vehicles handing out food and water around neighborhoods in need, Mental Health Professionals that specialize in helping people cope after a disaster, Health Professionals that can provide people in need with their medications, money and gift cards are distributed thanks to generous donors, clients in need are referred to government agencies to help them get further assistance, and so much more.
Volunteers make up over 90% of the Red Cross, and their efforts have significant impact. Assisting families during disaster, like the 2015 Texas Floods, keeps volunteers motivated. It is through the time and care of ordinary people that we can do extraordinary things. No matter your interests, skills or schedule, you can make a significant contribution to your community and help people in their moments of greatest need. Learn how you can volunteer.