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Local Red Cross Volunteer Loses Home to Fire

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"Your comfort is burnt up as well. You lose everything that is familiar, everything that is normal.”

Sherri Skjonsberg has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross for several years. As part of her responsibilities, Sherri helps families who have faced the tragedy of a home fire. On February 10, 2017, Sherri received a call that her house outside of New Effington was on fire and, in the blink of an eye, her family of five had lost everything. 

“I never understood just how much hope and assistance the Red Cross would bring until I had to walk through it,” Sherri explains. “We lost our home, not just a house. We lost the things that were familiar to us.” 

Sherri knew her work as a Red Cross volunteer was important, but after being on the receiving end of Red Cross help, she has a whole new perspective. “I can’t emphasize enough that the Red Cross was the only organization that could really help us in those first moments. Other agencies and organizations have been helpful in the recovery process, but Red Cross was ready to meet our immediate needs, immediately.”

Sherri is still realizing how much her family really lost. “Until you have a fire, you don’t realize that your comfort is burnt up as well. You lose everything that is familiar, everything that is normal.”

Sherri describes everyday tasks being disrupted. Imagine your wardrobe doesn’t fit quite right, you are doing laundry when none of the clothes are yours. You are sleeping in a strange bed and sitting on an unacquainted couch. 

Through the process of loss and recovery, Sherri has learned that the community is incredibly generous, she’s learned how to be humble, and that there’s so much to be thankful for.

“I also learned that an organization that I love and volunteer for is more important than I could have imagined. I learned the extreme value of the assistance that we stand ready to provide within hours of a disaster.”

Speaking to donors and community supporters at the Red Cross Annual Meeting in Sioux Falls, Sherri puts out a call for everyone to make a difference in their community. She challenged all in attendance volunteer, host a blood drive, help install smoke alarms, make a financial donation, or simply spread the word of the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. One small act ends up being a big service for someone like Sherri who has experienced disaster first-hand.

To learn more about the American Red Cross and how you can help families who face a disaster, visit www.redcross.org/southdakota.