Fire quickly forced Norm Schiltz and one of his sons from their Eldon apartment during the evening of Feb. 16, but just as quickly American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter volunteers were there to provide assistance.
“It seemed the Red Cross was there right after the fire units,” Schiltz said in a recent interview.
Schiltz, who was 75 at the time, and Jason, one of his 13-year-old twin sons, were in their downstairs apartment on Doyle Road when their upstairs neighbor notified them about 6 p.m. of the fire.
“There wasn’t time to get anything out,” Schiltz said.
Schiltz and Jason got out safely, but only with the clothes and shoes they were wearing.
Firefighters extinguished the fire, but the flames caused extensive damage to the structure. Schiltz said it was not so much the fire, but water damage made their home unlivable.
“The Red Cross made sure we had a place to stay,” said Schiltz, whose other son Jordan was not living with them at the time. “We would have struggled finding lodging if it wasn’t for the Red Cross.”
Two Red Cross volunteers responded to the scene. They met with Schiltz and other clients in the parking lot of the four-unit complex to assess their immediate emergency needs.
Temperatures dropped into the 30’s as the evening progressed and the Red Cross volunteers offered blankets to keep the clients warm.
“The bitter cold was not a deterrent in any way to what they were doing,” Schiltz said. “Regardless of the elements they were there to do their job.
“They took care of whatever needed to be taken care of that night.”
Volunteers worked through the cold and the hectic situation to conduct their assessments and to offer clients an understanding ear.
“They talked with me and that made me feel better,” Schiltz said.
After assessing Schiltz’s immediate emergency needs, the volunteers provided him with a client assistance card loaded with money for him to buy food, clothing and a temporary motel stay for the family. They also received Red Cross comfort kits, which contain personal hygiene items.
“With all they had to deal with that night, they did a great job,” Schiltz said. “This was my first experience dealing with something like that and the Red Cross was absolutely impressive.”
Schlitz and his sons, now 14, lived in a local motel for about two months after the disaster, but they have gotten their lives back on track and now are living in a new place.
In the weeks after the fire, the Red Cross followed up with their situation to make sure they progressed on the path to recovery.
“They did a super job that night and if there was any organization I would continue to support and be an ambassador for it would be the American Red Cross,” Schiltz said. “I’m still in admiration of how they conducted themselves that night.”