California Northwest Region deployed six to the Oso mudslide disaster

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In the wake of the devastating mudslide that struck Oso, Washington, several Red Cross volunteers from the California Northwest Region deployed to the area to aid in recovery. Making the trip were Fran Condon (Casework), Patty Hlinka (Staff Planning and Support), Maryellen Taylor (Disaster Mental Health) and three SafeCorps members, Valerin Lopez, Mary Nguyen and Sarah Finnigan, all of whom assisted with Casework.

During her time in Oso, SafeCorp volunteer Valerin Lopez worked as part of the Integrated Care Teams and the Outreach Teams. The Integrated Care Team, consisting of one Caseworker, one Health Service worker and one Disaster Mental Health worker, visited clients who were seriously injured or had a fatality or missing person as a part of their case. Lopez describes herself as lucky that the majority of clients she spoke with were “people of exemplary spirit.” She recalls one person accurately describing the Oso clients as “textbook examples of resiliency.”

As part of the Outreach Teams, Lopez and another caseworker went into the community to increase awareness of the Red Cross presence and the resources it has to offer. Many clients were often difficult to find, but Lopez and her team were determined to spread the word, hoping that clients would start to reach out themselves. She is happy to report that, due to the effort of the Outreach Teams, two new cases were immediately opened. Lopez also spent much of her time manning a table at the Red Cross Arlington shelter which was a convenient spot for clients, potential clients and their family members to ask questions and get information.

Having returned home, Lopez is happy with her deployment to Oso despite the challenges presented by this tragedy. She explains, “The community often said nice things to us when they realized we were with the Red Cross. The clients were always grateful and patient—not to mention incredibly strong.”