Coloradans Seek Refuge In Red Cross Shelters

Donna Hitz

Donna Hitz was evacuated by helicopter from her home outside Boulder and is staying at a Red Cross shelter in Niwot.

Everyone has been wonderful, I’ve gotten to know my neighbors like never before.

The American Red Cross is helping people in Colorado affected by the devastating flash flooding in the state. Red Cross workers are providing a safe place to stay, meals and comfort to thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes and everything they own.

As many as 500 people spent Monday night in 14 shelters around Colorado. Here are some of their stories:

SANDY SURVIVOR After Hurricane Sandy wiped out his Seaside Heights, New Jersey coffee shop, Robert Demers bought a bus ticket west to find a better life for his fiancé Alexis and her two kids. In Boulder, he thought he found his new home. He liked the people, he found work easily, and he loved the outdoor opportunities right in his back yard. After finding housing up Boulder Canyon, he told Alexis it was safe to come out. That request was 24 hours premature.

When Boulder Creek turned to a raging and devastating river, Demers and his family were forced to go to a Red Cross shelter. Once again, a disaster had rearranged his life plans. “I stopped in Boulder because its considered the happiest place on earth,” he said.

Despite the hardship, Demers says the family is doing well. Alexis has already lined up a job interview at the local supermarket, and the kids are having fun playing with the other children at the shelter. “I don’t want to shelter them from life’s challenges,” Demers said, “but I also want to show them how we can all give back to the community like the Red Cross.” They don’t know where they’re going to live, but they’re incredibly grateful to the Red Cross for being there when his family was in need.

EVACUATED BY HELICOPTER 81-year-old Donna Hitz was evacuated from her home outside Lyons, Colorado by the National Guard. Wheelchair-bound, she has lived in the hills west of Lyons for 35 years. She grew up teaching horsemanship on her remote pastures. When she got the knock on her door that the waters were rising, she said, “I’m not getting into any helicopter.” For all these years, nothing has chased her out of her home, and a little water wasn’t going to do it this time.

However, this was more than a little water, and when all her neighbors started to congregate in her front yard, she knew something was up. When a Colorado National Guard helicopter landed in her front yard, Hitz figured it was time to go. They wheeled her up the ramp, picked up the dogs, and buckled her in, and she has spent the last few nights at a Red Cross shelter in Niwot, Colorado.

“Everyone has been wonderful,” she beams with a slight tear in her eye. “I’ve gotten to know my neighbors like never before.” Hitz has made quite a few friends at the shelter with both Red Cross volunteers and other evacuees. “I’m 81 years old and two men have given me their phone numbers!” she says with a big grin. Everyone wants to tell their story, and she’s there to listen.

RED CROSS HELPED TWICE Steve and Jessica Detkowski never thought they’d need Red Cross help, let alone twice in three months. But that’s exactly the situation they found themselves in during the recent Colorado floods. In July the couple came out of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee after a camping trip only to find that their car had caught fire. They were in the midst of a cross country trip, and everything they owned was in the car. The Red Cross was able to help, putting them up in a hotel, and giving them some emergency funds to help in their recovery.

Back on their feet, the couple moved to Boulder, hoping to find work and more permanent housing. However, flood waters chased them out of Boulder Canyon as rock slides fell around them. The Red Cross helped again and the couple are staying at a shelter, finding a safe place to stay and food to eat. “It’s been one hell of a summer, but I’m thankful the Red Cross was able to help…twice,” Detkowski said.

As an Army veteran formerly in logistics, Steve isn’t one to sit idle. At the shelter, he’s made himself useful, loading supplies, giving rides, and helping with the sleeping arrangements. In fact, he’s become so useful that the YMCA has offered him a job as a facilities manager.

HOW TO HELP If you would like to help, please consider making a donation today by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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