Red Cross Volunteers Provide Care, Comfort in Shelters

The sense of community far surpassed any feelings of worry and fear.

Since the superstorm known as Sandy hit the U.S., thousands of people have taken refuge with the American Red Cross. Families have turned to the Red Cross because their homes are flooded, without power, without heat—or all of the above.

The Todd Family, a family of four from Catasauqua, Pa., came to the Red Cross shelter in nearby Bethlehem on October 30, after losing power in their home. 

Hodge Todd, husband and father, was concerned for the well-being of his wife and sons, 7-year-old William and 5-month-old Ethan. Having never stayed at a shelter before, Todd was understandably nervous. However, he was pleasantly surprised not only at the overall shelter itself, but also at the helpfulness of the Greater Lehigh Valley Red Cross volunteers.

“The Red Cross is extremely well prepared, went above and beyond and helped our family feel at home,” said Todd.

In their rush to leave home, their baby’s formula bag was inadvertently left behind. When they arrived at the shelter, they realized there was no food for their 5-month-old. A Red Cross volunteer immediately drove to the supermarket and purchased formula.

Todd had high praise for the shelter’s comfortable environment and the food and snacks. The television came in handy, too, especially with entertaining the children at the shelter, he added.

One Big Storm—and One First-Time Volunteer

Red Cross shelters are almost fully staffed by volunteers. These caring and dedicated individuals spend countless hours caring for those who have arrived at the shelter in Bethlehem, Pa.

Many of the volunteers have also lost electricity in their own homes, yet they arrive at the shelter ready to assist those in need. 

Sue Dietrich, a licensed clinical social worker of Olivewood Counseling, is a first-time volunteer. After spending four hours on the evening of October 29 working at the Red Cross shelter in Bethlehem, she was overwhelmed at the sense of community she felt while she was there.

“I was amazed at the kindness people showed toward each other. Everyone pitched in,” said Dietrich. “Whether it was the gentleman who put himself in charge of making sure there was always water available, to the mother who arrived with her adult daughter and granddaughter whose electricity had gone out, the sense of community far surpassed any feelings of worry and fear.” 

Dietrich’s duties included addressing physical needs, such as making sure those who arrived had a hot meal and a cot, and looking after their emotional needs as well.

She looks forward to returning to the shelter, if needed, and becoming a registered Red Cross volunteer.

The American Red Cross of the Greater Lehigh Valley worked in partnership with the Lehigh and Northampton counties emergency management services, the Salvation Army, Lehigh Valley County Animal Response Team and other volunteer organizations, to provide safety and comfort to Lehigh Valley residents. UGI Corporation donated space in their facilities for use as a shelter.

Tags: Sandy.
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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