Red Cross volunteer benefits from area's isolation

Heart of Missouri Red Cross, John Matthews in Colorado Photo
The good news is that because Estes Park has a history of being more isolated they have developed a very strong community response

Partnerships forged by necessity in the remote area of Estes Park, Colo., have made American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter volunteer John Mathews’ job easier during his deployment to the flood-ravaged state.

“The good news is that because Estes Park has a history of being more isolated they have developed a very strong community response,” Mathews said Tuesday afternoon during a break from his work in community partnerships. “When I came in on Saturday most of the agencies, faith-based groups and community and government agencies were already fully engaged. My work was made very easy because of that.”

Mathews, from Mexico, MO, deployed to Colorado on Sept. 17. He first reported to Denver for two days of orientation then was assigned to the Loveland/Fort Collins area. His next move was to Estes Park.

“I’m doing a kind of reaching out since then to try to find areas that are under served or need to have additional services,” he said of his current responsibilities. “The agencies that have not been thought of are very, very few and far between. Somebody already is working with them.”

Mathews, a veteran of national deployments, also had high praise for local Red Cross volunteers and their work with partner agencies.

“Overall I’m very pleased with the response from the local Red Cross chapter and the local community,” he said. “They are working hand-in-hand and really doing a good job.”

The majority of the Red Cross response in the Estes Park area is being done by local volunteers, Mathews said.

“They opened and operated a shelter for more than a week,” he said. “It shut down officially on Sunday evening, but they’ve been feeding three meals a day with the cooperation of the Salvation Army. This is one of those wonderful cooperative groups. We’ve established a connection between Red Cross and Salvation Army unlike any I’ve seen anywhere.”

The meal sites closed Tuesday and Mathews said the Red Cross is moving into a transition period.

“We’re kind of handing off and transitioning back to the local chapter to be able to continue their response,” said Mathews, who expects his deployment to continue somewhere in Colorado for two more weeks.

Next steps for area residents and the community are already being considered.

“The recovery stage is very much on everybody’s mind,” he said. “It’s daunting to think of what needs to be done in what they call the Estes Valley. This was one of the hardest hit areas away from Estes Park proper.”