On February 12, the American Red Cross responded to a home fire at Tustin’s Chatham Village apartments. This fire spread quickly and affected an entire building within the complex, displacing over 80 people. Red Cross disaster workers handed out blankets on-scene and soon opened a Care and Reception Center which transitioned into an overnight shelter at the Tustin Area Senior Center. Shelter services included a safe and clean place to stay, food, hydration, comfort kits with personal hygiene items, emotional support and health services. Domestic pets were cared for at a co-located pet shelter on the same premises through partnership with Orange County Animal Care Services. Shelter residents were grateful to keep their pets nearby, including Ricardo Torres, who stayed at the shelter with his dog, Toby, who had alerted him to the fire that morning.The shelter was open from February 12-19 to care for the immediate needs of those affected. In total, the Red Cross provided 108 overnight shelter stays, more than 1700 meals and snacks, nearly 100 comfort kits and over 280 individual care contacts. Several community partners helped in this response, including the City of Tustin, Family Solutions Collaborative, Kaarina’s Kloset, the Mexico Consulate, OC Animal Care, OC Community Resources, the Orange County Fire Authority, the Orange County Rescue Mission, Orange County Health Care Agency’s Behavioral Health, Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange County Housing Authority, the Salvation Army, Tustin Unified School District and Waymakers. Congresswoman Katie Porter and her staff made welcome visits to the shelter to help those affected navigate federal services. Throughout this response, we have seen compassion from volunteers and community organizations, working together during times of crises to help those who need it most.Disaster Mental Health Volunteers Retired school psychologist Hillary Bryan is one of many Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers who aided frightened and distressed Tustin apartment fire survivors who found their way to the Red Cross shelter last Wednesday. Across the country, Red Cross Disaster Mental Health workers are trained and fully licensed mental health professionals giving their time to disaster survivors to help them cope with anxiety and loss. “When I retired, I wanted to keep doing the part of my job I loved the most, helping people get through the hardest of times with the most dignity and emotional support,” said Hillary. "My first deployment was the Las Vegas shootings, and from there, it has always been incredibly rewarding for me.”More than 90% of the Red Cross workforce is volunteers, which includes Hillary and all our wonderful mental health volunteers.
“From Mild to Wild” Tacos Donated to Tustin Shelter On February 12, local resident Wendy Reyes awoke in the early morning to the sound of sirens and the smell of burning, coming from the nearby Tustin Chatham Village Apartments. Just a few days later, on Valentine’s Day, survivors of the Tustin Chatham Apartment fire were treated to gourmet tacos, rice, chips and salsa, courtesy of Wendy’s catering company, Taquizas Jimenez. Wendy had reached out to the Red Cross to organize a much appreciated donation of food to bring shelter residents the taste of a meal cooked with extra love. Shelter resident Manuel said, “When the food was brought in, the good smell filled the air and gave us something to get excited about.”Wendy describes her actions as being her “duty as a human being to help whoever… It is important that we can give those that lost everything genuine love, dignity and respect.” Wendy went on to say how important it is that she instill good values to her kids to let them know that it is good to “help others out of the kindness of [your] heart. ”Catching back up with shelter resident Manuel as he received an additional serving of tacos, he said “The tacos are so good! I really appreciate it… Everyone here has been so kind.” Before leaving the shelter, Wendy said that she took the time to look at the situation and thought, “If we as a community work hard, together we can do great things. ”This response was made possible thanks to the generous donations of time and money from Red Cross volunteers, community members, partner organizations and more.
If you would like to support Red Cross disaster relief efforts with a financial donation or to learn more about becoming a volunteer, visit redcross.org/dts.