We are who we serve: it has been our mantra in Georgia since our Hurricane Dorian operation began nearly one week ago. With that in mind, on September 4, as Hurricane Dorian crawled its way up the eastern seaboard, I set out to visit some of our shelter residents in Georgia—just to see if there was anything more we could do to help.
Our shelter residents have no other safe place to go. They have no family to take them in. And, with what lies ahead for them completely unknown, the folks in our shelters are usually scared, hungry and worried. Plus, as the anxiety of a strong storm takes hold, many of their imaginations kick into overdrive—fueling their fears even further. During this time it is our job, as the American Red Cross, to become their family.
At the Westside High School shelter in Augusta, I met Wilma Rivers. Wilma was walking with a limp – so I went over to make sure everything was okay. Turns out, there was even more we could do to help. You see, Wilma evacuated from Savannah with her 14-year-old daughter, Destinae—but Destinae’s dad stayed behind in Savannah. After a couple of minutes of chatting with Wilma I noticed two beautiful brown eyes staring at me from under a Red Cross blanket. It was Destinae. Wilma introduced me to her daughter—and shared with me that she is on the autism spectrum and staying in the shelter was proving to be quite a challenge for her.
Wilma was grateful for all that the Red Cross was doing and thankful that we were taking such great care of them. She also mentioned how she appreciated being able to thank me, a Redcrosser, in person. When we finished the conversation, I knew we had sensory kits that can sometimes help folks who are challenged in a large shelter. I talked with Destinae's mom and she was thrilled at the prospect. It wasn’t much - a set of headphones, a stress ball, a small weighted blanket - but it was everything to Destinae and her mom.
As you can see by Destinae's fierce picture posing skills, she immediately felt more comfortable. She even asked me to be her friend.
We were already taking care of Destinae and her mom - they had a safe place to stay and food to eat – but a simple conversation highlighted a need—a need we could easily help with. This is what I mean by we are who we serve. Red Cross shelter residents are not just clients—they are family. And when it comes to helping family, we can always do more.