Between three major fires, one flood and other storm damage, the Pennsylvania Rivers Chapter of the American Red Cross experienced a busy 41-day stretch in 2023.
From May 29 to July 29, 2023, volunteers from the Pennsylvania Rivers Chapter responded to 65 disasters and helped more than 380 people – a 62% increase over this same time the year prior. The disaster responses included a rowhome fire in Easton, apartment fires in Allen Township and Emmaus, and flooding in Berks County.
To help the community during these challenging times, the Red Cross opened emergency shelters to provide displaced residents with a safe place to stay, hot meals to eat, relief supplies, health services and emotional support. In the days and weeks after the disasters, Red Cross caseworkers helped the impacted residents by working with community partners to ensure they received the resources they needed to recover.
Margaret Schachte, of Ashland, has been a disaster volunteer with the Red Cross since 2019. She helped at the Red Cross shelter in the aftermath of the Emmaus fire.
“I joined the Red Cross because I want to be part of the solution when disaster strikes,” Schachte said. “My area has a lot of house fires and I felt powerless standing by and watching anxiously to see what would happen. Now, as a volunteer, I can take action to help the community I care about.”
Schachte said, at the Emmaus shelter, three people she was helping asked her about joining the Red Cross as volunteers.
Patty Daley, of Schuylkill Haven, also volunteered at the Emmaus shelter. “As our relationships grew with the clients, we talked about recovery plans,” Daley said. “What an amazing feeling for them to look us in the eyes and smile!
“I would encourage anyone who has ever watched a tragedy unfold on the news to ask themselves, ‘What happens next for those families?’” Schachte said. “Take action and be part of the solution.”
Today, the American Red Cross is responding to nearly twice as many large disasters across the country as it did a decade ago.
“As the frequency and intensity of disasters grow, more people need help more often,” said Jorge Martinez, CEO, American Red Cross of Greater Pennsylvania. “Yet as fast as our volunteers are working to help, the needs are escalating faster. Join us by becoming a volunteer or making a financial donation to support our disaster relief efforts.”