Eleven days after a severe storm dumped 10 inches of rain on parts of Lower Bucks County and Northeast Philadelphia, resulting in a 100-year flooding event, the American Red Cross remains focused on the recovery of residents impacted by water damage.
To date, more than 80 trained Red Cross disaster workers assisted nearly 500 people – opening more than 180 cases, offering health and emotional services to more than 300 people, distributing over 1,000 relief supplies and serving more than 1,500 snacks.
Many of those services were provided in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the storm, Red Cross disaster workers staffed an overnight evacuation center at Snyder Middle School in Bensalem on July 12, followed by a three-day community resource center July 13-15 at the Maltese Room behind Cornwells Fire Company in Bensalem. Volunteers also participated in an information and resource center operated by the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management at the Chalfont Recreation Center on July 15 and 17.
On July 16, Red Cross Regional CEO Guy Triano toured impacted communities in Bristol Township with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Bucks County officials, leading to the opening of a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) July 20-21 at Keystone Elementary School in Croydon. More than 20 government and community agencies, including the Red Cross, served approximately 400 families.
Collaboration is key in helping communities recover from a disaster. Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer Merrie Eisenstadt made it a point to visit each agency on the first day of the MARC to learn about their services so that she could make better referrals to clients, especially since this was her first disaster deployment. That knowledge was put to good use. A licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC), Merrie noticed a woman in the middle of the cafeteria who appeared “frozen.”
“When I asked if I could help, she started crying,” Merrie shared.
The woman spoke Mandarin, with little ability to communicate in English. Together with Ceena Jenkins from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Merrie helped secure translation services by phone.
“I learned that she had been living in her car because she can’t live in her home. As soon as I heard that, I had to help,” said Merrie. “I didn’t want her to feel like she was just a number.”
Merrie spent close to two hours with the woman, walking her from table to table to fill out assistance applications with the help of the translation service.
“That’s the advantage of a multi-agency center; each works in cooperation with the other,” she said.
The woman Merrie assisted was just one of her 49 client interactions that day.
“Greeting people waiting in line, listening to their stories, showing empathy – it’s the most important thing we can do in this situation,” she said.
In addition to the agencies providing assistance at the MARC, the community at large also stepped up. Parx Casino, located in Bensalem, only a couple miles from where some of the most significant damage occurred, donated $75,000 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Because of this kind of support, the Red Cross can help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters big and small.
And when Red Cross disaster volunteers Steve Thomas and Larry Daly went to pick up additional snacks at Sam’s Club in Willow Grove for clients on the second day of the MARC, store manager Patrick generously donated the $140 purchase.
Another example is the Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania, which worked with the Red Cross since the third day of the response to provide impacted residents with meals and snacks, as well as additional clean-up kits and other services. As the Red Cross transitions from the response to the recovery phase for this disaster, recovery specialists will continue to work with impacted families to plan next steps and connect them with organizations that specialize in solving problems and meeting their specific needs.
The vital work of the Red Cross is made possible by volunteers who contribute their unique backgrounds, talents and skills. To find a volunteer opportunity, visit redcross.org/volunteer.