Christmas looked a little different this year than how Shantal McClary pictured it. She didn’t expect a home fire to destroy her family’s apartment – along with all the gifts she worked extra hard to buy for her children.
“This year, we worked really hard, were in a good place to give the kids a special Christmas. Now it’s all gone,” she said.
Three families, including Shantel’s, were displaced when an afternoon fire destroyed their home in Darby, Pennsylvania on Dec. 15. American Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers responded to the scene to provide comfort and care to those impacted. Shantel’s family, which includes her husband Robert and children Savannah (age 9), Joseph (age 6) RJ (age 4) and Sarah (age 3), moved into the Red Cross House that night.
The Red Cross House is a one-of-a-kind disaster recovery center in West Philadelphia that provides support to clients in a safe and comfortable environment. Families get their own room and key with a bathroom and three meals per day while they develop a recovery plan with a Red Cross caseworker.
Despite the tragedy of losing their home, the McClary family was able to celebrate Christmas, thanks to the generosity of Red Cross volunteers and staff. The Red Cross House held a Christmas party on Dec. 21 for children and families who stayed there over the past few years – and for families currently living there. The party included a meal, cookie decorating, photos with Santa, appearances by Red Cross mascots Fred Cross and Buddy the Blood Drop, a visit from the Philadelphia Fire Department and tours of the fire truck and gifts. The joy on the children’s faces lifted everyone’s spirits.
With the New Year on the horizon, Shantal and Robert are looking for a new place to live, ideally in Darby so their children won’t have to switch schools. In the meantime, Shantel has been taking Savannah and Joseph to and from school via public transportation so they don’t miss a beat. The Red Cross House has enabled the McClary family to take steps toward their recovery.
“It hasn’t been easy, but we’ll get through,” Shantal said.
PHOTO: Sarah McClary with Santa at the Red Cross House holiday party on Dec. 21. Photo by Dianne Heard/American Red Cross
Written by Alana Mauger