By: Doyle Rader
The American Red Cross North Texas Region remains committed to Hurricane Ian relief efforts in Florida. To date, more than 40 trained Red Cross disaster responders from the region have deployed to hard hit areas, staffing shelters, delivering essential supplies and providing comfort and care for those that are struggling.
After landing in Orlando, volunteer Olga Marshall deployed to a Red Cross shelter at the Turner Agri Civic Center in Arcadia, Florida before Ian made landfall. This wasn’t the first time the Duncanville, Texas resident deployed for a disaster, but it was the first in which she was directly in the path of an oncoming hurricane. She and the shelter residents hunkered down as the storm hit.
“We had a little over 300 people in the building,” Marshall said. “We just tried to make everyone comfortable because we were in there for 20 hours.”
Many of the residents on Marshall’s shelter are elderly, as is the case across Florida. Some have lost everything while others are making regular trips back and forth to area hospitals. Even though conditions remain tough in the wake of Ian’s wrath, the mood in the shelter is positive.
“The Red Cross is doing a lot for me, and they’re helping keep my spirits up,” said Kathleen. She lost her home in the storm and has been staying in the Turner Center for weeks now. When she can, Kathleen pitches in to help and recently bought some peaches and pineapples to share with the other residents for dinner.
“If you help out, it makes the pain a little bit less,” Kathleen said. “It gets your mind off of the things that are happening to you. I know everybody else is in the same boat as I am, and some are a lot worse than I am, but the Lord will take care of everything.”
It’s a community effort to help make everyone comfortable in the shelter. Marshall says that she and her fellow Red Crossers are doing everything in their power to ensure that they met the needs of the shelter residents.
“One lady, who was in a wheelchair, I took her clothes to get washed because she couldn’t reach the washers and the dryers,” Marshall said. “Walmart had brought in a truck so people could come and wash their clothes for free, and she couldn’t go up the stairs. I told her I would take them and wash them for her. I know she appreciated that.”
Hurricane Ian caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and upended countless lives. The road to recovery for many Floridians is long, and the Red Cross will do all it can to help them. Marshall is happy to do her part at the shelter and has formed a bond with the residents she’s helping get back on their feet.
“I was just amazed by these people,” Marshall said. “How they were with us and how we were with them—we are part of a family.”