The Red Cross: Prepared and ready
It is 1:00am and the phone beside her bed rings. Janice may be deep in sleep at that hour, but when she hears that tone she knows that someone somewhere needs her help. There is a family in Allegany County who just lost their home to a fire or other disaster.
This time for Janice it was close to home-literally. Just a few houses down the road she could see exactly what the dispatcher was talking about to her only moments before. As she pulled on her boots and slung on the American Red Cross vest she could see from her living room window the smoke in the dark, clear sky and the red and white lights that were still flashing as the last bit of fire was coming under their control.
As she walked down the street to meet her neighbors, she thought she would never have to actually help someone that she knew. But that’s the thing with house fires- they can happen to anyone at any time.
She handed the families of the apartment building Red Cross blankets-they were only in their night clothes- and talked with them to see what happened. As her neighbors talked, words like ‘destroyed,’ ‘lost everything,’ and ‘memories gone’ hung in the air like the lingering smoke.
After a little while of just talking, Janice opened up her bag and talked with the families individually. She was able to provide them with the basics- food, clothing, and shelter for three days. She also gave them each a comfort kit filled with a toothbrush, soap, washcloth, and other personal items. She even was prepared with a stuffed animal in case any of the children just needed a little friend. Janice was there to give them hope.
The next day, Janice met with the families again to go over a plan of what to do next. During the shock of the night, they were not thinking about what is going to happen next, just what was happening at the moment. Janice provided each family with a list of resources for where to look for a new home, how to contact insurance companies, how to obtain copies of important documents like a birth certificate, and other information to get their lives as back to normal as possible.
Janice is a volunteer that takes time - day or night - to help those in need when they are most vulnerable. The American Red Cross provides everything else to the families who are affected by a house fire or any disaster in Allegany County.
Each disaster costs the Red Cross on average $1,000.00 per family to provide food, clothing, and shelter for three days. Because of support from generous people in our local area who give to the Allegany County United Way and the American Red Cross, these services are provided as an outright gift and can provide assistance to families large or small without any trouble.
Red Cross volunteers like Janice go through several classes and spend many hours in training to provide assistance to families when they need the Red Cross. Whether it is a house fire or large blizzard that has Interstate 86 shut down necessitating a shelter to be opened, Red Cross volunteers can and will be able to handle anything that Mother Nature brings about.
The Red Cross is grateful for cooperation of the community; from the local fire departments, to hotels and motels willing to provide emergency shelter, and of course local community members who provide financial support.