It Used to Be a Bright House

Part of my job is to call people we’ve helped and see if they’d be up for sharing their story. Sometimes it’s still too tough for them, so I just listen. But most of the time people really want to share.

I just talked to a man whose family had a fire yesterday here in the city. Their apartment was a total loss, and he came home to see the apartment in ruins and his family standing outside:

“Everything was burnt,” he said. “It used be a bright house. The walls were bright, everything was white. When I walked in there (after the fire) everything was black and wet and broken. It was a pretty bad sight.”

His family was standing on the sidewalk, visibly distraught in front of their wrecked home, and a man passing by told them to call the Red Cross. “It was a complete stranger. That was so nice of him.” That stranger’s advice led to some immediate relief.

Within minutes, Red Cross volunteers were on the scene, including Patsy O’Kieffe. Patsy talked to the family, assessed the damage and gave them emergency assistance for food, clothing and shelter. That help meant the world to the man I spoke with today.

“The next thing we know, we’re in a pretty good position. We’re moving on,” he said.

Volunteers like Patsy go out every day with our Disaster Action Team to help local disaster victims move on.

“When I go out, I know I’m helping my community,” Patsy said. When she goes to fires, she thinks, “That could be my house. I’d want someone to be there for me, too.”

If you want to help out, become a Red Cross volunteer. Visit www.chicagoredcross.org/volunteer to learn more.

Thanks to the man who shared his story today, and thanks to Patsy and all the DAT volunteers. We appreciate you.

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