Steve Wise is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois who has helped with many disasters including tornadoes, floods, fires and more. Now he is sharing some of his experiences on what it is like to be a Red Crosser and reflecting on the disasters happening one year ago.
Coming up on one year ago, magic happened …within the walls of a what would become a shelter.
The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas was stood up as a Mega Shelter in response to Hurricane Harvey. It was set up as a shelter to house and accommodate 5,000 people that were displaced from their flooded homes in the communities surrounding Houston.
The “KBH” as some of us called the space– was basically transformed into a small city. Inside it you would find housing and feeding, a Walmart popup store, a library and day care, an infirmary with its own pharmacy, and a pet shelter.
Within these walls were many agencies that provided recovery services ranging from – charging or replacing cell phones, to establishing temporary mailboxes, to replacing vital documents that may have been lost, to replacing clothing and personal items that were ruined by water, to registering for FEMA benefits, and to relocating people that were choosing to make the Dallas area their new home.
Within these walls…evacuees found an army of staff and volunteers to greet them…that would take care of them. On any given day they would have seen 100 plus individuals that were ready and able to provide various recovery services with the skills and talents that they brought. They came from all over…even from outside our borders. They came with an open heart…and the willingness to share it with those so needing their help.
As the days turned into weeks…we got to see tears of joy replaced by eyes filled with hope. We were able to answer the many questions that the evacuees so often raised. We connected people with family members that they were separated from. We gave people the chance and desire to recover from the odds that they faced when they went back home.
We shared our hearts with those so needing and walked away with many blessings ourselves…from within these walls.