Through the Heart of a Red Crosser: Touching the lives of the people

Steve Wise is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois who recently deployed to Marshalltown, Iowa after a tornado devastated part of the town in July, 2018. Steve is now sharing some of the experiences he had after helping coordinate resources to help the hundreds of people affected by the tornado.

Whenever the Red Cross responds to a disaster…we often touch so many lives. After the Marshalltown tornadoes hit, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago dispatched two ERV (Emergency Response Vehicles) to help out with feeding those so negatively impacted within the community.

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These teams would drive through the hard-hit neighborhoods and pass out both lunch and dinner with food that was cooked and donated by the Hy-Vee Supermarket Company. On any given day, one ERV would pass out on average 400 plus meals – often times to families that lost everything. And they were able to touch their lives.
As the days wore on, it was common for those assigned to these ERV’s to strike up friendships with those that they would meet and talk with. They would often hear the stories of where residents were when the tornadoes hit – and how they survived. They would see neighbors helping neighbors – no matter what condition their house was in.
Jeff Dorn remembers one day when a car stopped them while driving their route to say “thank you” for what they were doing. In addition, Jeff and his partner Kyle started a “Marshalltown Wall of Fame” – where they recorded the first names of the Children that they met along their way.

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At times like these, touching the lives that you meet – means so much. It can help take away their feelings of despair and hopelessness. And it gives such lives, the chance of better tomorrows.

Through the Heart of a Red Crosser: Inside a Red Cross shelter

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.

Many of us have heard of the many Shelters that were put up in response to last year’s Hurricanes and now this year’s Wildfires.
In such Shelters you will find people of all backgrounds and races. They will be young and old…in good health and in very poor health. They will come with some belongings that they were able to grab before leaving their home. Or they may come with very little…and only have what they are wearing on their back.
They may come with family members…so thankful that they are all safe. They may come with their pets who are an integral part of their family. Or they may be alone and by themselves – desperately seeking someone to comfort them.
They may come and want to tell you stories of how they escaped the flood waters or fires that engulfed their home. They may know that if and when they go home – they most likely will find utter destruction. Or they may not know how bad it could be or possibly how lucky they are. Which will weigh heavily on them until they are able to see with their own eyes.
But now it is up to us as a Shelter Worker or Volunteer…to hear them, comfort them the best that we can…to give them the time that they need to share with us…and to help in whatever way that we can to get them on their road to recovery.
It is common for our Shelter Residents to be sleeping on cots next to people that they do not know. But as the days wear on…these strange faces will soon become their neighbors…looking out for each other. They will form bonds with each other – and most likely us as well.
As a Red Crosser – we unfortunately will see some very sad sights in a Shelter which will weigh heavily on our hearts. It is not uncommon to see one of our fellow Red Crossers sitting and crying with the arms of another Red Crosser around them. But we must push on and do our best to stay strong…because there are so many people that are counting on us for our help.

Through the Heart of a Red Crosser: The Resiliency of a Community

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.

It is truly amazing to see and watch a Community recover from a disaster.  Whether it be a tornado that devastates blocks and blocks of a town – or a fire that destroys many units of an apartment complex – you will see how a community comes together.

Large disasters can affect so many people – and often times those that will struggle greatly to recover from it.  They may not have the means or resources to repair or replace what they lost so quickly and without warning.  So, they depend on others – and often their own community to help them out.

Being out in a hard-hit community like in Marshalltown, IA – it was common to see neighbors helping neighbors.  Whether picking up debris from the many trees that were blown down, to helping repair items torn from a house – you would see a group affair.

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Drone view of the destruction in Marshalltown, IA after a tornado in July, 2018.

For those that were lucky and not impacted – you would see them donating food, clothing, or simply their time however they could.  Local residents volunteered in many roles, often requiring them to be on their feet all day.  They went out of their way to help their fellow resident – and were back the next day to volunteer some more.

We stood up a Resource Center (MARC) to help those in the community that had damage to their homes.  Twenty plus organizations came to provide free assistance – many of which were from outside Marshalltown.  They listened to, may have cried with, and did whatever they could to help out the many families that sought their help.

Such stories are repeated time and time again when tragedy strikes.  Learn to be prepared not only for any disaster that may come your way – but also be prepared to help out your neighbors when they may need you the most.

Through the Heart of a Red Crosser: Being There When You are Needed Most

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.

It is commonplace to see Red Crossers responding to all sorts of disasters.

Whether it be helping the residents of flooded homes – to sheltering city residents displaced due to severe storms – to those that have lost everything in a home fire – the American Red Cross is there to help.

When we respond to such events…we are often meeting the families involved  on the worst day of their lives.  It is so common to hear them say that they don’t know what to do or where to turn to for help.

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You can easily see their pain and sorrow in their eyes and hear it in their voices.  Sometimes it is hard for them to put into  words what they have been through or what they will need to help them take the next steps to recover.   And like the majority of us – we always think that that it can’t happen to me.  Imagine for a moment being in their shoes…what would you do?

But we come prepared to share their pain…and share our heart with them…when they need it the most.  We come with open ears and open arms.  We come with supplies to help them get their home back in shape.  We come with food for those so needing.  We come with external partners that can offer them free services to help them recover.

We know at times like these, it can be and often is very emotional for those involved and with much uncertainty.  But we know that if we can provide them initial assistance – it can help mend their broken heart…and give them the chance to regain the life that they lived…before that disaster came their way.

 

Through the Heart of a Red Crosser: The People We Meet on a Disaster Response

Steve Wise is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois who recently deployed to Marshalltown, Iowa after a tornado devastated part of the town in July, 2018. Steve is now sharing some of the experiences he had after helping coordinate resources to help the hundreds of people affected by the tornado.photo 1.jpg

Every time that we respond to a disaster – whether locally or nationally – we often meet people that touch our hearts.  They can be someone who lives in the community affected and just wants to lend a helping hand.  Or they could be someone that has a role or position in a place where the Red Cross stands up a particular event or response.

They could be someone that has not volunteered before and has been touched by the negative impact that a community has suffered.  Or they could be someone that lives outside the area – and felt compelled to travel to the area affected to just help out.

Such people come from various cultures and backgrounds and from places that we may not have heard about.  They may do things differently than what we are used to and may have looked at us as an outsider prior to the disaster that occurred.  But now they are there with us – to help us out with our response efforts in any way that they can.

These people are like angels to us – and to those that we are trying to help out.  We may spend time talking with them, laughing with them, and sweating with them.  During our time with them – we will get to know them and see what they are all about.  They may touch us deeply and most likely leave a lasting impression on us.

We may not see them again which may be uncomfortable for us – but we are so thankful that we were able to meet them and that they shared their heart with us.  And we also hope that one day again…our paths will cross.