by Amy Yen, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region
It’s Labor Day and outside the Red Cross shelter at Samuell Grand Recreation Center, people are enjoying a beautiful day in Dallas. Children are playing with drums and blowing bubbles. There is barbeque and spaghetti donated from local vendors. Music is playing and people are laughing. For Fanchon and Emmanuel Jackson, it’s a welcome distraction from what has brought them to Dallas.
The Jackson family enjoys a Labor Day celebration at an American Red Cross shelter in Dallas.
More than a week ago, the Jacksons evacuated from their home in Galveston after flooding began in their neighborhood and the sheetrock started caving in on one of their children’s bedrooms.
“We wanted to stick it out, but it was a lot of rain,” explains Fanchon. “We had buckets that were filling with water every hour. So we decided to go.”
They arrived in Dallas last Saturday and have since settled in. The shelter has an area set aside with donated supplies like diapers, clothes and books, free for the taking. FEMA is available on-site, and the post office is even there, so they can reroute their mail. There is supervised child care available, which gives the parents breathing room to take care of paperwork or just take a break.
The Jacksons are among 33,000 people who sought refuge at 284 Red Cross shelters on Sunday night. The services and help made available there by the Red Cross and its partners will continue to ensure that the family has their immediate needs met until they are able to return home or have another safe place to go. More than 3,000 Red Cross disaster responders are on the ground in Texas, working around the clock to serve meals, distribute relief supplies, provide health and mental health counseling and man the shelters.
Their experience at the shelter has given the Jacksons new perspective.
“I’ve heard a lot of people down-talking Red Cross and to be honest, I didn’t care for the Red Cross before this, because of what I heard,” Fanchon admits. “But now I’ve met a lot of people with Red Cross who are helping us. I’ve met volunteers who have traveled here from other states, just to help. Red Cross comes from everywhere and they’re always here, 24/7. We really appreciate all the help.
“If people don’t know if they should donate, they should come see for themselves. From the outside it may seem one way, but from the inside, it’s a lot different. I didn’t care for Red Cross because of what I was hearing, but now, looking from the inside, I think people should see all the positives that they do.”
With uncertainty about when they can return to Galveston, the Jacksons started thinking about the future, even considering making the move permanently to Dallas.
“We heard there might be another hurricane. The last thing we want is to go back home and end up having to leave again. I’d rather stay here than go home and be in the same situation. We had this happen before and we had to leave before and I don’t want to do that again.”
They’ve begun searching for a job and a house in Dallas, and have enrolled their children in school here.
“I love Dallas. Dallas has welcomed us a lot,” says Fanchon, smiling as she watches her kids play, on this beautiful day in Dallas. “If we can stay here, we’d love to.”
To help Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, call 1-800-REDCROSS, visit RedCross.org/Donate or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.