By Renee Felton, American Red Cross
DALLAS, Texas – Keisha Milligan and her 17-year-old son, Kilan, are returning to Dallas, ready to settle down, stay put and get on with their lives. It will be their second fresh start of 2017.
A native of Arlington, Texas, Keisha decided to move to Dickinson, Texas –between Houston and Galveston – seven months ago.
“We were looking for a fresh start and something different,” Keisha said. “The Houston area is faster paced than Dallas, which surprised me, but we were doing well.”
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans; late in August, the two found themselves back in Dallas, seeking refuge from the fury of Hurricane Harvey.
“We were some of the first people to check in at the Kay Bailey (Hutchison Convention) Center,” said Kilan. With the support of the American Red Cross, the city of Dallas opened its convention center as a temporary home for nearly 4,000 evacuees.
“It was crazy to see it basically fill overnight. We went to bed one night and woke up the next morning in a sea of people.”
Keisha admits the weeks of dislocation and uncertainty have taken a toll. “Nothing can truly prepare you for this,” she said. “It’s something I may never get over.”
In that, she is not unlike the tens of thousands of Texans the Red Cross has sheltered, fed and provided health and mental health support, as well as one-on-one casework to help them plan for their futures.
The Milligans quickly made the decision that Dallas is where they should make their new home.
“It’s quite an experience to be back in the city,” Keisha said. “We rode DART for the first time and our new apartment is in a completely new part of town to us.”
Among other adjustments, Keisha plans to go back to school to become a surgical technician, while Kilan will continue his junior year of high school.
The family has rented an apartment and embarked on the road to recovery with help from the Red Cross and other government and community groups.
“I never knew what it took to be a Red Cross volunteer,” Keisha said. “The patience and kindness and emotional support really mean a lot to us and we are thankful for many personal connections we’ve made.”
One such connection is with Red Cross caseworker Nora Wright of Decatur, Texas, who made a special bond with Kilan around their shared interest in woodworking.
“We have plans to get together this fall and make some Christmas decorations for their new home,” Nora said.
“Our new home,” Keisha echoed, with a smile. “We’re blessed, overjoyed and thankful to be getting keys to our new home.”