By Annabelle Moore, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region
The sunlit atrium of the emergency lodging site offers a peaceful place to recover and regroup for several displaced residents of the Briarwood Apartments, in Abilene, Texas, woken Sunday morning by the raging flames of a 3-alarm fire. The American Red Cross Texas Big Country disaster action team (DAT) was there on the scene to assist residents in finding shelter at the hotel. Thankfully, of the 65 people ousted by the fire, no residents were injured.
The Red Cross is collaborating with several local community support agencies such as the Christian Service Center, Betty Hardwick, and the Abilene Housing Authority to help families get the things they need like toiletries, clothing, mental health support, and referrals for future housing options.
For Laura Powers, a new Disaster Action Team volunteer fresh from her training, the call to support in a Red Cross shelter operation was a thrilling surprise. “I like getting to be hands-on; right here, helping my community, and getting to go-go-go!” says Laura, her enthusiasm radiating through her facemask.
A middle and high school science teacher, Laura was drawn to the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross and the chance to be a part of a large organization with a friendly local office. “I became a volunteer to help my community and with the American Red Cross there is always something going on,” says Laura. “I love the policy of complete inclusion.”
“I’m so grateful the Red Cross could help these people find a hotel and safe place to stay,” said Alecia Smith, Manager of the Briarwood Apartments. “Many are low-income families and don’t have much and need the help.”
Upon arriving at the hotel, clients meet with Red Cross registration volunteers like Amy Fore, a Disaster Action Team Supervisor, and a volunteer of two-and-a-half years. “We’re helping folks to stay calm and patient as we work to register them,” says Amy, a process in which clients and volunteers work together to identify their most immediate needs like food, healthcare items, and clothes. Amy spent 10 years volunteering with homeless ministries in Midland-Odessa before relocating to San Angelo and joining the Red Cross. A relator by training, she leads a team of 3-5 volunteers at the shelter, which will remain open while residents need help
Robyn Flores, Executive Director for the American Red Cross serving the Texas Big Country, told KTAB news, “It’s absolutely devastating and heartbreaking to see, but it’s important that they know they’re not alone.”
Learn how you can help your community as an American Red Cross volunteer here!