Sunday, September 15, 2013

Stories of Survival and Volunteerism After Historic Flooding

Here are just a few of the many stories to tell after recent floods in our state:

Steve & Jessica Detkowski

Steve and Jessica never thought they’d need Red Cross help, let alone twice in three months, but that’s exactly the situation they found themselves in during the recent Colorado floods.  On July 23 of this year, Steve and Jessica came out of the Smokey Mountains from a 14 day camping trip in the Smokey Mountains only to find that their car had caught fire.  They were in the midst of a cross country trip, and everything they owned was in that car.  Suddenly, they found themselves homeless and stranded with just the shirts on their back.

Many people don’t know that the most common emergency the Red Cross responds to is house fires.  Since Steve and Jessica were essentially living out of their car, the local Tennessee Red Cross was able to help, putting them up in a hotel, and giving them some emergency funds to help in their recovery.

Back on their feet, Steve and Jessica moved to Boulder, hoping to find work and more permanent housing.  However, lightning struck twice, this time in the form of historic flood waters that chased them out of Boulder Canyon as rock slides fell around them.  Their refuge turned out to be the Red Cross again as a local shelter was able to give them a play to stay and food to eat.  “It’s been one hell of a summer, but I’m thankful the Red Cross was able to help…twice,” says Steve.

As an Army veteran formerly in logistics, Steve isn’t one to sit idle.  At the shelter, he’s made himself useful, fixing the toilet, loading supplies, giving rides, and helping with the sleeping arrangements.  The shelter is like Cheers where everyone knows his name.  In fact, he’s become so useful that the YMCA has offered him a job as a facilities manager.  Life works in mysterious ways, but we’re thankful that this disaster has led to gainful employment and a likely future Red Cross volunteer.

Robert Demers & Alexis Sheffer

After Hurricane Sandy wiped out his Seaside Heights coffee shop, Robert bought a bus ticket west to find a better life for his fiancĂ© Alexis and her two kids.  In Boulder, he thought he found his new home.  He liked the people, he found work easily, and he loved the outdoor opportunities right in his back yard.  After finding housing up Boulder Canyon, he told Alexis it was safe to come out.  That request was 24 hours premature.

When Boulder Creek turned to a raging and devastating river, Robert was forced to be reunited with his wife at the local Red Cross shelter.  Once again, a disaster had rearranged his life plans.  “I stopped in Boulder because it's considered the happiest place on earth,” he said.  Now, it was the wettest.

Despite the hardship, Robert says the family is doing well.  Alexis has already lined up a job interview at the local supermarket, and the kids are having fun playing with the other children at the shelter.  “I don’t want to shelter them from life’s challenges,” Robert said, “but I also want to show them how we can all give back to the community like the Red Cross.”  They don’t know where they’re going to live, but they’re incredibly grateful for the Red Cross for being there when his family was in need.

Richard Bradley

The Red Cross is a volunteer-based organization, but Richard has a unique volunteer role.  Richard, or more accurately, Dr. Bradley, is part of the Red Cross’ Scientific Advisory Board.  He and other doctors, scientists, and researchers make sure that all Red Cross health and safety guidelines are backed by the latest scientific research.  When the Red Cross decides to move from 5 CPR compressions to 15 in a row, its Richard and his colleagues that make those determinations.

Today, you’ll find Richard on the tarmac of the Boulder County airport working with the national guard’s airlift operation to send in first responders and take out evacuees.  Richard is part of an urban search and rescue team that is looking into collapsed building to find additional survivors.  It’s Richard’s job to coordinate medical attention to the team and the people they find.  “We found a man half-buried in mud and another woman whose fingers were raw from crawling out of her house for two hours.”

If you would like to be a volunteer, we welcome your help.  Register now, get trained, and when the next disaster comes (and there is always a next one), you’ll be ready to respond. Get started here:

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