By DICK McGEEWhat started out to be a routine service activity for Martha Iskyan, an American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health counselor, turned into the most unforgettable adventure of her life.
Jamestown is a small Colorado community of 85 homes, 40 of which were destroyed by the flooding. The Town Hall in Jamestown was turned into a Red Cross Emergency Aid Station, from which a wide variety of services are being distributed to flood victims.
This is where Martha, and one of her Mental Health colleagues, loaded back packs with supplies, and set off walking up the mountain to visit families cut off from the town when the local road was washed out by the raging river as it cut a new channel through the area.
In addition to the heavily laden back packs, each was carrying two Red Cross 15-pound clean-up kit buckets.
For more than three-quarters of a mile, these two volunteers, with the aid of a local man as their guide, picked their way across the rocks of the old river bed, over and under limbs and trunks of fallen trees, until they finally reached a small group of homes where stranded residents were waiting for the recovery services they had heard were on the way.
It was then just a climb up the old river bank on a step ladder to the residents, who welcomed them with tears in her eyes.
Red Cross crisis counselors often spend half of their time with clients by pitching in and helping them with clean-up chores, all the while displaying the genuine warmth and empathy which helps a person deal with their unhappy reality without denying their feelings.
While Martha and her client were sorting through the debris, the client inquired about where she was from.
“Normally, I just say Phoenix,” Martha said, “because no one has ever heard of the small suburb where I actually live. This time I just told her I was from Arizona.”
When the woman pressed for specifics, Martha told her she lived in small town called Fountain Hills.
On hearing this, the client grabbed Martha in a big bear hug, and hung on. Through her sobbing voice and flowing tears, she related the following story: “My mother and father founded that town back in 1970,” she said. “They were the first residents to move in there. My mother developed the town library, and worked in it for 30 years.”
Forty-three years later, Fountain Hills is now a community of 22,000 people, and the client wanted to know all about how it looks today.
“I told her about the giant fountain in the middle of town, that she had never seen, and she was absolutely thrilled to learn about it,” Martha explained. “She told me both of her parents were buried in the cemetery at the Presbyterian Church, and I promised her I would place flowers at their grave sites as soon as I get home.”