Monday, September 30, 2013

Red Cross Volunteers Visit Isolated Area Near Eldorado Canyon State Park

Story and photos by Phil Wendel

Red Cross volunteer Diane O'Neil, of Madison, WI, moves
carefully along the washed out area of a road leading to
Eldorado Canyon State Park.
A team of Red Cross volunteers found out that often it really is the road least traveled that gets you where you need to go.

Two volunteers, Brenda Haney and Diana O’Neil, both of Madison, Wis., are members of the Red Cross disaster assessment team. They and others on the team go throughout devastated areas to check on damage to residences. That information helps the Red Cross determine where it needs to put it resources to make the most effective use of the donated dollars.

The assessment team along with a public affairs volunteer arrived at Eldorado Canyon State Park to find out how the flooding affected those living on the park’s western edge. The only way the Red Cross team could get to the residents was to hike two miles uphill along pathways that were less than safe.

The team’s decision was quickly made – onward and upward. The Red Cross mission is to help those who need help and the only way to do that is to go there and find out how things are. After an hour of hiking, the team found those living there most surprised to see anyone, especially volunteers from the Red Cross, clearly recognizable by their red vests.

Red Cross volunteer Brenda Haney, of Madison, WI, talks
to Karen Burke and Mary Kinghammer, with hat, who are
two residents living near Eldorado Canyon State Park.
The first homeowner contacted, Karen Burke, had been busy removing  the paneling, carpeting and furniture damaged or destroyed by the flooding. She introduced the volunteers to her neighbor, Mary Klinghammer, and together all five went further up the hill.

The Red Cross team came to a section of the road that had been entirely washed out with the other side reachable only by traversing a narrow shelf. While the neighbors bounded over, the Red Cross crew moved a little more slowly and cautiously. More neighbors were contacted across the wash and the team assessed the extent of damage. Residents Betty Reed and Betty Wanier said the Red Cross volunteers were their first contact with any outside support group since the flooding began.

Although most of the homes suffered minimal damage from the flooding, the biggest problem was the road leading to their homes was washed out, leaving them in near isolation. The day after the team met with the residents, the Red Cross delivered water and blankets to the Eldorado Fire Department for the delivery by ATV to the residents.  Efforts are under way by officials to get the road repaired before winter. 

Red Cross Blankets Help Lyons Flood Victim

Story and photo by Sherri Odell

Cecilia Moore was forced from home in Lyons, CO, and found
herself at an evacuation center. She said she still has her
Red Cross blankets and plans to keep them.
Imagine evacuating your home in the middle of the night – while it’s pouring a cold, hard rain – and you’re sick. Very sick.

This is the situation with Cecilia Mason, a resident of Lyons, Colo. She arrived at an evacuation center at 2:30 in the morning – cold, wet and shivering.

After lying down on a cot, someone placed an American Red Cross blanket on her.  Still shivering, she soon found herself cocooned in half a dozen other blankets, and the warmth surged through her body.

“It felt so good to have something so warm – and clean – to hold on to,” she said. “I’m a retired 911 dispatcher, as well as a volunteer firefighter. Normally, I’m on the other side of a disaster – but this time I needed help.”

She recently stopped by a Red Cross bulk distribution site in Lyons, where people gathered to receive cleanup kits and other items to help in their recover.  But she didn't want anything other than to thank the Red Cross for helping her through that terrifying night.

“I still have my blankets, and I’m going to hold on to them forever,” she said.

Even though the Red Cross shelters have closed, Red Cross workers remain busy in Colorado, meeting one-on-one to connect residents with assistance as well as distributing items at sites like the one Cecilia visited.

Sheltering in Place: Lessons Learned in the Wake of a Disaster

The first of many flash flood warnings were issued on the evening of Sept. 11. To many students at the University of Colorado in Boulder that were lucky enough to be spared of the evacuation orders, the request to shelter in place was something unfamiliar to them, and in some situations nearly impossible due to a lack of preparation.

In the days that followed, the term “shelter in place” became a catch phrase in the state of Colorado, with some cities being completely closed in due to washed out roads and bridges. In many of these areas, no-flush and boil orders were put into effect due to the lack of an operational water treatment plant and hopes of conservation of what clean water there was. Almost two weeks after this historic flood began areas are still without electricity. With no other option, residents had to shelter in place- whether they were ready or not.

September is National Preparedness Month, and even before the unprecedented floods overtook parts of the state, the Red Cross was asking people to prepare themselves by taking some easy steps each week. Ironically, the week of Sept. 15 was the week about sheltering in place.

After seeing the need to be prepared, many Colorado residents are wondering what steps they should take to prepare themselves for the worst next time, beginning with sheltering in place. It all starts with a plan.

To start, build yourself a kit that includes everything you need to live for 72 hours. This includes food, water, clothing and medication. To find out what to put in your kit, visit Another handy tool is an emergency radio, which will keep you informed, even when there’s no access to other sources of information. Many of these radios have fancy add-ons like flashlights, and some even have USB ports and crank handles to charge your phone.

If you have your kit, you’re on your way to being prepared. Take some easy steps to ensure that you’re Red Cross Ready. To find else what more you can do, head to and check out the “What’s Your Plan?” checklist.

Preparedness is a lifestyle, not a destination.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Preparedness Month Activities Continue

Adam Rae leads a preparedness seminar
at the Oakbrook I Senior Living Community.
Story and photos by Robert W. Wallace

Fort Collins, Colorado - Even during the recovery phase of a major flooding disaster, the Fort Collins, Colorado, chapter of the American Red Cross carries on with many of their normal activities in the local community. Adam Rae, Communications Team Lead for the Fort Collins chapter, delivered a preparedness party at the Oakbrook I Senior Living Community. The objective of the party was to convey basic safety information for dealing with disasters and life-threatening emergencies.

Red Cross Workers Help Residents Determine Need

 Story and photo by Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross

American Red Cross case work volunteer Patricia Dillingham and AmericaCorps volunteer Kaitlyn Liafsha chat with Riverside Park Community resident Gabriel Celis, whose home in Evans, Colorado, was severely damaged by the Colorado flooding. Dilingham and Liafsha walked through the heavily damaged neighborhood in the rain, knocking on doors to make sure that all residents had met with Red Cross workers to determine their immediate needs and connect them with the appropriate community agencies providing disaster assistance. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Colorado Flood: Helping Others While in Need of Help

Story and photos by Robert W. Wallace

American Red Cross David Gearou talks with volunteers
from the Weld Food Bank as local residents gather
to receive food supplies. Gearou is a member of the
Red Cross Community Partnership Team and helps to
facilitate working relationships between local community
agencies and the Red Cross disaster relief effort.
Evans, Colorado, September 25, 2013 - Although now homeless due to the recent flooding, Glen Smithey, an employee of the Weld Food Bank, was present at the multi-agency Disaster Recovery Center in Evans, Colorado, to assist with food distribution for local families in need. During a lull in the activity, he sat down with Red Cross client caseworker Samantha Redmond to register for benefits for himself and obtain referrals to other agencies for disaster benefits.

"My home is now at the bottom of Lake Evans," said former Eastwood Village resident Glenn Smithey. On September 13 Smithey and his wife Vicki made the final mortgage payment on their mobile home. Then disaster struck: that very same day, a Friday the 13th, flood waters swept through their mobile home park, destroying what had been their home for almost ten years.

Weld Food Bank employee Glen Smithey with American Red
Cross case-worker Samantha Redmond at the multi-agency
Disaster Recovery Center in Evans, Colorado. Smithey opened
a case with the Red Cross and also received referrals to other
agencies for disaster relief.
Even worse, the mobile home park was located right across from the local sewage treatment plant. When the floodwaters washed over the plant, they carried the raw sewage right through the mobile home park. Smithey thinks that it will be a long time before the now sewage-inundated land will return as a safe place to live.

The Smitheys mortgage payment included a payment for home insurance, but unfortunately, they did not have a separate flood policy. As a result, their insurance company has denied them all recovery benefits.

Vicki Smithey is a manager for Harbor Freight Tools, in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her company has provided them with temporary housing at Candlewood Suites hotel. They are looking for a new home. said Smithey.

Glenn Smithey is a truck driver and warehouse worker for the Weld Food Bank in Greeley, Colorado. On this day he had brought the food bank's mobile feeding truck along with a group volunteers to the multi-agency Disaster Recovery Center in Evans, Colorado. At times there was a long line of residents waiting for food assistance.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Disaster Mental Health for a Harrowing Experience

Story and photos by Robert W. Wallace

Mike Horn listens as Red Cross disaster mental health
volunteer Paul Wenham describes the after effects of
describing the terror that the Horns endured.
“It was like being thrown into a giant blender, only with cars and huge pieces of buildings swirling around that I kept crashing into,” said Mike Horn as he spoke to American Red Cross disaster mental health worker Paul Wenham. During the recent flooding, the Horn’s home, which once sat alongside the Big Thompson River, collapsed, triggering a night of terror for its occupants after they were thrown into the raging river.

Wenham, a professional clinical social worker is one of the many American Red Cross licensed mental health workers deployed to Colorado, who are trained in disaster counseling skills. When disaster strikes they travel to the site to help victims and relief workers deal with the trauma and stresses of disaster.

On this day Wenham was sitting in a quiet corner lobby of the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado, where Mike Horn’s wife, Florence, is still recovering. After listening empathetically to Mike Horn’s harrowing story of terror and rescue, Wenham quietly and calmly began to explain some of the physiological and psychological consequences of being exposed to and having survived such an experience.

The ordeal began on the morning of Thursday, September 12. About 6:30 am, Florence Horn pulled back the curtains and saw that the river was rising. Mike Horn went out to inspect the two bridges they must cross to exit onto the main road. The water was already five feet deep over one of the bridges, blocking their exit. “I knew then that sooner or later we were going to have to go into the water,” said Mike Horn.

Mike Horn called the Sheriff’s Department and alerted them to their situation. Then they settled in and waited as the water continued to rise. At 2:30 am, their wait ended. That’s when the water washed away their house, and they were thrown into the raging waters of the river, as one side of the house was shattered.

Mike Horn and Red Cross disaster mental health
volunteer Paul Wenham comfort Florence Horn as she
convalesces in her bed at the Medical Center of the
Rockies in Loveland, Colorado.
“I’m a good swimmer, a SCUBA diver,” said Mike Horn, “but not in that kind of water. I tried to act as a cork, just be carried along, keeping my head up and avoiding swallowing water.” Mike and Florence were separated from one another as they were swept along. Mike eventually ended up hanging onto a tree. Florence was some distance away holding tight to a piece of building debris. In the darkness and confusion, Mike could not see her, but he could hear his wife’s screams.

Eventually, neighbors from across the river rescued Florence and then, several hours later Mike was rescued. During her ordeal Florence suffered a broken leg and numerous contusions and abrasions. They were both airlifted out of the flooded area in a Black Hawk helicopter. Florence was admitted to the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, where she remains. Now homeless, Mike Horn stays with his wife at the Medical Center. “They have been wonderful facility here and have been very kind,” said Mike Horn.

When Mike Horn went to sign-up for assistance from FEMA, the caseworker suggested that he contact the Red Cross and gave him the phone number for the call center serving the Colorado disaster. When he made the call and told his story of survival to Red Cross volunteer Squeak Birg,“I told him I wish I could reach out and hug him, but since I can’t, I was going to send him to somebody who can do that,” said Birg.

Wenham was in the middle of a pizza dinner after a long day of assisting clients when he received the call from Birg. He quickly finished his meal and was soon sitting at Mike Horn’s side listening to his story and offering emotional support. This is what Red Cross disaster mental health volunteers do. Wenham continues to check in on the Horns as they embark on their journey of emotional recovery.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Checking In With The Wind River Ranch

Story and photos by Robert W. Wallace

Bob Wallace talks with Ranch Foreman Nick Harold at the
Wind River Ranch and Christian Family Conference Center.
American Red Cross volunteer Bob Wallace, along with Red Cross volunteer colleagues Virginia Hart and Katie Rowley, stopped at Wind River Ranch to see if assistance is needed after the recent flooding. The Ranch, a Christian family conference center, suffered heavy damage from the recent flooding. The Red Cross workers wanted to make sure they knew that in Estes Park a Red Cross shelter is available where overnight accommodations, three meals a day, nursing assistance, and disaster mental health services are available.

Nick Harold, Ranch Foreman, was present when water came crashing down the mountainside that sits adjacent to the ranch residence, offices, conference center, and horse corrals.  He described the deluge as a literal wall of water. "We had 54 horses in the corral. At one point the horses were up to their withers in water," said Harold.

Remainder of the mudslide on the mountainside above
the Wind River Ranch.
Water had loosened the soil on the mountainside, sending down huge piles of mud and broken trees. "When the mudslide let loose, it made a horrible noise, a grinding of rocks and the snapping of trees," said Harold. "We had just put up a new fence around the corral, but I worried it would not hold, and that we would find a corral full of horses with broken legs," said Harold.

To save the residence and conference center, Harold mobilized his crew who used the ranch's earth-moving equipment to clear mud and sludge to allow the water to keep moving. At the time of the flood there were 30 church pastors and wives present for a conference. "They all pitched in with shovels to help clear the silt and sediment out of the stream of water," said Harold. The group worked 20 hours straight and were rewarded by successfully protecting the structures from damage.

Once the structures were protected, Harold said he was almost afraid to go to the corral. He imagined it would be filled with horses in agony due to numerous broken legs, and that his next task would be to euthanize those critically hurt. To his surprise they were all unharmed. The new fence had blocked the debris from inundating the corral. He and his crew quickly moved the horses out of the damaged area and relocated them to their summer pasture.

At the end of the visit with Harold he invited the Red Cross visitors to share dinner with him and the rest of the ranch crew. "Our cooks are wonderful and prepare meals for 30-40 every night. Three more at the last minute will not be a problem," he said. They were touched by the offer and would have loved to join them, but due to the late hour and the long drive back to their headquarters, they reluctantly got back into their 4x4 vehicle and pointed it towards Denver.

Moving Forward

Story and photo by Thomas Stredwick

Charles Reed works to repair the foundation 
on the landmarks 130-year-old barn.
The enormity of a storm ultimately reveals the strength of a foundation. Many foundations were put to the test by the flash floods that ravaged communities throughout Colorado. In the wake of the deadly storms many families find themselves salvaging what’s left or starting over.

One of the oldest homesteads in Boulder County was mostly spared from the brunt of flood waters. Just over a week after the storm moved through the area, the Agriculture Heritage Center staff and volunteers were back at work mending fences and repairing damage to some of the properties 130 year old foundations, providing their neighbors with a sense of normalcy.

“We rebuild; it’s all we can do,” said Charles Reed, a mason by trade, and handyman for the historic homestead now turned heritage center. His simple straightforward words reflect the strength of a community founded upon the back of miners and farmers. As many communities begin the process of recovering, the Red Cross is by their side providing vital resources as families begin coming back to their communities weeks after the storms left them homeless.

Its simple things like repairing the foundations of community hubs that help families move forward. To learn how you can help families impacted by recent storms in Colorado move forward visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Monday, September 23, 2013

FEMA Corps Members Trained to Assist Red Cross

Story by Carl Manning

When disaster strikes there always is a need for more volunteers to help out and the American Red Cross is working with several community partner groups to get more people trained and ready to help out with the Colorado flooding.

American Red Cross Volunteer Mike Dow of 
Wichita Falls, Texas, teaches the basics of sheltering to a 
group of FEMA Corps members who are assisting the 
Red Cross in the disaster relief operations related to the 
flooding in Colorado. 
Recently, at the Red Cross Mile High Chapter a training session was conducted for some 20 members of the FEMA Corps, comprised of young people who want to help out in times of disasters. Mike Dow, a Red Cross volunteer from Wichita Falls, Texas, explained how a Red Cross shelter operates, from setting up the cots and making sure meals are provided to closing the shelter and cleaning the cots and storing them for the next time.  Some from the class were sent to help the volunteers who have been working at the shelters.

“This way it’s not all on our shoulders and we are able to help each other out,” Dow said of the collaboration between the Red Cross and its partners.

Among those in the class was Lily Steiner, who is from Boston but now lives in Denver as part of her FEMA Corps assignment. She said the reason she joined FEMA Corps was the joy she gets from helping others.
Like her classmates, Steiner also received instructions on how the Red Cross does its assessment of damaged homes. The assessments allow the Red Cross to determine where best to place its resources to help those in need.

“I really enjoyed learning how the Red Cross does it. It seems very efficient and pretty straight forward,” she said.

Dow said he enjoys teaching the class because it gives the Red Cross a ready group of trained volunteers who are ready when the time comes. He said he’s not worried about those in the class doing a good job.

“They were all eager and ready to go and do good stuff,” he said.

Red Cross Warehouse is Doing Some Heavy Lifting

Story and photos by Carl Manning

American Red Cross volunteer Pat Bos, of Charleston, S.C., 
watches as a truck backs up  to the loading door 
of the Red Cross warehouse.
To the casual visitor, it looks like a whirlwind of chaos with big trucks backing up to the unloading doors, forklifts zipping around the massive warehouse floor unloading dozens of pallets and then loading them into other vehicles for delivery to area affected  by the Colorado flooding.

In recent days, more than 17 truckloads of supplies including personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies, lanterns, tents, sleeping bags, rakes, tarps, gloves, flashlights, colors and insect repellent has arrived.

“We want to get the product out to the client because they are ones who are needing it and they are needing it now,” Bos said.

American Red Cross volunteers watch as a forklift drivers 
loads cleanup kits onto a truck along with other items 
to be taken to flooded areas of Colorado.
On a recent day, Bos and his crew were busy loading a truck with blankets, gloves and cleanup kits heading out to one of the flooded areas.  He watched to make sure everything was loaded properly and  secured for the ride before heading out. While overseeing the warehouse operation is a big part of his work, Bos feels he has another role  to make sure that the money donated to the Red Cross is being used efficiently.

“I don’t see where anything we do shouldn't be concerned with the donor dollar,” he said. “They are ones who are paying for this and we need to respect that.”

Bos, who retired after an Air Force career, said he is volunteering with the Red Cross because “it’s time to give back to the community.

”It’s a job with long hours and no pay, but Bos said his reward is knowing that what he is doing is helping those in need.

“You can’t put a dollar figure on it,” he said.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Colorado Flooding Daily Fast Facts & Service Sites

Colorado Flooding Daily Fast Facts & Listing of Service Sites

LAST UPDATED: Friday, Nov. 8, 2013

The American Red Cross is continuing to support flood relief operations in Colorado by working one-on-one with residents affected by the disaster. If you continue to need assistance, please call the Colorado Flood Relief Call Center or your local Red Cross chapter.

Colorado Flood Relief Call Center
If you have been affected by flooding and need assistance, you can call our Flood Relief hotline at 888-635-6381 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Our call center workers will work with you to help you with your individual, disaster-related needs and connect you with Red Cross assistance as well as numerous resources in the community.

*NOTE: the Call Center will be closed in honor of Veterans Day on Monday, Nov. 11. Thank you for your patience.
Red Cross Assistance At-A-Glance for Colorado Floods
Since the night of Sept.11, 2013, the Red Cross and its partners have:

  • Opened and/or supported 20 shelters
  • Provided 5,232 overnight stays for hundreds of affected residents
  • Served more than 204,300 meals and snacks in conjunction with the Salvation Army and the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • Distributed more than 249,300 relief items such as clean-up kits, blankets and comfort kits
  • Made more than 15,700 health and mental health contacts with affected residents
  • Registered 1,628 people on Safe and Well
The Red Cross is beginning to transition from the response phase to long-term recovery, and our workers will continue to work with individuals, families, businesses, community groups and local agencies to meet ongoing community needs throughout Colorado.  Along with volunteers, clean-up supplies and materials will continue to flow into the area and will be distributed as quickly as possible as long as the need exists.

The American Red Cross provides disaster assistance free of charge and is supported by public donations.  Donations can be made by calling 1-800-RED CROSS, visiting, contacting your local Red Cross chapter, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.  All donations are tax deductible

Residents of Pinewood Springs, Colorado, Hold Fast to Their Community

Story by Robert W. Wallace, photo by Virginia Hart

Volunteer Bob Wallace shares information about the Red Cross
shelter in Estes Park with Pinewood Springs, Colorado, residents
Michael and Susan Martin and Geoff Evans, the Martins' friend
from Longmont, Colorado. A washed-out portion of Highway 36,
the only road between their community of Pinewood Springs
and Estes Park, is in the background.
American Red Cross volunteer Bob Wallace encouraged Michael and Susan Martin, residents of Pinewood Springs, Colorado, to avail themselves of the resources from the American Red Cross available to persons impacted by the Colorado floods.

The Red Cross has established a shelter in the neighboring community of Estes Park. The shelter offers overnight accommodations, three meals a day, nursing care, and disaster mental health assistance. It's located at the Rocky Mountain Park Inn. In addition, FEMA and a Disaster Assistance Center are also available at the Inn to offer assistance.

Michael and Susan Martin live in a beautiful Colorado locale and are members of the close-knit community, Pinewood Springs. But the flood inundated their home and community. However, that may not have been their most serious problem: Highway 36, the only connector between their community and Estes Park, was completely destroyed in some places by the raging floodwaters.

FEMA had strongly urged them to evacuate their now isolated community. However the Martins are adamant. "We are not leaving. I've got dogs and cats, ducks and chickens. It's our home," declared Susan Martin.

To obtain supplies, the Martins must pack everything in on the narrow trail that exists alongside the collapsed highway. They make multiple trips along this strip with containers of fuel, groceries, and other necessities. Thankfully, they now have potable water available in their community, so they no longer have to ferry water as well. This day they had a friend, Geoff Evans, to help them haul in supplies.

"Pinewood Springs has approximately 400 homes and 1100 residents. Somewhere between 60 and 100 residents remain," said Michael Martin. "We've organized ourselves into committees to deal with the essential community services," he continued.

Michael Martin works from home for a major corporation and says he will be able to continue to work as soon as electricity is restored. Susan Martin, on the other hand, has a sales job that she will likely lose. So far their resourcefulness and determination has sustained them. "We will be alright for a little longer. There is still a lot of meat available," said Michael Martin.

Red Cross Helps Displaced Family

Story and photo by Sherri Odell

JoAnn Stowell, 5, and her sister, Crystal Stowell, 9, were
forced out their home in Longmont, Colo., by the flooding.
The American Red Cross has provided assistance to the
children and their family, along with many others affected
by the flood. They are holding comfort kits from the
Red Cross filled with personal items such
as toothpaste and soap.
Pamela Stowell had seen the water beside her Longmont, Colo., home rise before, but never with the speed and intensity as it did this time. Knowing that the family had only a few minutes to evacuate, she quickly hustled her two young daughters into action.

By the time Crystal, 9, and JoAnn, 5, grabbed some clothing and headed out the door, the water was two feet high – and rising. The family now faced a dilemma – how to evacuate Pamela’s elderly bedridden mother. A neighbor quickly found an air mattress, and they managed to float the family to safety.

The entire family spent a few nights at an American Red Cross shelter in nearby Mead. After returning back home to face the daunting task of cleaning up, Pamela praised the staff and volunteers of the Red Cross.

“Red Cross is great – they gave us a place to stay,” she said.

She said her family had been impressed by everyone at the shelter – so much so, that she is already planning a “thank-you” picnic for some time next year – as well as making a financial donation once the family is back on their feet. As far as the disaster that affected her home, she keeps a positive attitude.

“Hey – a disaster is certainly one way to get to know your neighbors better!” she said.

Red Cross Teams Up With Save the Children To Help Kids

Excerpted from American Red Cross press release:

Denver, Colo, Sunday, Sept. 22, 10:00 a.m. – The American Red Cross and national partner Save the Children have teamed up to help ease the trauma and impact of the recent floods on local children.

An evacuated family is all smiles at the Family Fun Night
organized by Save The Children and AmeriCorps NCCC
at the Greeley Disaster Assistance Center.
In the initial days following the Colorado floods, the Red Cross worked with Save the Children to provide the “Child-Friendly Spaces” program in evacuation shelters to make the shelters more welcoming for child evacuees and families. The program includes pre-packaged kits that contain equipment to mark off a special area for children, activity supplies (such as art materials, books, games and toys), and other materials to help ensure children’s safety and protection in shelters.  

"Emergency shelters, while providing a safe haven from the elements, often place children in unfamiliar places, and typically they lack toys, safe places to play and structured activities for children," said Eric Jones, Assistant Director of Direct Services for the Red Cross disaster response to the Colorado floods.   "Through this partnership, children in shelters are allowed to play, learn, socialize and express themselves under the supervision of a caring adult, giving them a sense of normalcy which can help them recover from the experience of weathering a disaster such as the recent floods.”

These safe play areas allow children to play, socialize, and begin to recover from emotional distress and offer hundreds of children the chance to be kids again. The kid-friendly activities create a safe and supportive place for children to play with their peers and caring adults in the midst of the turmoil that surrounds them.

AmeriCorps NCCC members play with children in the
Greeley Disaster Assistance Center during Family Fun Night.
Save the Children has operated the Child-Friendly Spaces program in five shelters and will be working with the Red Cross in upcoming days to provide additional support for kids affected by the flooding.

Additionally, Save the Children hosted a family fun night for shelter residents and Red Cross volunteers at the City of Greeley Recreation Center on Saturday evening, Sept. 21. Fifty children and their parents took part in a night of food, fun activities and entertainment.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

American Red Cross Call Center is Ringing with Activity!

Photos and Story By Carl Manning

The American Red Cross call center for  the Colorado floods is operating 12 hours each day to provide information for those both needing assistance and those wanting to offer assistance. Red Cross volunteer Leonard Garyson, who is the call center manager, takes his job seriously. 
Workers at the American Red Cross call center 
are busy answering the phone
“It’s important that the information goes out to the public in a timely manner and that those who call are able to have their questions answered,” said Garyson, of Grand Rapids, Mich.

The center is staff by a blend of Red Cross volunteers and temporary employees hired for the job after being trained. Garyson said the center has been handling 20 to 30 calls each hour in its opening days. That includes calls the center returns to those asking information where some research had to be done, like finding out which agencies are accepting clothing donations. As time passes, he expects the number of calls will jump as word get out that the center is open and will start tapering off as the various needs are met. But Garyson emphasized the call center will remain open as long as there is a need.

 American Red Cross volunteer and call center manager, 
Leonard Garyson, of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Some calls are from people wanting to know where they can get clothing and those wanting to donate clothing . The call provides information in each instance.  Some people displaced by the flooding want to know where they can take their pets and the call center helps with that. He said the call center also been getting calls from people who weren't  affected by the flooding offering living space in their homes for those who have been displaced. 

“They said they want to help. They haven’t been affected and they want to reach out and help,” he said.

Garyson there have been some unusual requests, but perhaps one of the more unusual one was from a man offering his 20-seat passenger plane for use.

“You don’t get that kind of call every day,” he said. 

Call Center is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. (Mountain Time) seven days a week. 

Estes Park Red Cross Shelter Manager Provides an Update

Bob Wallace talks to Cheryl Wagner, manager at our Estes Park shelter, about the response so far.

Bulk Distribution Happening Today

The Red Cross is up and running with bulk distribution at the three Disaster Assistance Centers (DAC) today. Clean-up kits are being distributed along with water and snacks. Clean-up kits consist of shovels, rakes, gloves, masks and cleaning supplies. Residents affected by the flooding are encouraged to stop by and pick up cleaning supplies.

DAC locations:
LOVELAND: Larimer DAC 81514th SW St., Building B, Loveland, CO
GREELEY: Greeley DAC Island Grove Park 501 N 14th Ave. Greeley, CO
LONGMONT: South Weld Sheriff Substation 42-9 Weld County Road 24 ½ Longmont, CO

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mental Health Workers Lend an Ear to Flooding Victims

Story and photo by Robert W. Wallace

American Red Cross mental health worker Dorothy Lanphear
consoles Jo Ann May at the Loveland Disaster Assistance
Center. May and her husband Rusty lost their home and custom
saddle-making business in the recent Colorado flooding.
Jo Ann May found an empathetic listener in American Red Cross mental health worker Dorothy Lanphear as she describes the ordeal and loss that she and her husband Rusty endured during the recent Colorado flooding.

The Red Cross has deployed numerous mental health workers to respond to the Colorado flooding. Their mission is to deal with the trauma and stress that can be overwhelming to those who have been impacted by the disaster.

The Rays have enjoyed living and working at their home in Big Thompson Canyon for over 30 years, but on Thursday, September 12 they barely got out with their four horses before a flash flood came crashing through. “We received a call from a friend that we should load up our four horses and get them out of the canyon. By the time we had them loaded the water was three-feet deep,” said May.

After getting the horses out, the Mays quickly evacuated, but they had to leave their two cats. “One kitty we left in the house, but I couldn’t catch the other,” said Jo Ann May. They feared the worse, but when the waters abated and they had a chance to go back they discovered that both cats had survived.

Unfortunately, the May’s homestead was not so lucky. Their home, carport and workshop, the place where Rusty May made a living by creating custom-made saddles, were all destroyed. Jo Ann May lamented the big rolls of beautiful leather, the raw materials for Rusty’s saddles, that were completely destroyed by the high water that reached a height of four feet in the workshop.

The Mays have known each other since they were three-years-old and have been married for 56 years. “She’s still my bride,” said Rusty May.

They are amazingly upbeat and resilient after the loss of their home. “I’m better off than many. At least I still have my land, and with a good load of new topsoil too,” said Rusty May.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Look Inside The Work Of An ERV Driver

One of our emergency response vehicle drivers in from Kansas shares a little about himself and what he does as a Red Cross volunteer helping people affected by the Colorado floods.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Donna Hitz Prefers to See The Silver Lining

Story by Jim Rettew

It’s hard to refuse a ride from the National Guard when the evacuation helicopter lands in your front yard. Donna Hitz, 81 and wheelchair-bound, has been living in the hills west of Lyons for 35 years.  She grew up teaching horsemanship on her remote pastures.  She’s been living alone for the past 11 years since her husband died.  When she got the knock on her door that the waters were rising, she said, “I’m not getting into any helicopter.”  For all these years, nothing has chased her out of her home, and a little water wasn't going to do it this time.

However, this was more than a little water, and when all her neighbors started to congregate in her front yard, she knew something was up.  What was up was a Colorado National Guard huey, and when it landed in her front yard, she figured it was a sign to go.  They wheeled her up the ramp, picked up the dogs, and buckled her in, and has spent the last few nights at a Red Cross shelter in Niwot Colorado.

Donna sees a lot of silver linings in this ‘inconvenience’.  “Everyone has been wonderful,” she beams with a slight tear in her eye.  “I've gotten to know my neighbors like never before.”  One neighbor had moved in five years ago, but they never met.  During the evacuation, she came up to Donna’s house and said, “I’m sorry I never introduced myself, but after this is all over, I’d like to have tea.”  “I just loved that,” said Donna.  “I don’t get many visitors, so I’m already looking forward to it.”

Donna has made quite a few friendship at the shelter with both Red Cross volunteers and other evacuees. “I’m 81 years old and two men have given me their phone numbers!” she says with a big grin.  Everyone wants to tell their story, and she’s there to listen.

Donna is also a huge Broncos fan and has been rallying up the troops at the shelter to watch the Broncos play. Wearing a blue and orange Broncos t-shirt, she’s the center of attention.  We’re not surprised and wish her well.

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:

Meeting the Community Needs

Article and Photos by Kaila Muggli, Red Cross Volunteer

Roger Bram awaits requests from community members.
Red Cross Volunteers have come forward offering their assistance during the floods throughout Colorado, from sheltering to delivering supplies. A team of volunteers set out on Saturday to distribute supplies in Colorado Springs to the Cheyenne Road and the surrounding areas. Shovels were the most popular item requested; quickly followed by sandbags.

“We didn't have any sandbags and we had to direct them towards the Fire Stations,” Red Cross Logistics Lead Roger Bram said. “It was a pretty devastating mess; they couldn't really start cleaning up until the water could be controlled.”

Members of the community had band together to help friends, neighbors, and loved ones attempt to redirect the water that was roaring by their homes. Many individuals had thought of creative solutions to the problem by using empty cat food bags to hold the sand, but that was another commodity in short supply.

David Cichowski looks on as waters
rise around residential areas.
Seeing a need within the community, the Red Cross partnered with representatives from the City of Colorado Springs, asking for sandbags to be brought out to the site while they arranged to have sand delivered.

The materials were on site within an hour and people came from all over the neighborhood, including Boy Scout Troop 101, to help fill, tie and deliver the sandbags. Despite the original plan to just deliver supplies, Red Cross Volunteers quickly joined in and began filling sandbags.

David Cichowski (Left) and Kris Sampson (Right)
deliver supplies.
“I firmly believe in the concept that many hands make light work,” Red Cross Volunteer Kris Sampson said. “More can be accomplished together.” That concept was proven as sandbags were turned out by the truckload.  As the sandbags were filled one family built a wall to divert the water away from their garage, while others used the sandbags as preemptive measures.

When the Red Cross supplies ran low the team made a second run to deliver water, snacks and more gloves. Smiling in the face of adversity the residents tried to take it all in stride. When water was offered to one resident there was a smile and the question, “Do you have anything other than water?”, as he looked around at the water surrounding him.

Seeing a need, David Cichowski (Left) and
Kris Sampson (Right) pitch in to help fill sandbags.
Ben Thatcher (left) of Boy Scout Troop 101 receives
a helping hand from Mike Baker (Right) as volunteers
within the community continue to fill sandbags.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

During A Disaster, Remember: Safety First!

Remember the number one priority during a disaster is safety! After your and your family are safe, you might want to check on your friends and neighbors to see if they are ok.

Remember the Size-Up Method:

1. Gather facts
2. Assess damage
3. Consider probabilities
4. Assess your situation
5. Establish priorities
6. Make decisions
7. Develop a plan of action
8. Take action
9. Evaluate progress

If you must evacuate, you should:

NOT walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Learn and practice driving the local flood evacuation routes. They have been selected because they are safe and provide the best means of escaping flood waters. Flood waters move swiftly and may carry debris that can cause injuries. Remember that 24 inches of water can wash a car away and 6 inches of fast-moving water can knock a person off his or her feet!

Stay off bridges over fast-moving water. Fast-moving water can wash bridges away without warning, especially if the water contains heavy debris.

Keep away from waterways. If you are driving and come upon rapidly rising waters, turn around and find another route. Move to higher ground away form rivers, streams, and creeks.

Pay attention to barricades. Local responders place barricades to warn of flooding ahead or to direct traffic safely out of the area. Never drive around barricades. 

Avoid storm drains and irrigation ditches. During a flood, storm drains and irrigation ditches fill quickly with fast-moving water. Walking in or near storm drains or irrigation ditches is nearly a sure way to drown.

Keep family together.

Precautions to follow after a flood:

Stay out of flooded areas. Flooded areas remain unsafe. Entering a flooded area places you - and the individuals who may need to rescue you - at risk.

Reserve the telephone for emergencies only. Telecommunication lines (both landline and cellular) will be busy following a flood. A non-emergency call may prevent an emergency call from getting through. It is best not to use the phone unless it is necessary.

Avoid driving, except in emergencies. Reserve the roads for those who must evacuate and for emergency vehicles.

Wait for authorities to issue a clear message that it is safe to return to evacuated areas.

Be aware that snakes and other animals may be in your house in the aftermath of a flood. Look for loose boards and dark spaces, and investigate with care.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Red Cross and PetAid Team Up for Pet Preparedness Event

In the steamy Indian summer heat, zombies could be found last Sunday afternoon, in Littleton’s Clement Park. Ninja turtles, “Despicable Me”-style minions and ballerinas, too, battled the sun, sweat and each other in obstacle courses, three-legged races and a preparedness challenge for a great cause. The friendly competition was all part of the second annual Battle of the Vet Hospital All Stars, an event that pits teams of veterinary hospital staff against one another to raise funds, emphasize teamwork and build awareness for a chosen cause. This year, PetAid, an organization focused on disaster preparedness and response especially for animals, was the beneficiary of the registration funds each team paid to contribute to the event.

Since the inception of PetAid as the Colorado Veterinary Medical Foundation in 2001, the organization has frequently partnered with the Red Cross in disaster response efforts. “It’s definitely a team effort,” Said Tamara Fox, a PetAid staff liaison. “You’ve got the Red Cross sheltering the humans, and PetAid sheltering the animals. It’s always a coordinated effort during a disaster.”

The organization teamed with the Red Cross for the Battle of the Vet Hospital All Stars as a part of the relay race itself. In their component of the event, each team member had to think quickly to answer questions about their pet preparedness plans, and teams worked together to create an effective plan with cards representing various pet-related items. Dr. Rose Barr, a participant from Tender Touch Animal Hospital (and a convincing Ninja turtle), said it helped her realize the importance of considering pets’ needs in disaster preparation. “It’s a good reminder of what you’d need, in case of a disaster situation,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of those items at home right now, so it was good to be reminded of that.”

To a pumping ‘80s soundtrack courtesy Denver DJ Rockstar Aaron, the teams fought valiantly for the grand prize, which includes a traveling trophy as well as a wide array of gift items from local sponsors like Kong pet toys and Mile High Dog magazine. The winning team, Columbine Animal Hospital, took the winning title from last year’s champs, Coal Creek Veterinary Hospital. Deer Creek Animal Hospital took second place and Golden View Veterinary Hospital took third. All told, $12,300 in funds was raised to help PetAid continue the work of keeping animals safe and cared-for during disasters.

September is National Preparedness Month, and the Red Cross is urging everyone to make their Game Plan for disasters – and that includes a plan for your pet. Visit to work on your Game Plan!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Where the Finger Points: a Holocaust Story of Survival and Loss

Mary (Jacoby) Hastings
By Mary (Jacoby) Hastings

Between 1935 and 1945, 11 million innocent men, women and children lost their lives because seven German men were determined to rid the world of all minority groups. It was a dangerous time to be Jewish, as more than six million Jewish families would discover during a decade of unspeakable atrocities known as the Holocaust.

One of our own local volunteers personally experienced the Holocaust – and survived to share his story, which he did during a recent presentation at the Mile High Chapter.
Holocaust Survivor and American Red Cross Volunteer Eric Cahn

Red Cross Mile High Chapter Transportation volunteer Eric Cahn is a German-born Jew whose life was turned upside down at the young age of four-and-a-half. As a member of the Holocaust Awareness Institute at the University of Denver, Cahn has been sharing his Holocaust story with civic groups, church groups and students for more than 25 years. His focus is primarily on middle and high school students because, as he says, “The children are the future of our country and they need to learn and know about the Holocaust.”

Born on March 29, 1938, in Manheim, Germany, Cahn would never get to experience the joys of a normal childhood.

It all began four years before Cahn was born, when German President Hindenburg died in August of 1934, leaving then-German Chancellor Adolph Hitler and his Nazi Party to seize complete control and power in Germany. “It was then that people lost the right to vote, their careers, jobs, businesses and places of worship. Synagogues were fire-bombed and destroyed and people were physically attacked and beaten in the streets as the world stood by and let it happen,” Cahn explained.

“On October 22, 1940, there came the knock at the door in the middle of the night,” Cahn recalled. Without warning, he and his 4-1/2 month-old sister, mother, father and hundreds of other Jews were taken out of their homes, loaded onto trucks, then herded into freight cars like animals and shipped to southern France. Of the 12,000 men, women, children and babies held in just that one French-built holding camp, more than 1,000 died of starvation, disease or froze to death in the first year.

In August of 1942, Cahn’s parents faced the unimaginable and difficult decision: surrender their children to rescuers with the French Resistance - complete strangers - not knowing their fate…or risk a worse fate in Nazi death camps. His parents chose to part with their children.

On Sept. 16, 1942, Cahn’s parents and hundreds of others, including children and babies, were put on another freight train, this time to “the killing camp” at Auschwitz in Poland. Newcomers were greeted by a band of Jewish musicians ordered to perform as Nazi officers and doctors pointed to the left or pointed to the right determining the fate of each passenger. Cahn’s mother (29) who had never committed a crime in her life was sent to the left and executed that same day.

Of the 1,003 people that arrived at Auschwitz on that one train alone on September 18, 1942, only 38 were still alive when the camp was liberated on January 27, 1945. Among the survivors was Eric’s father, the hand he followed pointed to the right on September 18, 1942.

Cahn and his sister remained hidden by French families during that time, ending up in foster care after the war. Eventually they were reunited with their father, who sent them to live with family in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1950. Cahn grew up in Colorado, went on to graduate from CU Boulder, got married, raised a family and worked as a Certified Public Accountant. When he retired 11 years ago, he signed on as a Red Cross volunteer.

After an extensive search, Eric was able to find the family that risked their lives to harbor his sister and a reunion was arranged in 1983. Eric has not yet found the French Christian family that kept him safely alive and quiet in their basement from August of 1942 until the spring of 1944 while Nazi soldiers patrolled outside.

To this day, the Red Cross continues to work to reconnect people like with the families they were separated from during the Holocaust. Many such cases now involve second-generation families seeking the whereabouts and final outcome of family members persecuted during the Holocaust. Perhaps with the help of international Red Cross organizations, Eric will be able to find and thank the descendants of his rescuers.

Three Phone Numbers You Should Know By Heart

By Cari Wheat, Community Preparedness and Resiliency Manager

Quick – without using your cell phone – write down the names and numbers of at least 3 people that you would need to contact during an emergency.  Is it your spouse?  Your sister?  A roommate?  Mom?  A neighbor (to make sure they are OK or to ask if they would check on your home/kids/pets)?  Your child’s school?

We know you’ve each got that loyalty card for your favorite restaurant or store in your wallet – but what about your emergency communications plan?  

I can tell you exactly three phone numbers without looking – my personal cell, my desk phone & my work cell (all numbers that I give to other people).  But, without looking at my phone, I couldn’t begin to list off the phone numbers of the people that matter most to me.  I suspect that I’m not alone…   

So – this week, Week Two of National Preparedness Month, Red Cross is encouraging folks to Stay Connected.  Follow this What’s Your Game Plan checklist and check off the boxes under Week Two.  If you do, you’re well on your way.

AND – as an incentive, if you complete steps from our checklist and post photos to social media showing how you're making your Game Plan, you will be entered into a drawing for a crank flash light/radio/phone charger.

Rules and resources to participate are posted here.  But we can't enter you in a drawing if we don't know you're participating, so make sure to either:
a) Post your pics to our Denver Facebook page: with a caption explaining what you're doing to be prepared
b) Post your pic or text to your own Twitter account using hashtag #GamePlan, or
c) E-mail your submission to before Sept. 30.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Governor Proclaims September Preparedness Month in Colorado

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has formally recognized September 2013 as Preparedness Month in the state of Colorado!

View a .pdf version of the proclamation here.

Have a look at our calendar of events aggregating preparedness activities being run by various groups throughout the state here.

And check out the official American Red Cross Colorado Preparedness Month page on our website here.