Monday, September 21, 2015

Comfort, Hope and Support for Residents of the Country Club Villas

By Bill Fortune and Elisa DiTrolio/American Red Cross

Home fires never strike when you're ready. They are notorious for happening in the middle of the night…when people are most vulnerable and least prepared.

Members of the Baptist Church post helpful information for
Country Club Villa residents on the wall of the Red Cross 
shelter Friday, Sep. 18, 2015 
Photo by Sally Norton/American Red Cross
Wednesday, Sept. 16, around 11 p.m., fire broke out at the Country Club Villas apartments in Denver. As the fire spread, more than 100 apartment units had to evacuate.

The community of the Country Club Villas is made up of many different cultures and backgrounds. This is a diverse community and one where everyone looks out after one another. On any given weekend you will often find a community BBQ and see children playing together. This is a community where their diversity brings them together.

That night, the night of the fire, the community was faced with an unthinkable situation where, once again, they would need to take care of each other – even catching each other’s kids as they were dropped from a second story window.

The American Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at the Potter's House Church in Denver, not far from the Country Club Villas apartments. As residents poured into the shelter the sense of community was strong. They were checking on each other and making sure everyone was accounted for.  A local restaurant owner provided pizza for the residents while the Red Cross team began assessing each resident’s needs. Later the shelter was moved to the Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Aurora. 

Red Cross shelter documents are printed in several
languages so that diverse populations can be supported.
Photo by Sally Norton/American Red Cross
The Red Cross shelter gave people a warm, safe place to stay. Food and drinks were provided along with blankets and cots. Red Cross nurses were quick to support those with functional or special needs.  A few of the residents were sent to a nearby hotel due their special needs. Red Cross disaster mental health professionals also provided emotional support by talking to each resident.

Paul Ewaldt, a resident who comes from East Africa and lived on the garden level, spent Thursday anxiously waiting to hear about the damage to his home and how long he will be displaced. Because of his special health needs the Red Cross provided an air mattress and helped him get medications. “You guys are pretty well organized for a situation like this,” Ewaldt said. “I can tell you have been doing this for a while.”

A cot and teddy bear are ready to help provide
comfort and hope to those affected by the Country
Club Villas apartment fire.
Photo by Daphne Hart/American Red Cross
Many of the residents in this community are from other countries, like Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Eritrea, Ghana and others. As Red Cross workers met with each resident it was clear that there were additional concerns, other than safety. In one case, a Libyan refugee was deeply concerned about losing his documentation and his job. Red Cross sent a representative from our International Services to help him and others with concerns about documentation and with contacting loved ones in their home countries.

 The night of the fire and through the weekend, compassionate Red Cross volunteers continued to support residents, feeding breakfast, lunch and dinner. They provided more than just full bellies and a safe place to sleep: they brought hope to people who are new to America whose lives have been disrupted once again.

If you would like to support the ability of the Red Cross to respond to disasters big and small, please consider a donation to support Disaster Relief: call 1-800-REDCROSSS or donate at 

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