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Friday, April 8, 2016

After a Disaster, The Little Things Count

By Kimberly Blanco 
The day began as any other typical day in the lives of the residents of a Littleton senior apartment complex: drinking coffee, watching television, catching up with family and friends on Facebook. In an instant, this morning was not so typical at all. As the fire alarm began to sound, residents of the complex began to evacuate the building, hoping it was just a false alarm.

It wasn’t.

Ruth, left, speaks with Jessi of Love INC.
About 130 seniors had to evacuate from their apartment building on April 6 due to an apartment fire, and they have not been able to return.

Ruth Slocum, Marjorie Seery, and Kay Rogers are not only neighbors at the complex, but are friends. Today, instead of relaxing in the comforts of home, they are sharing time together and swapping stories at a Red Cross shelter that was opened shortly after the fire broke out. The shelter, located at the Littleton United Methodist Church, has been a temporary home to Ruth, Kay, and 22 of the 130 seniors who evacuated from the apartment complex. Like many of the other evacuees, Marjorie has been staying with friends -- but she visits the shelter for medication distribution, status updates from local emergency officials, and immediate needs such as food and clothing.

 Although their lives have been upended by the disaster, the friends are finding comfort in each other and in the small details that make life out of their homes a little bit more normal and comfortable.

“Today is my hair day,” Ruth said as she smiled and ran her fingers through her short, curly hair. She never misses a Thursday appointment with her stylist; at least not until today. Missing the comforts of home, Ruth was pleased to find a comb among the various hygiene items in a comfort packet provided by the Red Cross. Although Ruth had to wait another day for makeup to complete her beauty routine, she was so pleased to be able to comb her hair and wash her face. Ruth and Marjorie shared their stories with local media.

Ruth shares her story about her "hair day" with
Red Cross volunteer Kimberly Blanco.
“It’s the little things,” explained Jessi Lambert, who works for Love INC, a local nonprofit that provided clothing, underwear and – yes – brand new cosmetics for evacuees at the shelter. She noted that everyday comforts may seem like a minor detail, but they mean a lot to people who have lost everything and find solace in regaining whatever bits of normalcy and routine they can.

Ruth and Marjorie shared their stories with local media. As the two ladies spoke, they held hands in support of one another. Describing the event as “traumatic,” Ruth and Marjorie thanked everyone at the shelter for their support in helping them make the best of this experience. Ruth admitted to getting a good night of sleep because of the care and comforts she has been provided, including being able to have her purse and medications thanks to firefighters who retrieved them from her apartment.

Like Ruth and Marjorie, Kay is maintaining a positive outlook in the face of uncertainty. “You don’t realize how lost you are” until you have nothing but the clothes on your back, Kay said. But the challenge has been eased by the help and compassion of the volunteers around them. “Everyone is really taking care of us,” she said.

The Red Cross depends on the generosity of donors and the hard work of volunteers to help people like Ruth, Marjorie and Kay. Last year the Red Cross helped nearly 1,000 people affected by disasters large and small in Colorado and Wyoming. If you would like to support these efforts, please consider signing up to volunteer or making a financial donation at www.redcross.org/colorado

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