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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Helpers Clothe Displaced Seniors in Dignity

By Patricia Billinger

It had been less than 24 hours since a raging fire drove them out of their 130-unit apartment complex, but for the seniors staying at a Red Cross shelter at Littleton United Methodist Church, it felt like they had been in their clothes for much longer. The morning after the fire, a number of the seniors were concerned about fresh, clean clothing.

Just as quickly, the community responded. Members of the church brought in brand new undergarments and socks of various sizes for both men and women. Meanwhile, a representative from local nonprofit Love INC met with each of the residents staying at the shelter to gather their sizes so that a team of volunteers could go shopping for a brand new set of clothes for each person. In addition to meeting basic medical needs, Red Cross nurses secured other items to make them more comfortable, such as Depends undergarments and Poligrip for their dentures.

“It takes a whole community to meet the wide range of needs that arise after a disaster, especially when that disaster strikes a vulnerable population. It’s truly neighbors helping neighbors,” said George Sullivan, Regional Disaster Director for the Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming. “The way numerous agencies, nonprofits and religious organizations have come together to help these seniors is an excellent example of a whole-community partnership response.”

Richard Cowen proudly sports a new shirt provided by Love INC.
Most importantly, groups like Love INC stepped up to provide help in a way that helped meet the specific needs of the evacuees and did so in a manner that maintained their dignity. Rather than making the seniors paw through a pile of used, donated clothing searching for something that might fit, the residents were connected with comfortable, new clothing in their correct sizes.

Meanwhile, Love INC has also maintained a list of local residents willing to do laundry for the evacuees, reducing the need for additional clothing purchases or donations. They are also facilitating free hair appointments with Empire Beauty School and providing transportation to the appointments.

“The little things matter. I wanted to provide help in the same way I would have wanted my own grandmother to receive help,” said Jessi Lambert of Love INC. “How would you want your grandmother or mother to be treated? That’s how we should treat everyone.”

For people like 67-year-old Richard Cowen, who has been staying at the Red Cross shelter since the fire on April 6, the little things do matter.

The day after receiving a fresh pair of new clothes, Richard greeted me with a charming grin and his customary, “Hey, Trouble!” This day, he gestured proudly at his crisp, rad-and-blue plaid long-sleeved cowboy shirt.

“You look sharp!” I said, sincerely. His smile broadened and his eyes twinkled at the compliment. “You like my shirt? It’s new!” He said. He knew he looked good, and it clearly made him feel better, too. “Man, it felt good!” Richard said about changing into the fresh new shirt. “Everyone here has been so good to me.”

You can support the caring, compassionate work of the Red Cross and Love INC by volunteering or making a financial donation. Visit redcross.org/colorado or http://loveinclittleton.org/ to find out more.

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