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The Worst in Nature Brings Out the Best in Neighbors
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Jeffery L. Biggs, Executive Director, Covington County Chapter
June 25, 2008

When disaster strikes no one knows for certain just what will happen.  The questions are endless, the resolution often unknown.  Fortunately, in this picturesque Wisconsin town situated along the shores of the normally sedate Rock River, the questions have been answered—at least in one way.

“This is people doing the right thing,” said Kim Lopez, a community volunteer in Fort Atkinson spearheading sandbagging and other relief efforts.  “People not affected by the flooding are coming from all over the region, Milwaukee, Madison and beyond.  Some people here on vacation have even stopped by to help sandbag.  It really is a great thing.”

In fact, some of those vacation volunteers, or “vacationeers” came from as far away as California and Alaska.

But that’s not the point—the point, Kim quickly points out, is that neighbors are helping neighbors.

And the American Red Cross is part of that neighbors helping neighbors effort.

“You are definitely loved when you come around here,” said fellow volunteer Faith York.  Shortly after, a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle pulled into an empty parking lot where the volunteers were preparing sandbags to take to a flooded neighborhood.

“Everyday, you come in and give us food, water and snacks,” Faith commented. “It’s a welcome sight each time the Red Cross truck comes around.”

“The food and beverages are really important to us,” Kim added. “It gets hot out here filling up these sandbags, and it’s important to keep everyone hydrated and cool.  The Red Cross has been fantastic.”

On the other side of town, at the confluence of the Rock and Bark Rivers, a neighborhood works frantically to build sandbag levees to protect homes from the rising waters.

In this neighborhood, neighbors who were once total strangers are now finding themselves working as one to save each other’s homes.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Kevin Becker of Fort Atkinson. “My house is essentially an island.  I have to take a boat to get in and out, and we’ve sandbagged.  My house is up on a hill a little bit, so it’s dry.  I’m just out here helping my neighbors try to save their homes.”

“I didn’t even know most of these people before, but now, we are definitely neighbors and doing our best to help each other out,” Kevin said. “There are lots of private citizens out here helping—it’s a community effort.”

As he was taking a quick five-minute break, the Red Cross truck rolled up with more hot meals and water.

“The Red Cross has been great,” Kevin said. “You bring us the meals and water, and I take them out on my boat to the folks who can’t get out, and to the people on the other side of the bridge building the sandbag walls.

“You’ve been the best,” he continued. “You’ve been here everyday.  We can’t thank you enough for what you’ve been doing.”

Kevin’s wife, Lori, reaffirmed his statements.

“The Red Cross has just been amazing, providing us with not only food and water, but with items to clean with,” she said. “I can tell you, once this is all over, our whole neighborhood will be getting together and doing something for the Red Cross.  You’ve given us so much, and we want to help by giving something back.”

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.

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