When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is there to provide emergency relief to those affected by the disaster. Often the Red Cross disaster relief efforts are a focal point for an outpouring of spontaneous community support that complements what the Red Cross is doing.
Marie Nowakowski (l) and Maria Patterson solicited donations from local restaurants to help provide meals to residents at the American Red Cross shelter located at the Harwell Middle School in Edinburg, Texas. Here they help serve lunch at the shelter. Photo credit: Allen Crabtree, American Red Cross
After Hurricane Dolly roared through the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas forcing residents from their homes, the Red Cross set up several shelters to temporarily house them. Throughout the area individuals, civic groups, and municipalities stepped forward to supplement Red Cross disaster relief efforts with additional supplies, local services for shelter residents, and food from local restaurants. This was particularly important in the period immediately following Hurricane Dolly when the Red Cross support network was being set up. The local assistance helped smooth the transition for residents affected by the storm.
Marie Nowakowski and Maria Patterson are two of the personal “angels” who “adopted” the Red Cross shelter at the Harwell Middle School in Edinburg. Nowakowski and Patterson are close friends who have worked together for local charities, and when they were asked by the Hidalgo County Health department to help serve food at the shelter they immediately agreed. The County Health Department and School Department have both been active supporters of the Red Cross shelter, arranging for custodial and volunteer help.
“Helping out at the shelter was a wonderful experience,” said Nowakowski. “We asked the Red Cross if there were other ways that we could help those who were staying at the shelter.”
Nowakowski and Patterson have a network of contacts with many local Edinburg merchants and successfully solicited them to provide meals and other items for the shelter residents. Immediately following the storm they obtained six meals for shelter residents as well as a large cake and other special desserts.
“The Red Cross has been wonderful to everyone here in our community,” said Patterson. “I strongly believe that we have a duty to help one another, and if we can help the Red Cross as we have been doing here, we are also helping our neighbors and friends.”
Children at the shelter made thank you cards and presented them to Patterson and Nowakowski for all of their hard work. “This is what I mean,” said Patterson as she looked at each card. “You receive blessings in return for all the good things that you do helping others.”
All American Red Cross disaster relief efforts are free and are made possible by the generosity of the American public. When these efforts are complemented by local generosity and support, the resources of the Red Cross can go that much farther in helping those in need.
“I was very pleasantly surprised by the very positive community response here at the Harwell Middle School shelter,” said Red Cross Shelter Manager Frank Landsford. “They have provided a great service to the Red Cross and have helped us meet the needs of the families staying at the shelter. Our residents appreciate it and so do all the Red Cross volunteers.”
Allen Crabtree is a volunteer from the Southern Maine Chapter of the American Red Cross and lives in Sebago, Maine where he is a writer, antiquarian book dealer, blueberry farmer, Chair of the town Board of Selectman, and volunteer fire fighter.
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.