Michael, 93, lived with his wife in the home where they had raised their family. The couple still worked hard—gardening, milking their goats and even chopping their own firewood.
When I tell this story and others like it, it always reminds me of how much I take for granted in my own life, like a roof over my head, clothes and shoes for my young girls and me, a warm blanket or even a hot meal. It is hard to imagine how I would feel if it all went up in flames.
The fire department called—there had been a fire nearby and the family was requesting Red Cross assistance. I, and another Red Crosser, headed out to the scene. As I looked up the drive to what was left of the home, the smell of smoke took my breath away. Fire hoses were still lying across the drive in pools of water. Firemen were sifting through the ashes and charred wood checking for hot spots. Recently used equipment and gear was neatly laying on tarps. And there was a small gathering of family staring at the scene in shock.
I’ll never forget the anguish in Michael’s eyes the first time I saw him standing in his well-worn blue coveralls in the driveway. I approached him to talk about how we could help and we began to talk about the fire. He had been splitting wood when he saw the flames coming from his house and was able to get his wife out safely. My heart sank a little further when he let me know he was a WWII veteran and today was Veteran’s Day.
Michael no longer had homeowner’s insurance. Like many older Americans, he and his wife lived on a fixed income and faced some tough decisions on spending money for food, medicine or homeowner’s insurance. Since they owned their own home, the insurance was not a requirement, just a luxury they could not afford.
That afternoon the Red Cross provided Michael and his wife with new clothing, shoes, food, blankets and sheets. The Red Cross replaced their lost medications and eyeglasses and helped them with housing. With help from the Red Cross, Michael and his wife are again living independently.
Michael’s story is just one example of the lives changed by American Red Cross assistance. The Red Cross responds similarly to 180 home fires every day. Through the contributions of caring Americans, Red Cross workers provide hope and a shoulder to lean on, and help restore dignity to those affected by home fire disasters.
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.