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Texas Flooding Recovery: Stories from Red Cross Volunteers

Content in the “Overcoming Challenges to Deliver a Hot Meal and a Smile” section written by Michele Maki, American Red Cross, Central & South Texas Region 

The American Red Cross has been busy the past few weeks helping residents of Texas and surrounding states recover from severe weather, including flooding that hit many communities. Red Cross volunteers helped in many ways, including supporting shelters, distributing food and water and keeping affected residents informed.

Red Cross Shelter Residents Stay Upbeat

Trent Winston, a Red Cross volunteer from Tennessee, found a friend in a highly energetic 4-year-old girl named Genesis. Genesis and her mother, Columbria, are currently residing at a Red Cross shelter in the Houston area. The recent flooding in the Houston area totally destroyed the family’s house, which was home for three adults and seven children. Despite the circumstances, Winston says Genesis is happy to spend hours playing games on his cell phone, dancing and staying on the move around the shelter.


Food, Information and a Listening Ear

Xiaodi Lin and her husband, Rob Raphael, were surprised and delighted when a Red Cross mobile feeding vehicle stopped and volunteer Shoba Brown offered water and lunch. Lin and Raphael were hard at work carting out ruined drywall, furniture and other household goods that were ruined by 25 inches of water in their home brought by the Houston floods.

“They came at just the right time,” said Rob. “We were getting really frustrated with all the work. The food and the information they provided were great, but the best was just having people here to share our story.”


Overcoming Challenges to Deliver a Hot Meal and a Smile


Close your eyes and imagine for a moment you have survived a terrifying flood that tore through your home in the middle of the night. Now the flood waters have receded and the process of recovery begins. Drywall, appliances, floors, carpet, furniture – it all must be torn out and thrown away. There is humidity and mold. There are continuing severe storm outbreaks that bring more rain. This nightmare never seems to end. And, to make matters worse, your home has been cut off from your town and neighbors by a collapsed bridge.

In the photo to the right, Marcus Diaz takes Red Cross supplies by boat back to his isolated community near Houston hit hard by recent flooding.

Elsewhere, a Red Cross volunteer faces a similar challenge. She has not been able to get her mobile feeding vehicle across the river to reach folks cut off by this disaster. “There are areas we haven’t been able to reach yet and it weighs heavily on all our minds,” said Mary Brown, a volunteer from Tucson, Arizona.

A little reassurance comes from the local sheriff who advises Brown and her response team that the road is now open for emergency vehicles such as hers and local residents who are trying to recover. Brown is assured that it is now safe to cross.

carying-in-mealsDamaged homes can be seen here and there from these narrow country roads and now the challenge reaching everyone. Where homes are clustered together, lots of volunteers and clean-up crews can be seen; the team stops and feeds everyone who is hungry. But how can teams reach other scattered homes in opposite directions? A plan is devised and the team splits up and hand-carries meals in, walking down the narrow road. Even the Red Cross photographer who has been following the team pitches in. With this kind of teamwork, the mission is completed.

“Sometimes we have to think outside the box to make it happen,” Brown explains. “These dirt roads are so narrow and overgrown with trees, that getting our feeding truck in safely would be near impossible. But we got it done! I’m happy with that. Teamwork and Red Cross ingenuity works every time!”

Photo Credits: Trent Winston and Genesis, photo by Robert Wallace/ARC Volunteer; Shoba Brown with water, photo by Mimi Teller/ARC Volunteer; Volunteer with supplies in boat, photo by Shoba Brown/ARC Volunteer; Volunteers carrying meals in Wimberley, Texas from Blog for the Central and South Texas Region of the American Red Cross.