By Elizabeth Morse, Northern Nevada Chapter
Red Cross volunteers know they’ll help people when they work on disasters. Few expect to actually save lives. But that’s exactly what happened to Liz Hungerford, a Red Cross volunteer from Illinois.
Hungerford traveled to southeast Texas after devastating floods began in late May. She was doing mobile feeding from a Red Cross mobile response vehicle in New Caney, Texas. One particular day, she and her partner were driving along a road adjacent to a creek.
“The area was heavily wooded,” Liz remembers. “There had been floods here before, but we could see isolated mobile homes through the trees. We were driving slowly down the road, searching for people. The loud speaker was on and we were blaring out ‘Is anyone there? This is the Red Cross. We have free lunches!’”
“We rounded a curve,” Liz continues. “In my peripheral vision, I saw a face in the trees. Then I saw a hand stick out. It was a man. He was hard to see because he blended in. I yelled out ‘stop! stop!’”
The mobile feeding team was ahead of schedule, so they were able to spend time chatting with the man. He told them about his family, about the damage to his home, and about the things he was trying to do to get things together. Due to past flooding, his home had been raised up on cinder blocks, which would have been enough to keep it from past flood, but this flood was unprecedented.
The Red Cross team gave him food and bug spray. Hungerford hugged him several times. As the team prepared to leave, Hungerford felt she needed to ask, “Are you struggling here?”
“I was going to shoot myself.”
Hungerford, thinking about the meeting, says, “We came along at just the right time. The man said he came to the woods because he thought that ending his life would be best for his wife and daughter. He needed to share his story. Sometimes people hit a low and they need other people to help them move on. He gave me his contact information. I was able to connect him with Red Cross mental health workers.”
At the end of the meeting, the man told Hungerford, “I really needed this.” Then he hugged Hungerford, hard.