Annette Hanson and her son, Lee, are thankful she escaped a recent fire that destroyed her home. They are also thankful the American Red Cross was there to connect them with the things they needed to get her life back in order.
“When I think about it, I just get scared again,” said Annette Hanson. “Everything I owned was in there.”
The Marysville senior citizen was enjoying a peaceful Sunday morning at home last month when she noticed a grease fire had started in her kitchen. Her first instinct was to stop the fire. When she saw she wasn’t going to be able to, she ran out the apartment door with just the clothes on her back.
As the Marysville Fire Department battled the smoke and flames that engulfed all her belongings, American Red Cross Emergency Field Specialist Stuart Gray and volunteer Jerry Landon were also on the scene to douse Hanson’s immediate needs.
“Red Cross was there on the spot right away,” said Lee Hanson, Annette’s son. “I don’t even think all the flames had died down and they were there, fully-marked so you could tell who they were apart from all the other onlookers.”
Gray provided a $250 prepaid credit card to the Hansons for clothes and food. He met with Annette and her son the next day to discuss Annette’s other long-term needs, and has since been connecting the family with local resources. Union County Senior Services provided two weeks of emergency shelter in Carriage Court and tracked down a wheelchair for her to use. The Marysville Lions Club was able to get her a new pair of eyeglasses.
“It’s satisfying to be able to help a family who has just experienced a great loss due to disaster,” said Gray. “We have many resources to help our clients. Everything from money to help buy food and clothing, to resource booklets that help answer questions they may have days after the disaster, like ‘Where do I go to replace documents lost in a fire’, or ‘Where do I go to get my Social Security card replaced?’”
That’s a big deal for a family like the Hansons, who suffered a total loss in their disaster.
“It’s a vital part of the community,” said Lee. “When I was going through the rubble, I found her walker. The wheels were melted to the ground. That was all that was there. Just the wheels. A nice person from her church gave her this walker.”
United Way is allocating $32,000 in donor dollars to the Emergency Services of the American Red Cross Union County Chapter in 2013. Chapter staff and volunteers typically respond to 10 house fires a year and react similarly to families affected by flooding. Volunteers also stand ready to open shelters if the need arises, with stockpiles of supplies such as cots, blankets, and food serving items at the ready. The American Red Cross also has a Community Disaster Education Program which features a large curriculum tailored to teach audiences from preschoolers to senior citizens how to prepare for disaster.
March is American Red Cross Month. In addition to Emergency Services, United Way is supporting the local Red Cross chapter with $9,000 this year for Armed Forces Emergency Services to connect local troops with their families and $3,500 to help conduct the Red Cross bloodmobiles. The American Red Cross Union County Chapter is an original funded partner of United Way of Union County, and has been receiving annual funding since 1958.
“The American Red Cross is not a government agency like some people think,” Gray said. “It is a private, non-profit organization that relies solely on donations. Support from the United Way is vital to our mission and it allows us to continue serving our clients.”
For more information about the American Red Cross, contact them at (937) 642-6651 or visit www.redcross.org.
For more information about United Way of Union County, please contact (937) 644-8381 or visit www.unitedwayofunioncounty.org.
It seems like whenever you read about a local house fire in the newspaper, there’s a comment near the end of the story that the Red Cross is providing assistance. What does that mean?