Monday, October 31, 2016

Red Cross Volunteer Gives Back Through Breast Cancer Treatment

By: Diana Coulter – Mullins, South Carolina 

Most days, Janice Lehman wears a ball cap while she hands out hugs and fields hundreds of questions as manager of an American Red Cross shelter in South Carolina. But her cap is not a fashion statement.

“It’s just that my hair is finally growing back after three years of chemo and radiation, and I’m not quite used to it!” Lehman says with a quick smile, before dashing off again – this time to check on lunch for 90 people still at the Mullins shelter since Hurricane Matthew destroyed their homes in early October.

“I’m in remission from breast cancer,” Lehman explains between tasks, “and it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month right now, so I’m challenging anyone battling cancer to join the Red Cross. They will be amazed at how this work will fill their lives and keep them going!”

Since Lehman was diagnosed three years ago, she has endured 18 rounds of chemotherapy, and 36 of radiation. But it is “the joy in people’s faces that I see while working with Red Cross that really invigorates me and gives me extra strength,” said Janice.

“Thank goodness for Red Cross because in some ways it has really kept me going. Had it not been for this sense of purpose, I could easily have laid down and wallowed in self-pity.”

Certainly, Lehman has not slowed down. Although she is still taking oral chemotherapy drugs, the mother of two sons has volunteered in the last two months to manage Red Cross shelters during four disaster responses in Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina.

“My husband can cook and my children are grown, so I don’t worry too much,” she said with a laugh, “plus I can drive home (in South Carolina) most nights.”

Occasionally, Lehman admits that she still experiences pain. “It can get pretty bad at times, but I just try to stay distracted and focus on clients’ needs and I don’t feel any pain at all. Actually, I always say that the people I help bless me more than I ever bless them. They are the highlight of my days with Red Cross.”

As a shelter manager, Lehman said she probably puts “100 miles on my feet every day.” She likes to be “hands-on” while she leads others and never asks people to do tasks that she would not tackle herself.

“I wear many hats. I am not above cleaning toilets, helping in the kitchen, or being a patient advocate.” Recently, she ensured that a chronically ill senior at the shelter was taken to hospital for a check up, and receives a referral for home bathing and health services.

Lehman also helps organize shelter activities, like movies, games or Halloween events. “I want this place to feel like a family. I run it like I wouldn’t mind staying here myself.”

Gary Robinson, a Red Cross community partnerships volunteer who works with Lehman, said: “She is a champion! This is someone who is out serving others as a cancer survivor, and she finds joy in spite of everything.”

Claiming another hug from Lehman at the shelter, client Michael Tart simply said: “She is great.”

Sunday, October 30, 2016

It Takes a Team

By: Steve Olson, American Red Cross

When disaster strikes, no one organization has the resources to meet everyone’s needs.  Increasingly, organizations are becoming more and more unified with a singular sense of purpose - alleviate the suffering and hardship of those affected by a disaster. 

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, a multitude of organizations have joined forces to provide various forms of assistance - sheltering, food preparation and distribution, comfort care, transportation, damage assessment, clean up supplies and a wide range of other help.  Without question, there are plenty of opportunities for organizations to pitch in and provide a helping hand. 

Recently the cooperation was evidenced at the North Conway Baptist Church which offered its facilities as a staging area for responders to hurricane Matthew and the following floods.  Present at one time were several organizations representing a few of the many that lend a helping hand. 

Volunteers from the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Southern Baptists, Impact ministries and retired firefighters from New York worked tirelessly together for a common cause.These organizations were complemented by the many churches in the community, first responders - police and firefighters - as well as businesses and individuals in the community. These are just a few of the organizations that represent the compassionate nature of the American people.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Once a Hero, Always a Hero

By Gwen Powell

As Red Cross volunteers, Al and Rena Agnew are heroes, recently helping to open a shelter in Bucksport during Hurricane Matthew.  

And like most people they have a Red Cross story and Al’s begins as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Vietnam.

From the day Al Agnew enlisted in the United States Navy in 1961 until the present, Al has never
Red Cross volunteers and heroes Al and Rena Agnew
faltered from his commitment to his country, his family and his community.

A United States Navy Commander, Al served two tours in Vietnam. On his second tour, his plane was shot down. Stranded in the countryside, he was captured and became a POW. One day, he received a Red Cross package containing toiletries, personal items and some hard candy and a couple of books became his connection. It was his first contact with his previous life.

While Al had known that his aunt was with the Red Cross during World War II, he actually had no first-hand experience with the Red Cross until the day he received that Red Cross package. 

After being released as a POW, continued to serve in the Navy.

After retiring, Al and his wife, Rena, continued to raise their family in his hometown of Mullins, SC. They soon became Red Cross volunteers. From teaching CPR classes and driving emergency response vehicles, their Red Cross story continues today. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Community Members Host Trunk or Treat for Children in Red Cross Shelter

When Kathie Ard’s daughter worried that children in an American Red Cross shelter might miss Halloween this year, she knew exactly what to do.

“We decided to bring Halloween to them!” Ard recalled recently. “My daughter felt so bad that other children’s houses were under water, their vehicles and everything was gone. So we just wanted to make them smile again.”

It only took one Facebook post calling for participants, and within 24-hours, Ard and about 25 Marion County neighbours had donned costumes and draped their car trunks with cobwebs, skeletons and candy for a “Trunk or Treat” outside the shelter near Mullins, South Carolina, for people affected by Hurricane Matthew.

Dashing between the parked cars, arms filled with bags of cotton candy, popcorn, pizza and packets of sweets, seven-year-old Madison Tynch couldn’t stop smiling.

“This is so fun!” she told sister, Grace, as the pair shared a candy bar.

Ursula Murray, whose children were happily sorting their Halloween haul on shelter cots, declared the event “amazing”.

“It is so nice for children in this situation; that people would volunteer to do something like this. And let me put it this way, we have children here who appreciate stuff. They’re very thankful.”

“This is better than the real trick or treat,” agreed Kewaski Bethea, hugging his Halloween candy.
Tiffani Valdivia drove an hour from Dylan, South Carolina, to hand out treats at the shelter with daughter, Miley, who had gathered $59 in donations to purchase the candy.

“Originally, the donated funds were for another charity event cancelled by the hurricane, so it was Miley’s idea to spend it on treats for the kids here instead,” Valdivia explained.
Joy Hardwick said she participated in the “Trunk or Treat” because “I have two kids of my own and I just know how tough it would be for people here. We just wanted to help out.”

Sue Ann Ray and her sister, Angie, and two daughters joined the event because “this disaster has been laying on our hearts, and we want to let these children know they’re loved and not forgotten.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Local Mayor Gives Heart to Town (Before and) After Hurricane

At a car wash in South Carolina, the mayor of Mullins is managing yet another call for help after Hurricane Matthew.

Since disaster struck the town of 5,000, William “Bo” McMillan has worked non-stop, trying to help, says David Hudspeth, a Mullins city administrator.

“His car wash is like city hall. People are just as likely to go or call him there if they need something. He really is the face of this town. He just loves this place and wants to do everything he can to make things better.”

The mayor is more humble. “This is the city of my birth and it’s a wonderful place. As mayor in time of crisis, my role is to try and keep people safe and informed. People can live through a lot as long as they know they’re not the only ones, so communicating with them is my main focus.”

McMillan is also a big help connecting people with American Red Cross when they need help, or want to donate somewhere. “I tell people that, of course, they can send money wherever they feel like, but if they send it to Red Cross, everybody will get the help they need.”

Recently, a local auto sales company owner called the mayor because he wanted to raffle a 2013 Ford Fusion and donate the proceeds to charity.

“He asked me what organization the raffle should support, and I told him that if he really wanted to make a difference then he should consider Red Cross,” said McMillan, who volunteered for 10 years on the board of the local Red Cross.

“One of the most rewarding things that I have done is work with Red Cross. When all is said and done, you just have to look at its mission. They help everybody and do not discriminate. Red Cross is there for you. In my experience of 10 years, I know that to be true.”

While talking with constituents around town recently, McMillan stopped for a long while to commiserate with friends from nearby Nichols, another town hit hard by flooding after the hurricane. “They lost just about everything. I am going to see what I can do,” said the mayor.

Looking on, Hudspeth said: “Even if they aren’t from this town, people will reach out to Bo. We don’t really observe city limits around here when people need help.”

Dropping in at the local Chamber of Commerce, executive director Lisa Michelle Nance gave the mayor a brief update before he headed out to assist someone else.

“That man has a bottomless heart for this town. He has been amazing. I don’t think he has slept for days. He’s trying so hard to find ways to get people help.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Children Displaced by Storm Waters Learn about Disaster Safety

 Pressing firmly on a pillowcase with a marker, Juquan Roberts draws a green dog.

“This is old Blacky, and then there’s got to be Rocky and Diamond,” explains the six-year-old as he sketches. “I am making three dogs because I love them, and they should be safe, too.”

Sitting nearby, Makayla Hickman, is tracing: “I love my Mommy and Daddy and they love me too!” on her pillowcase. Beside some happy faces and bunny heads, she adds: “No one can take us apart!”

The two children sit at long tables with about 12 others carefully making their own designs while family members rest nearby on cots, watch television or visit with each other in an American Red Cross shelter for people affected by Hurricane Matthew in Marion County, South Carolina.

Watching each child decorate their special pillowcase, Red Cross volunteer Pam O’Day chats about their artwork, while adding tips about emergency preparedness.

“You know this pillowcase gives you something to put whatever you need in an emergency– a change of clothes, a bottle of water, a book, a snack, toys, a flashlight. You just keep it and you can be ready to go,” O’Day tells one child.

Her gentle, informative approach is part of a Red Cross program called The Pillowcase Project, which aims to create a generation of children who understand hazards, are empowered to take action in emergencies, and excited to share their knowledge with family and friends.

The project started after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when a Red Cross member noticed some university students carrying their valuables in pillowcases when they were evacuated. This inspired Red Cross to create a preparedness education program for elementary school students. In 2013, Disney gave Red Cross a grant to continue the program and now The Pillowcase Project is offered in every region across the country.

O’Day, a Red Cross volunteer from Myrtle Beach, has taught the project for the past year and a half.
“It was one of the Red Cross programs that I heard about and it sounded really interesting, plus I really enjoy working with kids, and it has been great.”

Depending on the setting and audience, the project offers a 40 to 60-minute presentation targeted to children, aged 8 to 11, in schools, after-school programs, summer camps and other places. An 18-page booklet, also given to parents, provides tips on everything from coping skills to emergency contact lists.

 At the shelter in Marion County, the project was a welcome diversion for the children forced by hurricane damage to leave their homes.

Ty’Shawn Page, was impressed by the Disney characters outlining his pillowcase. Taking a break from a basketball game outside the shelter, he got busy tracing his name on the fabric.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Marion County Animal Shelter Houses Pets Following Storm Waters

Susan Floyd found four small stowaways among the shivering dogs, cats, possums, pythons and other pets that she rescued recently from the floodwaters following Hurricane Matthew.

The day after the hurricane hit South Carolina, Floyd was helping the Marion County Animal Shelter and others find animals in flooded homes around the towns of Mullins and Nichols. In a boat, Floyd arrived at one submerged property to find a frightened mother Chihuahua and her new puppy.
“They were pretty cold and upset, so I quickly tucked them in a crate on the boat, and went about finding more pets for a long while,” she recalled.

It was only when Floyd finally returned to the animal shelter in Mullins that she discovered the tiny stowaways. The mother Chihuahua had given birth to four more puppies in her crate. “Talk about in the nick of time!” said Floyd. “I don’t know if they would have survived if we didn’t discover them that day.”

Equally fortunate is the Chihuahua’s owner who soon found the new family at the shelter.  But dozens of rescued pets haven’t been so lucky. Shelter director Angela “Angel” Rogers said there are still about 150 animals at the shelter’s new donated space, a former lumber warehouse in Mullins. Dogs wait in wire crates, cats roam two rooms, and an outdoor pen is home to four horses, five chickens and one black baby calf nicknamed “Nicky.” Rogers is keeping 14 rescued goats on her farm.

Some pets have already been claimed and others belong to people currently living in an American Red Cross temporary shelter in the town’s armory building. Recently, Red Cross also donated some clean-up kits and dozens of clean, used blankets for the animals. This community partnership between the animal shelter and Red Cross helps people safely house their pets while they figure out if or when they can return home.

Rogers said she knows the addresses for some rescued pets. But any “hurricane animals” that remain unclaimed will go up for adoption, starting November 17.

Happily, 40 ball pythons have already been picked up from the animal shelter, said Fletcher Estes, a county animal control officer.

“Angel rescued them. I don’t mess with snakes,” said Estes. “But we’ve found dogs on the hoods of submerged cars, or floating on debris, or worse, still chained up with their snouts barely above water.”

Phil, a member of the animal aid agency, Guardians of Rescue, has also arrived from Florida to help. He recalled wading waist high in fast-running floodwater to save a partially blind poodle named “Poppy” for an elderly man who had been pleading for help from passersby. “He was so upset that he couldn’t get to his dog. It was great to be able to do that for him.”

Nine “water-logged” possums and six rabbits were also rescued and subsequently set free. Only “Ricky,” a wild raccoon particularly fond of grapes, is still at the shelter until he recovers from his ordeal, said Rogers.

Floyd said she relates to the animals that lost their way during the disaster. It is the second time Floyd and her 11-year-old daughter, Calista, have been homeless after severe flooding. Last year, their house near Charleston was destroyed in a deluge. Now, Hurricane Matthew has blown a tree onto their new place and flooded it too, she said. Mother and daughter are currently “camping” in a room above the animal shelter while helping look after pets there, including Calista’s tabby cat called “Longtail.” They aren’t really sure where they will go next.

“I guess this shelter kind of rescued us. Eventually we will need to find a new home, too.”

People missing pets can visit the Marion County Animal Shelter at 503 East McIntyre Road in Mullins (across from Gapway Tire), call 843-758-4322, and check photos of some rescued pets on the shelter’s Facebook page here.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Local Councilwoman Takes Care of Community Following Hurricane

When the American Red Cross needed an air conditioner for a heart patient living in a hurricane-damaged home in South Carolina, it just took one call to Terry Davis.

Davis, a councilwoman for the town of Mullins, phoned around and before long, the woman who recently had bypass surgery was loaned a window air-conditioning unit.

“It was no problem,” Davis explained recently, as she rushed between rooms in a Mullins warehouse, helping a team of volunteers sorting and gathering donations of clothing and food for people affected by Hurricane Matthew. “I know this lady’s grandson. I just called a friend of mine and I got a window unit in her bedroom. Now, I just need to find a volunteer to fix her air conditioning because it got so wet in the storm and quit.”

When disasters like the recent hurricane happen, it is community partnerships with people like Davis that are essential to Red Cross and the people it serves.

“By the sounds of it, I’m pretty sure that council woman Davis has not stopped since the hurricane, and we are very grateful for her assistance on behalf of people here,” said a community partnerships worker for the Red Cross hurricane response operation based in Myrtle Beach. “I just call her up and she’s on it.”

Meeting Davis one afternoon, Ogleretta White, a Marion County administrator said: “Yes, she is a whirlwind. She is an incredible person. I have worked with her on numerous committees and she works hard and really cares about her community.”

Davis explained: “I just could not see myself sitting around and not doing what needs to be done, what ever it is.”

As well as helping individuals, Davis has been organizing donations of clothes and food for people after the hurricane.  “I got involved because I have never seen an outpouring of love like this. I thought, let me go ahead and find a place to store and distribute it all.”

But it has been a challenge, Davis said, because some donated clothes are not clean or practical, sorting the bags takes time and many volunteers, and large storage facilities can be difficult to find.
“It’s nice that people want to be generous but I can see now why this is such a big job. In future, I would appreciate if people just want to give gift cards and new items only.”

For years, the Red Cross has not accepted in-kind donations of clothing, homemade meals and other goods for the same reason. Of course, the Red Cross appreciates the good intentions of people who want to donate items, but financial support is the quickest, best way to help people in need. Financial donations allow Red Cross to be flexible and ensure disaster victims get what they most need.

Rushing off to Mullin’s historic Mt. Olive Baptist Church to help organize meals for people there, Davis said her philosophy has always been: “If I can’t give assistance, I believe in keeping in contact with people, that’s the main thing. I just love Mullins and making a difference – that’s the bottom line.”

Sunday, October 23, 2016

KION North American generously lends Red Cross use of a forklift

KION North American generously lent the Red Cross use of a forklift for Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. The forklift, which was delivered to the local Charleston Red Cross office on October 10th, was used to help load Emergency Response Vehicles with critical relief supplies. Red Cross volunteers delivered items such as snacks, water, clean up supplies, and other resources to South Carolina residents as they recovered from Hurricane Matthew's destructive wake.

Boy Scouts Helping after Hurricane Matthew

Boy Scout Mikey: Boy Scout Mikey Doyle (11) helps clean cots used at evacuation shelters in Charleston during Hurricane Matthew.

Boy Scout Cole:  Boy Scout Cole Collins (15) volunteered for the Red Cross and helped clean cots used at shelters during Hurricane Matthew.

Boy Scout Jared: Jared Rosenberg (11) is a local Boy Scout who has volunteered to help the Red Cross clean cots used in evacuation shelters during Hurricane Matthew.

Boy Scouts Andrew and Jared: Boy Scout brothers Andrew Rosenberg (8) and Jared Rosenberg (11) pitch in to help the Red Cross clean cots that were used at evacuation shelters during Hurricane Matthew.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cleanup Kits to the Rescue for a Resilient Community

The people of Ridgeland, SC are still recovering from significant damage to their surroundings from Hurricane Matthew.  Twelve days after the storm streets are getting clear, traffic is beginning to return to normal and businesses are starting to see customers return.  However for the first five days after the storm there was no electric and the roads were impassable. 

“The city was closed down for five days because of the power being out and trees across all of the roads” said Ridgeland resident Aaron Bush.

“The water damage was not too bad, we just have a lot of cleanup to do, but nothing terrible” said resident Lillie Doss.  “It was the power and the trees that shut our town down”

The church requested that their members assist with unloading the truck when it arrived and seven church members were there ready to work.  It was obvious how happy the church members were to see the supplies truck arrive from the Red Cross.  Filled with cleanup kits, water, gloves, shovels and containers to help the residents complete the recovery process.     

The road to recovery is not easy however it is apparent how resilient the community of Richland is and how ready they are to get back to normal. 

“I wanted more protection for the baby”

On the second day of their stay in an American Red Cross emergency shelter, Shannon Lawrimore and Ivan Garcia Rodriguez were helping set up cots with a little help from their toddler, Roger, and a Red Cross volunteer.

Residents of an older model mobile home in a flood prone area, the family was seeking safe shelter from the impending winds and rains of Hurricane Matthew.

“I wanted more protection for the baby,” Shannon said. “Now we are safe and we know the baby is safe if something does happen. I just wanted to know we’d be okay and that nothing bad would happen.”

A native of South Carolina’s Horry County, Shannon Lawrimore knows about hurricane threats and takes them seriously.

“We started preparing when the emergency officials first started calling for evacuations. We looked up the shelters online and packed up everything we thought we might need—food, water, clothes, toiletries and even a blowup mattress,” she said.

For baby Roger, they also brought a foldup play pin and stroller.

Roger helped his family set up the new Red Cross cots and blankets that had been delivered earlier by some Red Cross volunteers as they settled into the shelter out of harm’s way.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tatum family finds refuge in Red Cross shelter during Hurricane Matthew

MYRTLE BEACH, SC – As Hurricane Matthew slowly made its way toward the Carolina coast, Johnnie and Josephine Tatum and their two adult daughters of Myrtle Beach, S.C., found safety in a Red Cross shelter.

The family said they heeded South Carolina Gov. Nicki Haley’s advice to take shelter if they were concerned about the storm and possible flooding. Johnnie, a former dispatcher and detention officer with the City of Surfside Beach, lost his legs over a period of time due to a car accident at age 17. Josephine is disabled from fibromyalgia. Both felt taking shelter was important for their family because the area where they live is prone to flooding.

“If we don’t do what we’re told, we cannot get help if we need it,” Johnnie said, referring to emergency officials’ warnings that anyone not evacuating could be left without emergency assistance during the worst part of the storm.

Hurricanes are not new to the couple, who lived along the coast in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo struck. They knew a Red Cross shelter would provide the safety their family needs since they had evacuated to a shelter once before.

“The Red Cross and shelter staff have been so helpful to us, we haven’t had to worry about a thing,” Johnnie said.

“We’re the type of people we take nothing for granted,” Johnnie added. “Just because it is the Red Cross, a big nonprofit, it doesn’t mean we expect them to waive a magic wand and give us all we want. Just give us enough to sustain us. We really do appreciate the fact that the Red Cross here has gone over and above to try to make us comfortable.”

The family made sure they brought supplies for their stay. Their daughters stocked up on adult coloring books to help pass the time. They also brought Netflix and playing cards so they could stay busy.

Josephine said her family appreciates that Red Cross volunteers set aside time with their own families and pets to help others.

“Nobody ever knows when they will need the American Red Cross,” Josephine said. “We see the Red Cross as one of the most honest nonprofits with some of the best people. So, everybody needs to support them and donate.” 

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Imagine not knowing exactly where you're going to sleep tonight and when your next meal will happen. Imagine you are surrounded by strangers who are also not sure what the future holds. Imagine that everything around you is moving fast, with people rushing to do their jobs because if they don’t, someone is going to suffer. Imagine knowing that thousands of people are depending upon you. 

This is what a Red Crosser (volunteers and employees) experiences when deploying for a disaster. They arrive from Tennessee, from New York, from California, even as far as Hawaii and Alaska. They come in on red-eye airplanes with jet lag and jump into their work without a break. They are all trained, but some are on their first deployment while others can recall what Hurricane Katrina was like. Paid or unpaid, Red Cross personnel all work together to get the services needed to those in distress. 

All of them are passionate about the Red Cross mission of alleviating suffering in the face of disaster.  All of them care about making a difference. 

But it's stressful work. No matter how much a person has, the heart can get tired and heavy.  
The Red Cross has people focused specifically on the morale and mental health of staff. At the beginning of every morning briefing at the Charleston, SC headquarters, the main message is to take care of each other. The district disaster relief director, Dan Wirth, closes the meeting with a pledge all staff take: "I promise to be kind and caring to all."  

Keeping a sense of humor is a major component to staff morale. A little silliness goes a long way. Dan's humor is subtle. Volunteers might catch him with Zen, the stuffed sloth, sitting on his head. The humor is contagious, trickling into all parts of the operation, making the long days just a little shorter. 

"We're all family in the end," said Dorothy Penny, an ERV driver from New Hampshire. "Family takes care of family, any way we can." 

Photo: Red Cross volunteers George Kirchner (Alaska), David Penny and Dorothy Penny (New Hampshire) take a moment to be silly for the camera while waiting to get their next volunteer assignments during the Hurricane Matthew disaster response. 

Story/Photo: Michelle Hankes/American Red Cross

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Volunteering is a Family Affair

While most kids his age were sleeping in and enjoying Columbus Day off from school, Cole Collins was wide awake at 5:00 a.m., setting up hundreds of cots in the parking lot outside of the Charleston, South Carolina Red Cross office. Cole, a Sophomore at Summerville High School, spent the day volunteering with the local Red Cross, like he had ever since his family learned that Hurricane Matthew was headed for their community on Friday.

Cole has a special connection to the Red Cross. His father, Chris Collins, is the Senior Disaster Program Manager and the Director of Long Term Recovery for the Red Cross in South Carolina. Cole first became a Red Cross volunteer during Tropical Storm Hermine, when the South Carolina region, and his dad, leapt into action to help.

But it's just not the father son duo leaping into action. With thousands of South Carolina residents fleeing to Red Cross shelters, Chris's sister Jaime Hayes, a registered nurse, saw a need and responded.

"When this started and we stood up the operations center, my sister came by and saw first-hand a huge need for nurses for all these shelters," said Chris. At the height of the operation, Jaime provided health services for 13 different shelters.

"It's just amazing to have my sister and son helping the people of Lowcountry," said Chris, "It's a great thing to be working, sweating, and seeing my son doing the same things as me when he doesn't have to be."

For Cole, the disaster response has brought the family closer together than ever before. While they live across the street from each other, he reported that he never felt as close to his aunt as he does working side by side with her as a Red Cross volunteer.

Cole has even recruited his friends to get in on the Red Cross volunteer action, moving 600 cases of water and thousands of meals for multiple shelters.

"We heard a stat earlier that we helped 9,000 people – that's a big deal," said one of his friends.

Getting Help: FEMA and Disaster Assistance

The hardest part of any disaster is the recovery. The process of rebuilding—lives and homes—requires time, patience and money.  Those who have insurance may receive settlements that help with rebuilding and cleaning, but sometimes that insurance does not cover all the needs, and this is particularly true in flood situations. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is one of our primary disaster partners. FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards. 
One of the main tools FEMA has to leverage is the Disaster Assistance Improvement Program (DAIP) that helps streamline access and information for getting assistance after a disaster. The website,, is an easy portal for those affected by disaster to determine their eligibility and begin the process for getting that help. 

Many of the areas affected by Hurricane Matthew and the resulting floods are eligible for federal assistance. The amount is determined on a case by case basis. Those applying for aid should first contact their insurance company and document the damage with photographs.  
Contact the FEMA Helpline if you have questions about: 
  • The help offered by FEMA. 
  • How to apply for assistance. 
  • Information in your account. 
Call 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week: 
  • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) 
  • TTY 1-800-462-7585 
  • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362 

You can also send an email from the Disaster Assistance webform accessible on Or write to: 
      FEMA       P.O. Box 10055       Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055 

Florence Residents Surprised by Hurricane Matthew by Virginia Becker

Robert and Sonja Frost went to bed on Saturday, October 8, like any other night. So the last thing Sonja expected when she stepped out of her bed in the middle of the night was to be standing knee deep in water. She had no idea where the water was even coming from as it continued to rise.  

Sonja would soon come to realize their entire home was flooded because Hurricane Matthew had arrived unexpectedly arrived in their hometown of Florence, South Carolina.  The magnitude of the storm was nothing anyone had predicted for this area.  All the effects of Hurricane Matthew had been anticipated on the coastal area which was 150 miles away from Florence. No one in this part of South Carolina saw this coming. No one was prepared.  Sonja and Robert evacuated to Wilson High School in Florence.  Red Cross volunteers worked closely with them to ensure all of their basic needs were met.  This was especially important in Sonja’s case as she has Chrohn's disease, which left her with a colostomy.  It was vital that Sonja be in a sanitary environment so she did not contaminate the colostomy site and risk infection.  It was also important that Sonja have all of her medication and she had to leave her home so quickly that she did not have enough time to get them.    

“I think the Red Cross has been very helpful,” said Robert.  “Tracy and Carol, Red Cross medical volunteers, have paid close attention to my wife’s condition. They even made certain to get the medications that my wife needed.”   

The changing needs of this response operation have required the Frost's to have to relocate to different shelters a number of times over the past week but Robert is grateful for support nonetheless.  “We understand that everyone is doing the best they can under these circumstances. No one knew how devastated Florence would be."