Helping Families Recover From Disaster

By Kim Goulette, Executive Director, American Red Cross of Western Massachusetts

In the wee hours of a cold April night, a major fire destroyed a large apartment building on Main Street in Springfield. The Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers responded to the call to help the families, who were now homeless. The volunteers opened up a service delivery site in the basement of a local church and quickly began to calm the chaos, providing hot drinks, warm blankets and reassurance as they worked with each individual family to address their needs.

Girl holding a stuffed animal

One family stands out -- a mom, dad and four children ranging in age from two to 13. This family was reeling from the shock of escaping the fire and had lost their dog in the disaster. Our team, including our Disaster Mental Health volunteers who were called to the scene, worked with this family to provide safe lodging in the form of a hotel stay and financial assistance for food, clothing, shoes, and coats. Normally, each child is given a teddy bear to help them cope; our volunteers recognized the loss of the family dog and managed to come up with four plush Chihuahuas for the kids to cling to.

Emergency vehicles at night The morning after the fire and over the next days and weeks, our volunteers worked with the family to be sure they were connected with agencies in the community that could help them in their recovery process. When they secured a new apartment, the Red Cross provided financial assistance for the family to purchase bedding. We recently had the opportunity to speak with the family and they expressed their extreme gratitude that we were with them on the worst night of their lives and stated that they don't know what they would have done without our service.

The Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that provides relief to victims of disasters, and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies by providing education, health and safety programs to the community.

To donate to the Red Cross of Western Massachusetts, follow the link provided and click on Add to My Donation Basket.