After Hurricane Ike made landfall, the Red Cross faced the challenge of finding shelters that weren’t damaged. It somehow managed to house and feed thousands of residents for weeks. Steve Cassiani is board chairman of the The Red Cross Houston chapter.
“We tried desperately to move people quickly from mass shelters to better conditions. We had two very large shelters that were managed last year until those people could find a more permanent accommodations to move to. Shelters are never fun, and we understand that for the people who have to come to them, and we want to move them to something that’s more comfortable, more meeting their personal needs, but that always takes a little bit of time.”
He says the agency responded with a critical relief effort.
“There’s always something you wish went a little better and you’ll try to make it better the next time, but when you have to move that quickly, in light of all that we did, I think not just by our own estimate, but I think we feel good about how things went.”
Volunteers make the Red Cross effort possible. Jennifer Stahl works at Exxon Mobil. She got her training in advance of Hurricane Ike with the “Ready When the Time Comes” Program at the Red Cross.
“I knew that the day after it hit, I was ready to volunteer and I was calling people and trying to find out where I could go to help.”
Hernandez: “What was the big thing out of your experience that made you glad that you did what you did?”
Stahl: “I think that it was really wonderful to have a personal experience with my fellow Houstonians and to get to meet people. I think it was also wonderful to experience through the Red Cross because they had so many volunteers, literally from all over the world, and just the idea of that unity within our country, and the willingness to help each other out was just amazing.”
Sarita Fulgencio directs disaster services with the Red Cross. She says it’s important that volunteers are trained so they can help right away.
“Areas where we always need lots of volunteers is in sheltering. We also need people to help us feed all the people who are in the shelters, or even who could stay in their homes but maybe, can’t feed themselves because they don’t have power, the had some damage, also bulk distribution of items like tarp and things that people need, cleanup kits so people maybe can stay in their home and cleanup, disaster assessment. Those four activities are the ones that we need to start up right away, where we need lots of volunteers.”
More information on water safety, storm preparation and volunteering can be found at www.houstonredcross.org.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.