American Red Cross of Mid-South

The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

Bears bring hope after disaster

For years now, the Mid-South Chapter of the American Red Cross has been the grateful recipient of stuffed animals from the Sam Schloss Lodge of B’nai B’rith.  The bears and other animals have been instrumental in our relationship building with both disaster clients and their children and also with families we assist through Services to the Armed Forces.

Brothers enjoy their new friends as their mom speaks about Red Cross resources that are available for her family.

Brothers enjoy their new friends as their mom speaks about Red Cross resources that are available for her family.

I had the pleasure of assisting with a pre-deployment event and families were thrilled to receive the bears.  While parents talked at length with volunteers about how the Red Cross could help them in case they encounter an emergency while away from their families, their children proudly displayed their new friends, the bears.  It was such a needed distraction for the children as their families were dealing with difficult issues as to what resources to use should some unforeseeable event occur, like an illness or death.  The stuffed animals helped ease the tension the children were experiencing of their parent leaving.

This escape from a difficult situation also carries over in our disaster response.  Of all the staff and volunteers who shared their personal stories of the blessing of this gift from you all, one theme carried over through each and every story-needed, immediate comfort.  Disaster Action Team Captains Bonnie Warf, Gary Buck, and Mike Bole all relayed the same sentiment-the stuffed animals provide solace to the children who have lost everything near and dear to them.  “The happiness and joy that is shown on the faces of the children who have lost everything is overwhelming;” said Warf “they are just so thankful and it’s very comforting to them.”  Bole echoed this sentiment, “The bears really make them forget about the loss they have just had and it makes them happy.  They give them a break and lets the kids find solace in something and they forget about the fire.”

The stuffed bears not only provide solace to the children who have suffered as a result of the fire, they also help their parents and grandparents.  Another volunteer shared a story of an elderly lady who was very distraught at the scene of a fire and could not stay with her family because she was so overcome with emotion.  After giving her grandchild a bear, our volunteer approached the woman with one of her own.  He expressed that he wanted to reach out and help her but did not know how and the bear was the first thing he could think to give her to show her that the Red Cross cared and wanted to help her during this difficult time.  He admitted that he thought she would refuse the stuffed animal, but much to his surprise, she thanked him and hugged onto the toy.  “She had smiles from side to side” said Buck.  While appreciation of the services of providing shelter, food and clothing were not recognized outright by the client, she thanked him repeatedly for the stuffed bear that helped her to forget about her loss if even for just a short time.

Two sisters loved the bears that were given to them while their family was busy meeting with caseworkers after a home fire.

Two sisters loved the bears that were given to them while their family was busy meeting with caseworkers after a home fire.

Emergency Services Director Becky Williams and Planning and Response Manager Larry Reid expressed the same sentiment.  Williams had a father thank her for the stuffed animal she gave him to give his small toddler and then timidly asked if it would be okay if he had one for himself.  This little bit of comfort goes a long way to individuals who just need refuge for even a moment to escape the reality of losing their possessions and their homes.  Reid served as a Shelter Manager when 65 people were displaced because of a massive apartment complex fire.  Because of the great number of people who had been affected, the chapter opened a shelter at a local church who is a current shelter partner.  Of the 65 individuals, a whopping 35 of those affected were children.  The children were so glad to receive something that they could claim as their own since they now had nothing.  While Reid was attending to the families residing in the shelter, he was directly asked for a bear from a man staying there; Larry asked where his child was and the man pointed to a little boy who was already holding his own bear.  Larry grew confused and the man then admitted that he wanted something “to hug onto”, too. The man walked away proudly clutching his own stuffed bear.

Representatives from the Sam Schloss Lodge of B’nai B’rith present Mid-South Chapter staff with a new shipment of stuffed animals to give to clients.

Representatives from the Sam Schloss Lodge of B’nai B’rith present Mid-South Chapter staff with a new shipment of stuffed animals to give to clients.

One volunteer summed it up well by saying “This really isn’t a children’s project; it’s really more of a comfort project.” Our staff and volunteers attempt to comfort families who have suffered through a devastating disaster, but sometimes it is very difficult when individuals cannot be consoled or cannot deal with the harsh reality of their loss.  It is something small like a stuffed toy that is there to distract clients and to provide love unconditionally that is greater than any apology or sum of money could ever be.  Through the generosity of B’nai B’rith, we can continue to offer this bit of hope to families and help them have something they can call their own when everything else has been plucked away.  The long-time support of this group continues even now with representatives bringing the chapter a new shipment of stuffed animals to be given to the clients we serve just yesterday.

By: Kim Motschman Cribb

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8 comments on “Bears bring hope after disaster

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This entry was posted on April 4, 2013 by in Supporters, Uncategorized and tagged , , , .

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