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.
Story by Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross
Estes Park, Colorado, September 28, 2013. “Early on, people were pouring into the shelter. They were traumatized, soaking wet, often just out of water filled with sewage. Many of them had come out on zip lines over raging waters. We processed them quickly, fed them, gave them emotional support and worked hard to make them comfortable,” said Cheryl Wagner.
Wagner served as a supervisor at the Red Cross shelter located at the Rocky Mountain Inn in Estes Park, Colorado. The shelter, which was in operation from September 12 to 25, had 606 clients sign in for services, served a total of 3571 meals, and had 167 overnight stays. In addition, Red Cross volunteers provided health and disaster mental health services to shelter clients.
At times the work at the shelter was emotionally difficult for the staff. “We are a small community. We actually know many of the people,” said Wagner. One of her close friends is an artist whose home, studio, and artist’s shop was washed away by the flood. Wagner’s friend and her husband escaped with only their wedding album, which was all they had as proof of their identities to FEMA. “I’ve had to keep these stories of survival and loss way in the back of my mind in order to function,” said Wagner with a shaky voice.
The Red Cross operated the Estes Park shelter in collaboration with the Salvation Army, who paid for food prepared by the Rocky Mountain Inn that was served to shelter clients by Red Cross workers. The Salvation Army also arranged for many shelter clients to obtain overnight accommodations in local hotels.
The Estes Brigade, a volunteer group of young Estes Park professionals, also worked with the Red Cross and Salvation Army to support the shelter. Members of the Brigade made signs, swept floors, drove people to hotels, made up hygiene kits, and most importantly—during the time when there were no telephone or computer communications—drove to get information from local hotels regarding the availability and costs of rooms and fed the information back to the Red Cross and Salvation Army workers.
Although the Estes Park shelter is now closed, the Red Cross is still present at the Rocky Mountain Inn, providing services to those affected by the flood. Hygiene kits, clean up kits, shovels, rakes, masks, tarps, coolers, insect repellant, buckets, cleaner, trash bags, and water are being distributed on an ongoing basis as recovery from the devastating floods continue. Health services, emotional support, and referrals to other community agencies are also available from Red Cross workers.