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.

Shelter Resident is a Key Helper in Red Cross Shelter

By Bob Wallace/American Red Cross



Ann Looby, better known to shelter residents as Grandma, gives instructions to Willie Joe Shotmiller as he assists a shelter resident with assembling their possessions as they move out of the shelter.

September 21, 2017, Estero Florida. Willie Joe Shotmiller is a bundle of energy, constantly in motion. Currently residing in the Red Cross managed shelter at the Estero Recreational Center, Willie Joe is not content to sit on his bunk and ponder his homeless situation. He has stepped forward and volunteered to help the Red Cross staff running the shelter in whatever way he can.


Willie Joe cleans bathrooms, mops floors, carries out the garbage and helps other residents gather and move their belongings as they transition out of the shelter. “I have a desire to be useful,” said Willie Joe. “We’ve all got to work together to make things better.”

One does not have to talk long with Willie Joe before learning that he was homeless before Hurricane Irma and does not have a place to go when the shelter closes. “I’d love to have a safe harbor.” says Willie Joe, “but I don’t want to go to one of those places with a lot of drug addicts.”



Bryan Hartmann, Red Cross Shelter Manager at the Estero Recreational Center, with the help of Willie Joe Shotmiller, assembles the possessions of a shelter resident who is transitioning out of the shelter.

Willie Joe makes no excuses for his situation. “I used to party hearty,” he says as he shares that it was drinking that led to a brain injury when he was busted in the head during a bar fight. Prior to that, he held jobs as a restaurant cook. “I’ve also studied acting and danced to support my alcohol habit,” he said.


Willie Joe may have had a rough life and does not have a home where he looks forward to returning, but for now, he is making himself useful as the Red Cross cares for hundreds of people in the Estero shelter in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.


Willie Joe Shotmiller, an Estero Recreational Center Shelter resident, and tireless helper gets a hug from Red Cross shelter worker Kristin Laurel. Willie Joe stays in constant motion assisting with the upkeep at the shelter. In this case, he has just taken out and emptied a large trash can filled with garbage.



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This entry was posted on September 24, 2017 by in Uncategorized.

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