It was a frightening night for the Gonzalez family. Torrential rains and high winds pummeled their car, making it difficult to see through the windshield even with the wipers on high. Forced from their home by the storm, they drove through the night, eventually making their way to the safety of a Red Cross shelter.
The next morning brought a lull to the storm and a little sunshine could be seen spreading out across the campus of Santa Barbara City College, the location of the Red Cross shelter. A curious America Gonzalez and her younger brother Orlando, Jr., ventured outside to stretch their legs and see what the storm had left behind.
After breakfast, the kids took their steaming cups of hot chocolate out to enjoy in the sunshine, while the adults met with volunteers to figure out what steps it would take to get them back into their home. In chatting with the kids, one of the Red Cross volunteers discovered that it was Junior’s birthday. He was turning six years old that very day. When asked how they could help him celebrate his special day, both Junior and sister America suggested that there be marshmallows for their hot chocolate . . . the next time. What a great idea to pass along to the Red Cross feeding team!
The Gonzalez family spent the night at the shelter with scores of others evacuated due to the possibility of dangerous debris flows and deadly mudslides in their neighborhoods. Heavy rains along the coast and across the state brought out Red Cross volunteers and their partners in droves. Thirty shelters were opened in California due to the storm, from Sacramento and Santa Clara in the north to Santa Barbara and Ventura in the south.
In all, more than 270 trained Red Cross disaster workers were helping people in California. On the first night of the storm, as many as 600 people sought refuge in Red Cross and partner shelters. Trained Red Cross volunteers help families cope during this challenging time – with shelter, meals, and things like replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment like canes and wheelchairs left behind or lost in the storm.
Once it is safe to do so, teams on the ground will begin damage assessment to determine the impact of these storms and which communities will need additional support moving forward.
Photos by Anne Kratz, Regional Philanthropy Officer
Story by Dave Wagner, Public Affairs Volunteer
YOU CAN HELP people affected by disasters like storms and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit RedCross.org, call 800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.