Soaring to New Heights to Help

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

By Marcos Osorio, Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

As relentless storms caused flooding, landslides, power outages, severe damage to roadways and numerous evacuations from one end of the state to the other, one small community found itself cut off with nowhere to go.

This year’s back-to-back storms led to rockslides and major flooding in the unincorporated community of Tollhouse on Sycamore Road in Fresno County. The event caused road closures on Highway 168 and the collapse of a local pedestrian bridge, leaving a community of 40 residents stranded with zero access to food and supplies with more storms on the way.

Through a series of phone calls, a collaborative effort was led by the American Red Cross of the Central Valley to aid the community in gaining access to much-needed supplies. It took a complete team effort to complete this mission. The collaborative effort of multiple organizations included the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, Fresno Catholic Charities, Central California Food Bank, CAL FIRE, with additional aerial support provided by the California Highway Patrol on January 12.

The volunteers made the day a major success. CAL FIRE had been training nearby, and when they saw the activity, they jumped in to help. “Talk about a bolt of energy.” shared Katrina Poitras, Disaster Program Manager. “It was funny because they rolled up in their trucks and were training, and the next thing we know they just jumped right in to help. It gave everyone this extra energy boost. We created a bucket brigade with an added 30 helpers and got the boxes of food and supplies down to the helicopter. The pilots loaded it and made several trips to deliver 1500 pounds of supplies that included food, medicine and toiletries.” 

“This moment wasn’t just about Red Cross helping a client; it was the Red Cross and the collective action of all these agencies that came together as a team with a shared mission,” said Poitras. “That was an AHA moment of what this work is all about. It’s about neighbors helping neighbors. It’s the humanity of us.”


“The folks were appreciative and really needed the supplies, especially with the new storms coming”

An affected resident shared with a Red Crosser, “I cannot thank you enough. You even gave us medication and toilet paper, we have been so sick. We are so very thankful for everything.”

“This is why I love my job,” Poitras exclaimed. “It’s bringing people who are in need and putting them in contact with the people that can help them. There’s satisfaction in connecting the dots to help people and watching the recovery process begin. It was truly a happy ending.”

During crises, the best of humanity comes together to help. As 2023 kicked off a round of powerful storms and impacted millions, people have stepped up to turn their compassion into action to help when it’s needed most. Get involved by visiting redcross.org

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