Busy Day Two At A Red Cross Shelter

By Cathryn Kennedy, Red Cross Volunteer, Twin Cities Area Chapter

Riley, 2, gets a snack with help from Red Cross volunteer Bonnie Reyers at the Bloomington shelter. Riley and his mother escaped the apartment fire early Tuesday morning. Photo credit: Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross

By 10 a.m. the list of tasks was getting long. Shelter Manager Ruth Talford needed to order pizzas for lunch, arrange transportation to off-site showers, and set up two family meeting rooms, including one for discussing financial assistance and another for providing stress relief and counseling. Later in the afternoon, Talford would need to help families get to where they could request government emergency assistance funds.

Meanwhile families in the shelter were busy, too.

Grandmother Eva Dale needed emergency medical care for care of her feet, but first she had to prepare granddaughter Kiara for kindergarten. That meant finding some school clothes and transportation to Kiara’s elementary school.

Red Cross volunteers sprung into action and within 15 minutes Kiara was decked out in a school outfit and winter coat, but she still needed shoes.  So did her sister, Kiana, as well as Grandmother Eva.  Shoes were in short supply so one volunteer was given names of two nearby neighbors who had offered to help.

School bus driver Tim Hamm stopped by the shelter to check on one of his students. Hamm offered to help and later dropped off diapers for younger children. Photo credit: Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross
School bus driver Tim Hamm stopped by the shelter to check on one of his students. Hamm offered to help and later dropped off diapers for younger children. Photo credit: Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross

The night of the fire Eva was caring for her granddaughters, while their mother was in Iowa. Eva woke up in the night smelling smoke and when she opened the window for ventilation, she saw flames leaping out of a neighbor’s apartment and a parent yelling for help. She awoke her granddaughters and dropped them out the window to waiting rescue workers before jumping out herself. With no time to get shoes, Eva suffered frostbite, and getting her to a doctor was added to the shelter manager’s list urgent things to do.

Meanwhile, Bloomington school bus driver Tim Hamm, who had Kiara on his route, stopped by to see if she was all right. Asking how he could help, he offered to purchase some diapers for a couple of younger children.

Two-year-old Riley and his mother were waiting for a cab to take him to day care, and other families were headed out to go buy new clothes with Red Cross vouchers.

Before noon nine pizzas arrived and after some nourishment everyone went back to work helping families get lives back in order after a fire disaster.

Red Cross Responds On Sub-Zero Minnesota Morning

By Red Cross Volunteers Dave Schoeneck and Grace Thompson

When fire struck an apartment building on a recent sub-zero morning in Minnesota, residents had little time to do more than escape. Some leaped from second- and third-story windows while others dropped their children into the arms of first responders.

Eleven apartments suffered extensive damage, displacing more than 30 people. Within minutes, Twin Cities Red Cross volunteers responded to assist them.

Red Cross Comfort Kit
A simple Red Cross Comfort Kit, which includes shampoo, soap, and other essential personal care items, helps people with immediate disaster relief. Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

“Some people fled the burning building in nothing more than shorts,” said Anne Florenzano, a Red Cross volunteer who arrived on the scene early Tuesday.

Heated buses provided initial refuge while residents wondered where they’d sleep that night. By 10:30 AM, the Red Cross had opened a shelter offering a safe and warm place for families to sleep and make plans for rebuilding lives torn apart by disaster.

Kiara Faalafula, a six year-old girl living with her grandmother, was dropped from the second story window because smoke filled the halls made escape by stairs impossible. A police officer caught the kindergartener and took her to a heated bus where she was given a blanket, and later a coat.

Melvin Saballos, 31, who also lived on the second floor, was woken by his father about 5:45 AM. The hall was so filled with smoke that the only exit was through a window.

Melvin, 31, escaped the burning building on a ladder and later sought refuge in a Red Cross shelter. Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

“The Red Cross has been very attentive to the needs of the people, making sure that nobody panics,” said Saballos. “The Red Cross has been incredibly helpful. We are warm and safe.”

Britney Godfrey and Roderick Diggins, along with their daughter, MaKayla, and Roderick’s sister, Ladietra Diggins and her son, Tre’von Diggans, lived in a third floor apartment.

MaKayla, 3, was dropped from a third-story apartment window and caught by a police officer. Here, she's getting clean socks and pants (that are way too big for her). Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

Britney woke up, smelled smoke, and tried to get everyone out, but the smoke-filled hallway was impassible. Godfrey realized that the window was the only way out. After dropping the children into the arms of first responders, the three adults then jumped to save their own lives. All are grateful for the Red Cross help they’ve received.

Since January 1, The Twin Cities Red Cross has responded to 80 fire disasters, providing comfort and other immediate disaster relief for more than 250 people. More than 75 Red Cross volunteers have assisted these families.

Residents affected by the Bloomington apartment fire or other recent disasters can call (612) 871-7676 for more information about the Red Cross and disaster relief services.