Red Cross provides a bit of comfort
June 30, 2007
They don’t see it as a big deal, but to every person they come in contact with, what’s in those paper bags is the best thing on earth.
Traveling through the fire-ravaged areas off Lake Tahoe Boulevard on Saturday, American Red Cross volunteers David and Jennie Risard hoped to provide a little relief in the form of sandwiches and sack lunches.
Driving up and down devastated streets talking to utility workers and homeowners, the pair answered questions and helped any way they could. “We just want to give back and this is how we do it,” David Risard said.
The couple, part of the Sacramento-Sierra Chapter of the Red Cross, has been sent all over the country, including Hurricane Katrina and the floods in the Midwest and East Coast.
But Angora is their first fire.
“The devastation is incredible. With the floods they have a home to go back to, cleanup and rebuild. Here, it’s just gone,” he said.
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At one stop they found Bill Haslam standing in what used to be his living room, sifting through debris. He refused food, but offered his thanks for their efforts.
“I’m OK. Just knowing you’re here is good,” he said. “Just your presence makes us feel better.”
At the next stop, they performed first aid on a homeowner who had scraped her leg. They gave her a bandage and told her to go to the shelter for a tetanus shot later that day.
Up the road, the Risards distributed paper sacks containing a sandwich, granola bar, chips, fruit juice and a banana to utility workers repairing downed power lines.
While the Risards were in the fire area, volunteer Mike Clark manned another relief area established at a gas station parking lot near the “Y,” handing out shovels and rakes to those who are beginning to sift through their property.
“I try to make sure they have a shovel, a rake, water, bug spray, sunscreen and hand sanitizer before they go,” Clark said. “Most of the people we see don’t know what to expect yet. Some of them just go hysterical and need a lot of help and others go, ‘looks like I’m going to get dirty.'”
Clark’s truck had 30 rakes, 60 shovels, a pallet of water, 30 cleanup kits with toiletries, snacks and information about Red Cross Services.
Back along Lake Tahoe Boulevard, the Risards gave an elderly homeowner information about how to expedite getting her hearing aides replaced. They were in her home when the fire hit.
Around the curve, they found the Rodriguez family surveying the damage to their cabin. While the home was destroyed, an American flag hangs untouched next to a piece of wood with the home’s address. “You guys are the answer to our prayers,” said Suzie Rodriguez, gladly taking a lunch.
Her brother Richard said he used to be a Red Cross volunteer and was glad to see them helping out. “As a longtime volunteer, it’s nice to see the Red Cross family pay me back. These guys pulling up, that doesn’t surprise me,” Rodriguez said. “This is what they do.”