Red Cross Awareness Month

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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We're all hearing the stories of the Red Cross response amid the Japanese earthquake, but did you know that right here in Kansas, the Red Cross helped nearly 100,000 people last year?

This week, we followed around the local Red Cross disaster response team. The most common disaster the Red Cross responds to is house fires.

Our morning starts early at 4L30, responding to an apartment complex near Central and Ridge Road in Wichita. Two volunteers meet the family in the parking lot.

"Step over here in the van and it'll be a little warmer and a lot more room," says Bill Hayes.

Hayes is just beginning his conversation with Austin Woods and his girlfriend, who were sleeping when a fire broke out on the apartment balcony.

As if seeing your home on fire isn't bad enough, it's bone-chilling cold outside. Woods and his girlfriend are left with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.

"We're writing up a case right now," Hayes says. "They will need food, clothing and housing."

"It scares you to think what could happen," Hayes tells Woods. "But luckily you got out with your lives. All the other stuff can be replaced."

Meanwhile, the young couple wonders if they'll be able to salvage any of their clothes inside.

"He'll give you a bottle of Scope mouthwash and if you put a cap full in your wash and wash your clothes, but do not dry them until you smell them," Hayes explains.

Their first look at the damage is heartbreaking. it's clear that most of their apartment has been gutted.

"The ground is wet from all the water," says James Williams, spokesperson for the Red Cross. "And then you see a guy standing out in the middle of his lawn with a blanket on and nothing else left. If it wasn't for the Red Cross, I don't know what would happen next."

"What's next? Where do I go from here?" Woods asks. "What's the next step I can take to better the situation?"

Fortunately, Woods and his girlfriend will be able to stay with friends and family. They are given a $500 voucher to buy food and clothing. After about an hour, the couple shares a hug with the volunteers who have touched their lives and walk away into the unknown, but one thing is for certain. They are very thankful for the Red Cross.

"It's overwhelming. Really overwhelming," Woods says. "I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to think."

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