By Lexi Myer, Photo courtesy of Long Beach Post
In a year that has been dominated by an unprecedented number of natural disasters, the Red Cross has once again taken its place on the national stage by providing aid and relief to people affected by emergencies and disasters. But, what happens when adversity strikes on a smaller scale? And, what does the Red Cross do when it is not providing comfort and care to those impacted by highly publicized catastrophes?
What you may not know is that the Red Cross regularly responds to local emergencies, by mobilizing its local volunteer force with equal vigor.
On February 19, 2018, a multi-family fire struck the Grace Hotel in Long Beach, displacing more than 50 individuals. Within hours, Red Cross volunteers opened a shelter and provided a safe place to stay, food, supplies and comfort to those in need. Mark Chung, Disaster Communications Lead and volunteer for the Greater Long Beach area explained that the community affected by the fire was largely without family in the area, or the means to find alternative housing. Further, many people needed counseling and medication, but were unable to find transportation to fill their prescriptions. As a result, the Red Cross coordinated with the City of Long Beach to provide taxi vouchers and health services to those with medical concerns. In addition, Red Cross volunteers also facilitated the transfer of residents to a cold weather shelter operated by the City of Long Beach. This way, they would have a warmer and more permanent place to stay until they were able to return home. The residents, who were anxious about the state of their apartments, also relied on Red Cross volunteers to liaison with the landlord of the burned complex.
As a result of these efforts, Mark Chung described the shelter residents as grateful. “The Red Cross is their advocate,” he stated. “Without the shelter, many of them would have had nowhere to go.” He further explained that the Red Cross was the “magnet that pulls all of the services together” and gives those impacted by disaster access to the resources they need to get back on their feet. Looking across the room at cots full of evacuees he added, “The Red Cross logo provides a sense of structure and protection.”
In that spirit, the Red Cross has a vision statement, which reads in part, “the American Red Cross, through its strong network of volunteers, donors and partners, is always there in times of need.” It is inspiring to know that whether on a large or small scale, the Red Cross lives up to its values, its reputation and its commitment to our Los Angeles community.