Close to home

One week ago, as helicopters hovered and sirens blared throughout the small town of Centralia, Wash., lifelong resident and retired Red Cross volunteer, D.J. Sweeney, was pulling out her Red Cross hat and gearing herself up to help with what would become the worst flood she had ever seen hit her hometown. As soon as she learned the waters began to flood neighboring homes, she called into her local Red Cross office to find out how she could help. She hadn’t been an active volunteer for a while because she was caring for an ailing relative, but she was trained and knew they would need help. Minutes later, she was on her way to one of several Red Cross shelters already set up to receive evacuees.

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“There were choppers everywhere, and they just kept bringing people all night long,” she said.

People from every walk of life departed the helicopters in the same condition — soaking wet with nothing but their children in their arms. Thankfully, D.J. and other Red Cross volunteers who live in the area were ready to receive them with warm blankets, a safe place to stay and emotional support.

“(As soon as they arrived) people started coming in asking ‘have you seen my daughter?” or ‘have you seen my daddy?’” she said. “It was heart wrenching. I’ve helped after tornadoes and hurricanes. But this is the worst; these are my people and this is my home town.”

The Red Cross is urging people in the affected areas to register at the Red Cross Safe and Well website found at http://www.redcross.org so that family members and loved ones can determine their well-being.

Today and every day since she first responded, D.J. has been out on the streets assessing the damage to her neighbors’ homes caused by the Washington floods, including those of her family and longtime friends. The information she collects will help Red Cross caseworkers provide individuals and families with the means to replace essential items like food, clothing and medications as well as locate rental units and other community services.

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