By Carl Manning
American Red Cross
Nicole Vincent was with her two youngsters when the floodwater started creeping into her West Plains, Mo., mobile home. All she could do was wait for help to come.
“It was really scary. I was just thinking about getting my children to safety and worrying about my family,” she said.
Finally, emergency responders got her and her children to the Red Cross shelter at the First Baptist Church which was operating that first night because of everybody pulling together to make it happen.
Red Cross volunteer Codey Bryant, a truck driver who lives near West Plains, was in Illinois when he got a phone call that water was rising and a shelter would be needed. He rushed back to work as the shelter manager only to find the other Red Cross volunteers were unable to get there because of high water.
That’s when Pastor John King, members of his congregation plus others from the community jumped in to set up the cots, blankets and other items needed to convert a large room at the church into a shelter for the scores of people arriving after being flooded out.
“It was a real challenge but everybody was real good about helping out, especially the pastor and his team, that we were able to do it. If we didn’t have the partners that we have, we couldn’t have done it,” Codey said.
Recalling that first night, Codey said, “My thought was to help others and just keep moving. We just kept working until we got it done.”
One important task the church took on was handling the distribution of donated clothing and other items that were dropped off to the church.
Like many others at the shelter, Nicole arrived with little more than the clothes on her back. Just about everything else was lost to the rising floodwater and because of the donated goods, she was able to get clothing for herself and children.
“It’s pretty amazing for them to help all of us like this,” she said. “Really, it what neighbor helping neighbor is all about.”
Nicole already is looking ahead working with the Red Cross and its partners as she starts the recovery process. Her first priority is finding a new place to live.
“I want to stay in West Plains because this is where my home always has been and this where my family is,” she said.
After a few days, the Red Cross needed to relocate the shelter because of prior commitments for the space at the church. Again, it was the Red Cross working with its partners to make the smooth transition to the First Methodist Church.
Everything was packed up by Red Cross volunteers and community partners, put into trailers and carried to new location on the other side of the town square. As it was at the Baptist Church, the Methodists took over the task of handling the donated items dropped off.
For the Rev. Jon Thompson, the Methodist pastor, working with the Red Cross is a good way to help the community in a time of need.
“The community is being helped by the Red Cross, the church and all the other groups,” he said. “All the community is being helped by everyone working together.”