Red Cross volunteer Oscar Peterson of the Greater Kansas City Chapter shakes hands with Deacon Greg Clark of the First Assembly of God Church in Van Buren, MO. The Red Cross provided box fans for flood victims in the town. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)
By Carl Manning
American Red Cross
With much being done by Red Cross volunteers to help those in need after the massive Missouri flooding, often it’s the little things that make the difference and create lasting friendships among strangers.
Take the case of the Red Cross response in the Van Buren, MO where the Red Cross joined its many partners at the Multi-Agency Resource Center, a one-stop shop for disaster relief.
Scores of homes were damaged in the county-seat town of 900 by floodwaters from the nearby Current River. But like many isolated towns in the Ozarks, residents have learned to depend on themselves and outsiders, including the Red Cross, have to earn their trust.
“What affects one of us affects all of us. We pull together because to us it’s all about neighbor helping neighbor,” explained Deacon Greg Clark of the First Assembly of God Church.
At the church, people can pick up Red Cross supplies such as cleanup kits, rakes, shovels and trash bags along with hundreds of other items donated by partner groups.
A Red Cross volunteer was talking to the deacon and asked if there was anything else he needed. Deacon Greg looked down at the ground and pondered before replying.
“Well, we really could use a few box fans,” he said quietly with a tone that anticipated rejection.
The fans are important because residents use them to help dry the interiors of their homes after water-soaked items had been stacked outside at the curb. The problem is the demand far exceeds the number of available fans in town.
When the request reached the MARC manager, Red Cross volunteer Oscar Peterson of the Greater Kansas City Chapter, his response was simple.
“We have to find the way to ‘yes’ on this for the sake of this community. They have suffered so much already,” the retired firefighter told his MARC colleagues.
Oscar explained the situation to those at the Red Cross disaster relief operations headquarters in St. Louis and was told that a fan-filled van would be sent there.
The next afternoon, the van arrived and the deacon broke into a broad grin as Oscar and other volunteers started toting the cartons of fans inside the church.
“You guys have bent over backwards. You have been over the top helpful,” the deacon said. “Everything we’ve remotely asked for, you have done your best to deliver.”
And with that single effort of bringing fans to the deacon, the Red Cross no longer was seen as an outsider but a neighbor helping a neighbor.
“When people ask, I’m going to tell them, trust me the Red Cross is here to help the community and they are here for as long as we need them,” Deacon Greg said as he and Oscar shook hands.