Husband & Wife’s Deployment Journey

By Mike Jordan, Senior Development Officer

Mike & Mary Blog 1My wife, Mary, and I recently returned from two weeks in Houston, TX. It was her first major deployment with the Red Cross and my second (LA in 2016). This time it was more her idea than mine. We had a planned vacation in Harbor Springs, MI with three other couples which I did not think she would want to miss. However, thousands and thousands of people were impacted by Hurricane Harvey and the pictures and stories on the news were just too much to ignore. We felt we had to go. Mary shut down her business for a few weeks and I had colleagues step in for me. It worked out.

In a disaster this size, there are bound to be some confusing times. Ours was in the beginning. We could not get to Houston so went to Baton Rouge and were prepared for a five hour bus ride to get to our destination. It turned into a three day adventure with stops in Lufkin and Nacogdoches, TX. Finally in Houston, we were loading up the vans with supplies and set to head off to Beaumont, TX for shelter work when we were asked to change assignments based on my prior work in Louisiana a year ago.

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We then spent 11 of our 14 days driving a 16’ box truck around the affected areas handing out supplies such as; water, MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), OFF bug spray, bleach, rakes, shovels, etc. The Red Cross calls it Bulk Distribution or Distribution of Emergency Supplies. We would make two or three runs a day as the traffic in Houston is horrible. We helped over 3,000 families with much needed supplies. Yes, my back is sore but my heart and soul feel a lot better.Mike & Mary Blog 3

Each day started in a warehouse where the supplies were located, sorted, prepared and loaded into trucks. We were then given our “mission” or area to support based on those supplies. We were very grateful that for a few days the Army came in and helped sort the items and load the trucks. They were amazing. Each run typically served 125 – 150 homes.

The people of Texas were hit hard. They lost a lot and in many cases the entire contents of their home had to be thrown out. Their spirits however remained amazingly positive. One man told me “it’s just stuff”. I guess you need to live an experience like this to feel that way but he and his family were still alive and unharmed. The “stuff” can be replaced. Another gentleman shared that he has lived in the same house for 30 years and just made the final mortgage payment – now it was wiped out. Honestly, I was at a loss for words, he however thanked us for our being there and helping out. WOW.

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We drove for hours some days to skirt flooded areas and get to the affected homes. Water still stood in many areas but most had gone away. Those affected were dealing mostly with the aftermath. The Red Cross is very clear that we are not to take risks on our missions. We are not search and rescue, we have a different role and must be safe as we do our work. Even with this in mind, we saw water every day during our travels and the damage it left behind.

We are happy to be home and know that other Red Crossers will take our place and continue the mission. We helped thousands of people but always feel that we wish we could have done more. We will look for another opportunity someday but for now we need to get our other work done.

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My wife and I were also followed around by a video crew for a couple of hours one day. You might enjoy seeing one of the pieces they did here.

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A few high level facts about Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

  • In the last three weeks, the Red Cross and community partners have provided more than 926,000 overnight stays in emergency shelters.
  • Shelters were opened in 8 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • The Red Cross has served more than 2.7 million meals and snacks to people in need with the help of partners
  • More than 6,100 Red Cross disaster workers and more than 290 emergency response vehicles are on the ground right now, helping thousands of people affected by these storms
  • More than 69 million hurricane and flood alerts have been issued through Red Cross mobile apps for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Just for Hurricane Harvey where we deployed:Mike & Mary Blog 8

  • To date, there have been more than 389,000 overnight shelter stays
  • Along with our partners, we have served more than 2.2 million meals and snacks in Texas and Louisiana
  • More than 3,300 Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground in Texas and Louisiana, with more than 290 on the way
  • More than 170 emergency response vehicles have been activated to help deliver meals and relief supplies across the hardest hit areas of Texas and Louisiana
  • Mental health and health services professionals have provided more than 73,000 contacts to provide support and care to people in Texas and Louisiana
  • We’ve distributed more than a half million (621,000) relief items like diapers, bug spray, cleaning supplies, coolers, and comfort kits that contain deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items in Texas and Louisiana

Lastly – THANK YOU to all the wonderful donors that help us with our work though the generosity of financial support, In-Kind contributions and warm and caring thoughts. We could not have helped these people without your support. We’ll hang up the vests for now and look for another day to help out.

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