Partnering in a Disaster Blooms Forth a New Friendship

Story by Michele Maki, American Red Cross; Photos by Michele Maki and Justin Kern

Volunteers from Wisconsin’s Northeast Chapter of the American Red Cross and members from Community Church, out of Fond du Lac, recently came together in gratitude to share in a backyard picnic.

While visiting they began to recount how they had come together to form a very special partnership, both professionally and personally – it had been over five months since they all first met during one of the worst floods in 10 years in Fond du Lac.

Sharon and Lange Community Church Red Cross

Sharon Holt, right, a volunteer with the Red Cross, shares a light moment with Jody Lange, a friend made during their joint response to flooding in Fond du Lac during spring 2019.

“I knew about the Red Cross, I mean … everyone has heard of the Red Cross, but actually seeing them in action opened my eyes. It opened my eyes to the need and importance of volunteers,” shared Jody Lange, a member of the church.

“Our church was one of two shelters the Red Cross operated during that flood [in Fond du Lac]. It was a privilege to serve side by side with their volunteers.”

Responding quickly and effectively to the needs of those affected in a disaster takes planning and work. Few organizations have the depth of experience and knowledge the Red Cross has when it comes to disaster relief efforts.

“The Red Cross maintains a database with appropriate shelter locations, so in the event of a disaster, we can quickly identify those locations that can best serve our needs and those we are assisting,” explained Becky Tiles, Red Cross volunteer and casework lead who was also at the picnic.

“In this case, the Community Church on Steblow Drive in Fond du Lac was perfect. Building these partnerships in the community is important. Everyone benefits, especially when a disaster hits. We can all respond quickly and more efficiently.”


You can be an invaluable resource in your community as a disaster shelter partner. For more information, call and leave a message at (800) 236-8680.


For more than a week, the Red Cross volunteers worked closely with this church community in meeting the needs of dozens of people affected by the flooding. That meant setting up cots for sleeping areas in what was typically an open meeting room, and putting the church’s modern kitchen into action for multiple meals each day for displaced residents. Working together – as disaster volunteers and shelter hosts – the Red Cross and church built deep relationships, as seen in the August afternoon picnic at Red Cross volunteer Sharon Holt’s home in Combined Locks.

Mark Thomas brings turkey gift FDL shelter

Community Church members and Red Cross disaster workers prep a turkey dinner for people displaced by spring 2019 floods. 

“When I saw how they cared for these folks in the shelter, you know … strangers – people they didn’t even know – I knew I wanted to become a Red Cross volunteer,” Lange praised.

Holt, a Red Cross volunteer since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, shared during the picnic: “The volunteers from the church were just wonderful! They each took a personal interest in every one of our shelter residents. They took the time to get to know each person and to listen to their story. They went out of their way to make them feel welcomed and valued. The church volunteers would take them to the showers, to work, to whatever these folks needed. Some of the church members are still helping a few families with long term housing needs.”

Holt then turned to Lange and added, “Jody is amazing!  We call her the ‘Food Queen!’ She kept us all fed with good, home-style cooking, and made us feel like family.” She then looked over at Lange and hugged her, adding, “It was a privilege to work with the church members like Jody, and in the process, I made a new friend!”

Lange’s eyes lit up as she hugged back, “Now that I see what the Red Cross does and how their volunteers are willing to leave their own families and travel here to help others. I want to help in that same way. They care so much and that really touched me. Now I want to become a Red Cross Volunteer!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: