“The Red Cross is doing a great job. They are keeping us as comfortable as they can, under the circumstances, and can’t do anything better than what they are doing.” 

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

The weather headlines for Wednesday, Feb. 22 in Milwaukee read Wisconsin is set to be hit with severe winter weather including snow, freezing rain, and sleet. Travel will be hazardous and cancellations are to be expected. The public was advised to make sure their cell phones were fully charged in case the power went out.  

Tom Rossmiller checking on a client at the shelter

Add to that being a resident in an apartment building and being awakened to a multi-family fire at North 14th St. in Milwaukee. That describes how Clyde Witt’s day started along with others in the building.   

Witt woke to smoke alarms sounding in his building and emergency lights illuminating the halls. Thanks to Sergeant Witt’s prior experience with the Wisconsin National Guard his instincts and prior training kicked in. He started knocking on doors yelling “fire, fire” and started to help other residents exit the building.  

The 50-unit senior apartment building was evacuated leaving tenants out in the cold waiting for help. Firefighters contained the fire, but major damage forced all tenants in the building to be displaced. Witt says after the fire was contained and when the building was safe to enter, a few residents including himself were allowed to go back into the building for five minutes to secure personal items. “But what can you get in five minutes,” said Witt. 

Clyde Witt giving two thumbs up for Red Cross services

Many of those that were displaced arrived at the Red Cross shelter at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 631 N. 19th St. where they had a comfortable, warm safe place to stay, received comfort and care, hot meals, blankets and water from the Red Cross as they waited for direction and next steps. Red Cross caseworkers have been working one on one with clients to replace medication, medical and mobility equipment lost during the fire. Health care and mental health volunteers have been available for the clients. Since those displaced left with nothing but the clothes on their back, Red Cross volunteers and staff went shopping in the severe winter weather to purchase underwear, socks, sweatshirts and sweatpants to provide basic essentials for the clients.  

Witt’s last few days have been spent at the Red Cross shelter. “The Red Cross is doing a great job,” said Witt. “They are keeping us as comfortable as they can, under the circumstances, and they can’t do anything better than what they are doing.” 

Witt has been a resident in the building for about six years. He is grateful to be at the Red Cross shelter but is anxious to return home. 

Chris Skerven, Mari Guckenberger, Tom Rossmiller

During this time, about 20 clients have been staying at the shelter.  The Red Cross is grateful for the support of the church for opening its doors to serve as a shelter for those in need. Volunteers and staff have been extremely attentive to the needs of the clients who have gone through so much. Severe weather would slow anyone down, but to see the camaraderie and “up-and-above” efforts between the volunteers and the staff and their willingness to help the clients is outstanding. 

Chris Skerven, Sherry Harris, Clyde Witt, Mari Guckenberger, Tom Rossmiller

The Red Cross is known for being there on a person’s darkest day. The Red Cross mission prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. 

If anyone has been displaced by this fire and needs assistance, call 1-800-RED CROSS. 

The American Red Cross of Southeast Wisconsin is opening a Multi-Agency Resource Center. This “One-Stop Shop” offering relief and recovery resources will open Monday, Feb. 27 from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the American Red Cross Office, 2600 W. Wisconsin Ave., in Milwaukee. The Red Cross will provide resources for those impacted by the multi-family fire that occurred on Feb. 22 at North 14th St. in Milwaukee.

We are always looking for passionate volunteers. If you are interested and would like more information you can find it here: https://www.redcross.org/local/wisconsin/volunteer.html 

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