Friday, June 12, 2015

Red Cross Responding to Texas Tornadoes and Floods - Updated 05/22 6:45PM

LAST UPDATED 7:38 p.m., Sunday, May 24, 2015

The American Red Cross is helping residents across Texas affected by an ongoing severe weather outbreak, which included several tornadoes and widespread flooding. 

If you were impacted by the storms and need Red Cross assistance, please call this hotline number:

The following shelters are open for anyone needing a safe place to stay:

Wichita Falls Area:
  • Hirschi High School, 3106 Borton, Wichita Falls, Texas*
  • Iowa Park Recreational Activity Club, 806 N 3rd St, Iowa Park, Texas*
  • Burkburnett Community Center, 735 Davey Drive, Burkburnett, Texas*
  • Midwestern State University (MSU), 3410 Taft Blvd. Wichita Falls, Texas
*Residents with pets in Wichita Falls who need to evacuate should call the Humane Society at 940.761.8100 for small animals or Animal Control at 940.761.7824 for large animals to make arrangements.
Central & South Texas Area:
  • Banquete Jr. High School, 4339 Fourth Street, Banquete, Texas
  • Gem of the Hills, 2233 Hwy 281 S, Blanco, Texas
  • Luling Junior High School, 204 S. Hackberry Avenue, Luling, Texas
  • Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Drive, Austin, Texas
  • San Marcos Activity Center, 501 E. Hopkins St., San Marcos, Texas
Gulf Coast Shelters:
  • Lone Star Community Center, 2500 Lone Star Parkway, Montgomery, Texas
  • Chinese Community Center, 9800 Towne Park Dr., Houston, Texas
Red Cross Service Centers are open at:
  • Van Community Center, 310 Chestnut, Van, Texas
    • CLOSED for holiday weekend, Tuesday and Thursday, 10am - 4pm
  • Greater Houston Area Chapter, United Way Building, 1300 Bay Area Blvd #4, Houston, TX
    • Friday, 10am - 6pm & Saturday, 10am - 3pm
  • Central Baptist Church, 710 Wise Street, Bowie, Texas
    • Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
If you are looking for a loved one in the area, please visit our Safe and Well registry at or call 1-800-REDCROSS. 

If you want to help, visit, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. 

Follow @RedCrossDFW on Twitter or Facebook for updates.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tips for Dealing with Texas Weather Fatigue

by Carl Manning, Red Cross contributor

The endless images of flooded homes and tornado destruction coupled with repeated warnings of what seems like potential doom and gloom can cause people to feel like the world is closing in and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Recent social media posts in Texas bear witness to a mounting stress among those who have watched the string of severe weather go from days to weeks with no immediate end in sight.

Such reaction to stressful situations are normal, even if you haven’t suffered any personal loss, said Jerry Montgomery, who’s overseeing the Red Cross disaster mental health counselors in Texas. “Stress is stress.  Just because you haven’t  lost your home doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing a lot of stress,” the Michigan City, Ind. volunteer said.
Often people under stress feel physically and mentally drained, get frustrated more quickly and more often.
But there are some things people can do to cope with events over which they have no control.

For instance, during stressful times it’s important to eat properly and maintain a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and get some rest.

Staying connected with friends and family is important because getting support reduces that feeling of being alone.

Another tip is to be patient with those around you and recognize that everyone is stressed and may need time to put their feelings and thoughts in order.

Remain positive and remember having successfully gone through other tough times and reach out when support is needed and help others when they need it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

"This is Just a Setback" - Bridgeport Residents Begin to Rebuild

by Carl Manning, guest contributor

Red Cross workers help residents affected by a tornado in Bridgeport, TX.

Wesley Campbell was in bed when he heard the sounds outside his home and he knew the worst was happening. A tornado was heading straight for his home in a rural area near Bridgeport, Texas.

His wife, Mickey, yelled for him to get up and get out of the house, and they headed for the back door. But it was too late.

“We got there and that was as far as we got before it hit,” he recalled. “We got down behind the washer and dryer and waited. I could feel the house moving in all directions and we prayed hard.”

Bridgeport resident Wesley Campbell looks at damage to his
home after a tornado outbreak.
It didn’t take Wesley long to realize his worst fears had come true – the house he had called home for 15 years was in tatters and scattered. Sitting on the tailgate of his pickup, Wesley sipped from a bottle of water and looked at what’s left as friends and family gathered up what they could to put in his storage barn.

“This is our house, so sure, we’ll rebuild,” he said. “This is just a setback.”

As he looked around, Red Cross workers began arriving to offer assistance to Wesley and his neighbors. 

“It’s wonderful and unbelievable that so many came out to help. It makes me feel good. People I don’t even know are here,” he said of the Red Cross workers and others who were there to help.

A few hundred yards away, Scott Brandon talked to a Red Cross worker about losing his trailer home during a three-minute ordeal he said he’ll never forget.

“The trailer started moving and then it quit. Then it started moving again and then it stopped and it rained hard for an hour,” he recalled. 

Looking at the twisted wreckage that once was his home, Scott shook his head and said, “I’ve been walking around in a daze, feeling out of place and wanting to cry. But all my friends are okay and that’s what matters.” 

As he talked, a Red Cross emergency response vehicle arrived, bouncing along the rut-filled dirt road to set up operations to hand out snacks and water plus clean-up items like work gloves and tarps.

“They’re here to help us and if they can help us, that’ll be great,” Scott said.

One Red Cross worker grabbed an armload of work gloves from the vehicle and started passing them out to those working on a house with its metal roof twisted and torn and its windows broken.

Another standing by the Red Cross vehicle was busy handing out bottled water and snacks. One woman in line with her children and two dogs, when offered condolences, smiled and said, “Oh, it can all be replaced.”

The Red Cross continues to provide critical humanitarian relief in Bridgeport, Runaway Bay, Mineral Wells and more than 70 other counties around Texas during this ongoing spring storm relief effort. You can help! Visit or call 1-800-REDCROSS to give.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Van Resident Remembers, Rebuilds

by Carl Manning, guest contributor

Van resident David Thacker hugs Red Cross volunteer
Brenda Jones of Longview at his home
that was damaged by a tornado.
It’s really been hard for David Thacker to think about his long-time friend and neighbor who was killed when a tornado torn through rural Van, Texas.

David was among those who found his friend still clutching his dog in a nearby field after the EF-3 tornado destroyed his home and also killed his friend’s wife. 

He and his friend had a regular meeting every Wednesday evening when they got together at the roadside where they left their trash for pickup the next morning. It had become a tradition, a time David looked forward to each week. 

“We discussed politics and livestock. We got along real good,” he said as a smile filled his face.

“It’s hard, it really is. A lot of time I try not to think about. But I like to think he’s in a better place,” he said, looking down at the ground at the spot where they had stood together for a dozen years

But David considers himself lucky because he and his wife were home eating dinner when the storm came. They survived and their home is still standing. He recalled looking out and seeing the tornado coming his way and using all his strength to close the front door against the howling wind. 

After the storm, he was among the first to volunteer at the landfill site where the debris that once were homes and possessions were brought for disposal. 

“It lets me help those who have nothing. At least we still got our home,” he says. “We’re lucky and I felt an obligation to give back, to help those who didn’t come out of this as well as we did.”

His neighbor on the other side of his mobile home had damage but he said the six people inside survived with only a few cuts and scratches. His son and family living nearby also escaped with minor damage. 

David said he’s been busy cleaning up around his property including 1,700 feet of fencing that was ripped up. He walks through his hay field picking up pieces of shingles and various household items like a storage container for silverware and sometimes personal items like photographs blown there from near and far. 

“Got to clean up this field before mowing it because if I hit some of this stuff with my mower, it would be big trouble,” he said. 

Earlier in the day, he had stopped at the Community Center where the Red Cross and other agencies were assisting people with the recovery after the May 10 storm damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and displaced dozens of people. 

Within an hour after leaving the center, two Red Cross volunteers arrived to survey the damage to his home. He showed them how his home had been picked up and dropped back on the foundation, shifting a few inches to one side in the process. 

Red Cross volunteer Brenda Jones of Longview, Texas
hands snacks to Van resident David Thacker.

One of the volunteers reached into the van and handed him several snack items including a couple boxes of cookies – one for him and the other for his wife.

As he took the items, his eyes filled with tears. A minute later he walked over to the volunteer and hugged her.

“Until you see your friends die and your neighbors hurt, and you have people from all over the country to come out and help, there’s no way to describe how you feel,” he said while hugging the volunteer. “You’re a God-sent blessing.”

To help Red Cross spring storm relief efforts, visit or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Red Cross Service Centers Provide Help and Hope

by Carl Manning, guest contributor

A resident speaks with Red Cross nurses at a service center in Van, TX.

Red Cross Service Centers provide assistance to people affected by disasters such as tornadoes and flooding, often working with partner agencies to provide needed assistance. 

Among services available at the Centers are caseworkers who help those affected with immediate needs and help plan long-term recovery; registered nurses providing health services; licensed mental health counselors, and Red Cross volunteers who can assess home damage. 

The Red Cross has a Service Center in Van at the Community Center, 310 Chestnut. An EF-3 tornado damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes. It’s the same location where the Red Cross had been part the Multi-Agency Resource Center. 

The Red Cross on Monday opened a Service Center in the city of Bowie at 710 West Wise Street. Many residents in the Bowie area were affected by the recent flooding. 

There is also a service center available at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 18220 Upper Bay Road, in Houston, Texas for residents affected by flooding.

The Red Cross will continue to be part of the recovery process in Texas. Click here to see a list of current shelters and service centers.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Pet Stories From Van

by Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor

Scrolling through my news feed the morning after I visited Van, I came across a familiar face. One of my friends had shared the story of the Bouchillon family—survivors of Sunday night’s tornado. The Bouchillons' car was tossed by the tornado. Andy, his wife and their baby came out virtually unscathed, but the family’s dog, Tater, was nowhere to be found.

Andy was reunited with Tater the next morning. I was there when Andy was interviewed by the national news stations. I saw him holding on to Tater for dear life.

The Bouchillon family’s story is not one I personally heard first hand, but I did meet a couple of people who shared their pet survival stories with me.

Lost Cat
We met Shelly on our first trip down Bois D'Arc Street. Her house was still standing and although she was without power, she was worried about leaving her home. Shelly expressed to us that she needed help. She needed supplies and wondered if there was anything we could to help spread the word about the cat she had found after the tornado devastated more than half of her neighbor’s houses. She told us she believed the cat lived across the street, because she said the cat kept looking over, seemingly to say, “Where did my house go?” When we returned to Shelly’s to deliver a Target Comfort Care kit, we snapped a picture of her and the cat.

If you recognize the cat, please contact the American Red Cross. 

Blue: The Dog That Comes Out to Say Hi
While searching for people who needed a tarp, we had a very friendly dog greet us along the way. We patted him and found his owner raking debris from his lawn. Though windows had to be boarded and a tarp covered his roof, the house was still pretty much intact.

Telling the owner that a photographer had taken a picture of his dog the day before, I asked the man where he took shelter during the tornado. He told me that when the warning sirens went off and his pictures started “levitating off the walls,” he ran into the bathroom and hid under the sink. As soon as it was over, he immediately ran outside to find his dog, Blue. Instead he heard screaming coming from next door. His neighbor’s home no longer had a roof, or many of its walls. He rushed over to help the women trapped inside. With the other neighbors, Blue’s owner picked off two by fours, rescuing his neighbors.

The search for Blue helped save lives.

Pets Need Emergency Kits, Too
For those of us with four-legged children, the stories of Tater and Blue hit home. Those are two lucky dogs! But not all pet stories have happy endings. Without any form of identification, Shelly’s rescued cat may never make it back to its original owners. When preparing for a disaster, keep your pets needs in mind.
•    All pets should identification at all times. Put your cell phone number on their tag or have them microchipped.
•    Keep enough food and water for your pet for five days stored in your safe room. Don’t forget a can opener if your pet eats canned food.
•    Have a copy of their medical records in a waterproof bag close at hand.
•    Pets should have a leash and a crate.
•    Remember cat litter and garbage or plastic bags to clean up your pets’ waste.
•    For comfort and security, your safe room or pet’s emergency kit should contain a blanket or bed and a toy.
•    In case of evacuation, take your pet with you. Before a disaster strikes, map out the pet-friendly hotels along your evacuation route.
•    Store the phone number of an animal shelter or kennel in your cell phone. Have a plan in place where you will keep your pet if you have to shelter in an American Red Cross shelter.
You have to wonder where outdoor animals go during a tornado. Tater was found near the Bouchillon’s overturned vehicle-where I can only presume he stayed overnight. Animals, especially dogs, can be fiercely loyal to their people. We owe it to them to prepare for their safety as much as ours.

To help, visit or call 1-800-REDCROSS. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Red Cross Preparing For and Supporting Storm Relief Efforts Across Texas

Even as we continue to support efforts in Van & around the state, we're preparing for more possible severe weather & flooding around Texas this weekend. Today, we sent truckloads of supplies to Waco and other Red Cross locations to the south, so we'll be ready to respond if we're needed.
Be weather-aware this weekend & make sure you talk to your family about what to do in an emergency. Download our free mobile preparedness apps to receive weather alerts and safety information!
Follow us on Twitter @RedCrossDFW for updates!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tex Versus the Tornado

by Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor

Van resident Tex, who was injured during the Van tornado
is comforted by a Red Cross nurse. Photo Credit: CBS11
I stood outside the American Red Cross shelter with Van resident, Tex. As he was telling me his story, he looked up at the sky, pointed and said, “That’s what worries me.” I looked up to where he was pointing at the darkening, thick clouds looming over the Van water tower. “We don’t need any more of that.”  

What you can’t see from the shelter is the destruction from the 700-yards wide tornado that struck the small town just a few blocks away from where we were standing.

Tex and his wife were both injured by flying debris during the tornado, but despite the physical pain and shock of what had happened, he shared his story.

Around 8:15, Tex’s wife received a storm alert on her phone and very shortly after, Van’s tornado warning sirens started blaring. Tex and his wife left their trailer home for their daughter’s house. He remembers the wind and the hail. Tex looks me straight in the eyes and tells me that as soon as they arrived at their daughter’s house, “Whamo!” The tornado had hit.

Miraculously, after the tornado passed, Tex, his wife and six others were alive. They found themselves somehow landing on top of all the lumber that used to be the house. The tornado took the whole house.

By the time I had met Tex he already become a local celebrity. Anxious to meet him, he told me he had already signed one autograph already. All the local news outlets had interviewed him on camera. As we were talking about what happens next for him and his family, an old friend stopped by to joke with Tex about how he didn’t win the fight. Someone responded, “Oh yeah, you should see that two by four!”

The lightheartedness of the joke made everyone smile. The people of Van need smiles. But in all seriousness, the people of Van know firsthand that weather doesn’t joke around. Fortunately, for Tex and his family, he did win this particular fight.

To download the free tornado alert app from the Red Cross, visit

To donate to aid in relief efforts, visit

Monday, May 11, 2015

"I'm Glad I Went Out for Ice Cream": A Personal Story of Survival from Van, Texas

From Anita Foster, American Red Cross North Texas Region

Chase Scruggs stands in the area where his Mom's house used to sit.
As the sun came up over Van, Texas this morning, there wasn't much doubt that the small town east of Dallas would never be the same. Tornado sirens wailed in the late night hours as residents did their best to get to safe rooms and cover up. Chase Scruggs said his late night craving for ice cream saved his life.

"I went out with my fiance and our daughter to get some ice cream when I heard the sirens," said Scruggs. "I knew right away that we needed to get to
shelter." While calling his Mom to tell her to get into the hallway, he sped with his young family to his mother's house on Bois d' Arc. Seconds after they dove into the hallway with the rest of the family, the tornado literally picked up their entire house and moved it from its foundation.

"We threw blankets over my daughter and my younger brothers while Dad and I tried to hold the doors closed," Scruggs reflected. "We barely made it to the hallway in time."

Scruggs was donned in heavy work gloves and boots to begin the daunting task of cleaning up what was left of his Mom's house. Meanwhile, Scruggs had yet to make the short trip across town to check on his own home, also in a hard-hit area of Van.

"I'll get to my house shortly. For now, it's most important to focus on those who have lost everything."  

The Red Cross will help Mr. Scruggs and all of the families affected by the Mother's Day storms. To help the Red Cross, click on to make a financial gift. For updates on Red Cross responses across the area, follow us on Twitter @RedCrossDFW.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

World Red Cross Day: Nepal 2015

by Ryan Wilcox, volunteer contributor

The numbers are simply staggering.

As of this writing, over 7,300 people have lost their lives to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated Nepal’s capital city of Katmandu. The shocks were felt in Pakistan, over 800 miles away. It even triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest; located just 140 miles east of the earthquake’s epicenter, at Barpak, Nepal.

Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries, and is struggling to recover.

The alpine terrain makes the job of getting relief supplies to victims difficult. The aftershocks from the earthquake created landslides that block roads to remote villages, which were the hardest hit. The most affected areas, such as Barpak in the Western Region, are accessible only on foot.

The people of Nepal face many challenges, but rebuilding their homes might be the biggest. Although relief agencies are working to provide temporary shelters, many victims of the earthquake remain homeless.

Finding Hope

Although the earthquake affected some eight million people, and 2.8 million were displaced, stories of resilience have started to emerge.

In many villages, people are helping their neighbors in the wake of the disaster. This includes taking part in search and rescue efforts. Sonies Awal, a 5-month-old baby, was pulled from the rubble, surviving 22 hours under his collapsed home. The photo of the rescue has become a symbol of new life.

An International Response

In times of international disaster, the American Red Cross works in partnership with Red Cross societies, and relief agencies, from around the world.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, takes the lead in coordinating international relief efforts, and bringing together resources to support victims of disaster. The Nepal Red Cross Society is in the field with 1,500 volunteers and 300 staff. They are working to provide relief items, search and rescue, first aid and temporary shelter.

The Nepal Red Cross is joined on the ground by Red Cross societies from Canada, Hong Kong, the Philippines, the Netherlands and even Finland. The American Red Cross has pledged an initial $1 million, and has sent disaster specialists to support the relief effort. 

In addition, the IFRC is releasing $33.4 million from the Disaster Response Emergency Fund to support food, shelter, water, and other vital services. The fund was established in 1985 to ensure that Red Cross societies around the world had immediate funding for emergency response in the event of a disaster.

There are many charities and NGOs on the ground, and governments across the globe have pledged aid for Nepal relief. In all, more than 30 aid organizations are active in Nepal, and 400 tons of aid is being sent.

Digital Response

In the immediate aftermath, digital tools are supporting the relief effort.

In partnership with the Humanitarian OneStreetMap team, Red Cross volunteers are digitally mapping Nepal’s affected area, using technology provided by the State Department’s MapGive program.

In the days following a disaster, maps are very important to emergency responders. In this case, they provide an accurate damage assessment, and a clear picture of Nepal’s terrain in difficult-to-reach villages. This gives aid workers on the ground maps that reflect current road conditions.

The Red Cross has set up a Restoring Family Links website specifically for the Nepal earthquake. Restoring Family Links is dedicated to reuniting people missing in times of conflict or disaster with their families.

The process starts with online tracing, which gives the staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross information to be submitted to the authorities. 

How You Can Help

The American Red Cross needs your help to support victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal. The relief that has been committed is just a start.

Map: You can visit to help map the affected area of Nepal. No experience is necessary.

Donate: Please contact your local Red Cross chapter, or click here to help Nepal.

Share: Spread the word about relief efforts online. Find Red Cross DFW on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cinco de Mayo

by Tonya Solis-Mosby, volunteer contributor

Viva la season for outdoor fun!  It’s not yet summer according to the calendar, but the season for outdoor fun kicks off each year for many people with Cinco de Mayo celebrations!

Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) is celebrated with Mexican flair!  Some celebrations include mariachi and dance.  But all Cinco de Mayo celebrations include food associated with Mexico.  It might be interesting to note, however, that this holiday, which celebrates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War, is not widely celebrated in Mexico.  In fact, it is believed to be celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico.  It is often confused with Mexican Independence Day which is actually in September.

For many people Cinco de Mayo is the first celebration that falls outside of winter’s embrace.  The warmer temperatures bring people outside for picnics and swimming.  During outside celebrations, it is important to pay attention to a variety of safety tips.

According to grilling safety tips by the American Red Cross, it’s important to grill in an open outdoor area; use clean long-handled tools; and never leave the grill unattended.  It is also important for cooks, to wash their hands in warm, soapy water after touching raw meat and after using the restroom or touching pets.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, perishable foods should be kept in coolers on ice to maintain freshness.  Once food is taken off ice, it should not sit out for more than 2 hours.

If the outdoor celebration includes swimming, some important Red Cross safety tips, include swimming only in designated areas supervised by lifeguards; never swimming alone and avoiding drinking alcoholic beverages.

Injuries are always possible, so for handy information on what to do in case of injury download the American Red Cross Emergency app.

Cinco de Mayo and all of the spring and summer celebrations can be wonderful with a little care and attention.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Red Cross Services Available: Johnson & Erath Counties

This message from Anita Foster, American Red Cross North Texas Region:

Following damaging storms that tore across the state of Texas on April 26, the American Red Cross has been working around the clock to help families with their recovery. In total, some 600 homes were hit by the storms. Of those, 60 sustained major damage or were destroyed. Since the storms ended, the Red Cross has provided bottled water, meals and snacks, along with clean-up supplies, mainly tarps to cover damaged rooftops, to affected neighborhoods. Today, the Red Cross is opening two additional locations for families to visit if they need assistance:

Dublin – Resource Center
213 E. Blackjack St.
Dublin, TX 76446
Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Rio Vista – Resource Center
102 E. Depot St.
Rio Vista, TX 76093
Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
These centers will remain open until May 2. Families who can’t easily make it to the Rio Vista or Dublin locations are urged to call the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED CROSS or (800) 733 2766.

Friday, April 17, 2015

National Volunteer Week Profile: Semien Hagos

by David Warren, volunteer contributor

Semien Hagos was introduced to the American Red Cross much the way many others are – in the wake of a disastrous event that leaves one staggering to recover.

Hagos was 7 when flames swept through the Section 8 housing complex where she lived in Dallas. While the apartment she shared with her parents and sister was relatively unscathed, the apartments around her were left uninhabitable. Her neighbors were forced from their homes.

As firefighters stamped out hotspots, Red Cross volunteers arrived with food, blankets and toys for the children. “That was something that was always ingrained in my head,” said Hagos, who’s now 18.

The memory remained with her as she entered Lake Highlands High School looking to expand on the community service work she had done elsewhere. So she reached out to the Red Cross North Texas Region for some guidance and soon after launched a Red Cross Club at her school. Before long, more than 140 other students had joined her to organize a blood drive and various fundraisers on behalf of the Red Cross.

“We’re always thinking of doing small things that could go viral at our school,” she said, be it a drink stand or “valentines for heroes” campaign that reaches out to military personnel abroad.

It seems Hagos -- armed with fine grades, a long list of extracurricular work and enough after-school jobs to fill a resume – is always on the run. Appropriately enough, she’s a captain of her high school cross-country and track teams.

The Red Cross’ Sonya Goodwin has worked with Hagos and says the teen has “distinguished herself as a dedicated, creative and driven leader.” The Red Cross Club at Lake Highlands, Goodwin said, “allows youth to demonstrate leadership skills while serving their community.”

Hagos talks confidently of her future. She’s gathered scholarships and grants that will pay for her schooling at the University of Arkansas. She may want to study industrial psychology but she sees herself more likely launching a career in business.

She speaks excitedly of becoming a Razorback and what her life holds for her. It’s easy to forget the hardship that could have drowned her ambition and hopes.

Her parents struggled to scrape together money to support their two daughters after immigrating from Ethiopia. The burden grew heavier when her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, growing progressively weaker and ultimately succumbing to the disease when Hagos was 13. Her mother was beset by illnesses before ovarian cancer was discovered. She died in January.

The bond with her sister, 22-year-old Rama, tightened during those years. “She raised me because she’s older, but we really raised each other,” Hagos said.

She remembers her parents for their sacrifice. “My parents fought for the life we have today,” she said, explaining that they often stressed the importance of education.

“They left their family and everything they knew (in Ethiopia) just so we could have a better life,” she said.

She expresses her appreciation for the support of friends, neighbors and others in the Lake Highlands section of Dallas. Over the years people there extended a hand to steady her, kind of in the way the Red Cross reaches into communities to provide its own comfort.

When Hagos says the Red Cross Club at her school has “brought people together,” she could just as well be talking more broadly about the Red Cross organization. The Red Cross first introduced itself to Hagos when she was a young girl, and she’s not inclined to let the relationship soon end.

“It’s not something I’m willing to let go of,” she said.

Join Semien and more than 7,000 other humanitarians as part of the American Red Cross volunteer corps here in North Texas this National Volunteer Week. Start your Red Cross story at To learn more about starting a Red Cross Club at your school, visit

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Top Ten Reasons to Download the New, Free Red Cross Emergency App

Today, we're super excited to introduce our newest mobile app, the all-in-one Emergency App! It combines all of our previous preparedness apps into one all-inclusive app! Why should you download it? Glad you asked!

1. IT’S FREE. Who wouldn’t want free 24/7 protection with emergency alerts and safety information? 
2. MONITOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Parents, rejoice. The “Family Safe” feature lets you know if your loved ones are okay, even if they don’t have the app.
3. EYE CANDY. Customize your weather alerts in various locations with photos of the loved one, or furry four-legged family member who lives there. 
4. WORKS ANYWHERE IN THE U.S. You can set 35 different emergency alerts to monitor multiple locations anywhere in the U.S.
5. PLAN AND PREPARE. The “Make a Plan” feature helps families plan out what to do and where to go if a disaster strikes.
6. HABLAMOS ESPAÑOL. Easily toggle between English and Spanish to use the language you’re most comfortable with in a stressful situation.
7. NO CONNECTION, NO PROBLEM. If you can’t connect, you can still access the pre-loaded preparedness and response information from Red Cross experts.
8. MAP IT OUT. Love maps? This app lets you overlay people, places, weather alerts, and open Red Cross shelters.
9. BE A GOOD SON (OR DAUGHTER). Don’t wait for your mom to get her alert and ask if you’re okay. Ping her directly with the touch of a button using the “I’m Safe” feature.
10. TORNADO SIREN. It’s loud. It’s awesome. It could save your life. 

The free app can be downloaded by searching EMERGENCY in the app store on your smartphone or tablet or by going to (PS: Yes! It will even work on your new Apple Watch!) And while apps can help prepared someone for disasters, it’s important to remember that downloading any of the Red Cross apps is not a substitute for training. To learn more about or register for Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED courses, visit

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

National Volunteer Week Profile: Eric Klein

by David Warren, volunteer contributor

Volunteer Eric Klein is presented with a commendation award
for his excellent service.
Every office has that go-to person who makes the day hum. When a problem crops up – be it a computer that swallows valuable disaster assessments or a complex data set that requires analysis – this colleague usually has the solution.

And so it is with Eric Klein, a volunteer partner for the American Red Cross North Texas Region.  He can be found huddling over maps, coordinating disaster services and, as he explains it, utilizing “geospatial tools.”

But for his supervisor, Rosemary Mote, disaster program officer, American Red Cross North Texas region, Klein’s importance is much more broadly defined. “Everyone knows to ask Eric,” she said. “He’ll know, or he can find out.”

Klein, 64, began volunteering for the Red Cross in 2008, answering a call to help with preparations ahead of Hurricane Ike’s arrival on the Gulf Coast. He had spent 30 years with IBM but was restless in retirement and the Red Cross proved to be an ideal outlet for his energy and analytical mind.

“There’s a lot of different roles you can take on,” he said of the agency. “It’s a big organization so there’s a lot of different work you can do, a lot of opportunity to learn new things.”

Klein uses Geographic Information Systems and other applications to plan for impending disasters while coordinating needs both regionally and beyond. He determines tornado paths, road conditions and other hazards to smooth the aid the Red Cross provides. He also serves on the regional Disaster Management Team and works as a disaster services instructor, passing on his experience to others.

“He passionately supports the mission by supporting those who are on the front lines,” Mote said of Klein, recipient of the 2014 North Texas Region Clara Barton Honor Award.

She said he also uses census information to determine population, housing and other demographic information to help determine how damaging a disaster may prove to be, and better assess the relief that will be needed.

“We just count on Eric being around and know that he will do it for us,” she said.

Most recently, Eric joined the Digital Volunteer Team, using his skills to help set up complex keyword searches on Radian6 so digital volunteers can monitor social media conversations during disasters and relay relevant information to a disaster response team. It's just one more use of the wealth of his knowledge and generosity of his time.

Klein, who’s a Dallas resident, says he brings an analytical approach to his work and the Red Cross benefits from many others who offer a variety of strengths.

“What makes the organization work is not having people with identical skills but different complementary skills,” he said.

This National Volunteer Week, we salute volunteers like Eric that make our organization go. Volunteers make up more than 90% of the Red Cross work force. Join Eric & start your Red Cross story today. Visit to get started!