By Michele Maki, American Red Cross Volunteer
“I keep thinking this is all a bad dream, but then I look around, and I realize it’s real. The fire took away everything.” Richard Williams, from Calaveras County, shares his story of shock and disbelief. As he continues his story, his voice cracks and his tired, blue eyes glisten with the hint of tears. “We made it out safely, and I’m grateful, but…..everything……it’s all gone.” Williams shared how he loved to restore cars, and how the model “A” sedan was about 50% restored. His vintage record collection is gone. Williams turns to his daughter, Karen, and goes silent.
Karen continues their story, “We packed the car with our photos and our pets, but some of our kitties panicked and fled. Some of them didn’t make it. We’re headed to Davis to pick up two that are being treated for burns. It’s just so hard.” A tender hand reaches out to reassure Karen. Joan Zbachick, a seasoned Red Cross volunteer and caseworker comforts her.
Patiently and gently, the interview continues and hope begins to surface. When caseworker Zbachick finds out that Karen hasn’t refilled some of her medications because of finances, she re-assures Karen that the Red Cross can help. Realizing that the Williams’ will likely incur costly veterinarian bills, Jean Kerrigan, RN and Red Cross volunteer assists and also gives them a copy of a proclamation by Governor Jerry Brown, that (in some cases) allows pharmacists to waive co-pays for those affected by fire, including the family pets or livestock. Nurse Kerrigan encourages the Williams family to ask their pharmacist and vet about it.
Visible relief washed over Karen’s face, with the good news. Additionally, the caseworkers were able to help direct Karen to other agencies at the resource center. When she expressed her gratitude, Zbachick simply smiled, and said “This is what we do. We’re here to help make your recovery just a little bit easier.”
This is what the Red Cross does: it provides HOPE and a helping hand in the road to recovery.