When Paul Royce, known to the locals as “Turtle,” lost his home in the fire that devastated Paradise, California, he was really was at a loss as to what he would do next. “I’ve lived in communes, and I’ve lived on the road, but right now, I haven’t a clue as to where I’ll be. I have absolutely nowhere to go.”
Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care Volunteer, Cynthia Bellina, heard about Turtle’s dilemma at the Red Cross shelter in Chico and knew she had to act. “Turtle needed that little extra care. He’s lived the most interesting and exciting life. In listening to his stories about his life I could understand his need for independence and his zest for life. I just couldn’t say no. I knew I had to help; I just had to!”
Bellina wasted no time. Turtle wanted to relocate to the Grass Valley in California. So, she searched the internet and started making calls. After the sixth phone call, she found a hotel that was willing to help Turtle. Sierra Mountain Inn agreed to provide a month of housing for him, thus providing him with the opportunity for a new start. Turtle’s new home is on the first floor and is wheelchair accessible-just what he needed.
When asked about Bellina’s kindness, Turtle’s eyes filled with tears as he reached out to tenderly touch the volunteer’s shoulder and said, “She was my voice; she was my Angel.” Indeed, Cynthia Bellina earned her Red Cross Angel Wings.
Photo and Story by Michele Maki, American Red Cross