The Yuba Sutter Red Cross Shelter in Yuba City is a large cavernous building that was home to about 80 people who evacuated the city of Paradise and beyond, to flee the Camp Fire. Their cots are neatly lined up at the back of the building, most of their belongings stashed underneath. Red Cross medical staff are set up along the far wall to provide various medical needs including replacing prescriptions, eyeglasses, wheelchairs, and more. The opposite side of the shelter is lined with table after table of colorful clothes, books, kids’ arts, and crafts, toiletries, and household goods, ready for folks to select what they need. A little brown-haired girl with a sweet face tries out some of the toys as she takes in snippets of the video that plays in the small children’s play area. Snacks and drinks are also available for between meal nibbling.
And, tucked into a quiet corner seated together are Linda DeVane and Barry Abromovage, Red Cross volunteer caseworkers. Each has traveled more than 2,500 miles to this place to do what they can to help.
Linda watched the news about the Camp Fire from her home in Macon, Georgia. She knew the devastation was terrible, and says, “You don’t realize until you’re right here in the middle of it, how bad it is.” It’s important for people to have someone to talk to. “It means a lot,” sighs Linda, not just to them, but to us too.”
Over the past several days, Linda and Barry have worked with over 60 individuals at the shelter to help them start down the long road to recovery. “We try to get them thinking about future plans,” Barry notes. Linda and Barry let people know that when they’re ready to leave the shelter, the Red Cross will help with their transition. They are not facing the future on their own, but for now, life is pretty tough.
The folks at the shelter had no idea that they would spend this Thanksgiving away from home in an unfamiliar setting. However, Linda and Barry knew. In fact, Barry arranged his deployment to ensure that he would be here over the Thanksgiving holiday. He wanted to be here to help people like the family he met recently. The children’s school burned, their church burned, their home burned, the places where the parents worked burned. And Barry was there to help, to hear their story, painfully similar to so many others he and Linda have listened to since arriving at the shelter.
Linda and Barry, two Red Cross volunteers, who chose to leave their homes in Lebanon, Virginia and Macon, Georgia to travel across the country to Yuba City, California— because this Thanksgiving, this is where they are needed most.
By Marlene Stamper, American Red Cross Volunteer