The American Red Cross Supports Community After Severe Weather

Four Tornadoes and One Macroburst leaves significant damage in parts of Connecticut

Contributed by: Angelina DiBacco and Janna Marnell, American Red Cross

As part of its mission, the American Red Cross responds to disasters, supporting communities before, during and after the impact. On May 15, 2018 the Red Cross began

Red Cross worker, Angelina DiBacco, chats with Southbury residents Bill O’Neil and Fran McIntyre at the Red Cross shelter at the Southbury Senior Center after the May 15, 2018 storms.

supporting the communities of Southbury and Brookfield, Connecticut by establishing shelters in coordination with both towns, for those who suffered from power outages and home damages after four confirmed tornados and a macroburst touched down in the state. The shelters provided showers, food, water, a place to sleep and charging outlets. Local Red Cross volunteers aided in setting up the shelter, registration, directing and coordinating the residents, and organizing the food and water distribution.

A group of neighbors took relief in the Southbury Senior Center shelter to recharge their phones after having been out of power for more than 12 hours. The group joked and laughed while munching on some snacks, helping to create a very light and fun environment for people to de-stress and unwind. Fortunately, they did not sustain any damage to their homes, but mentioned multiple trees down and much debris. Dorothy Armstead, who discovered the shelter through her membership at the Southbury Senior Center, supports the Red Cross tremendously. In fact, Dorothy used to be a volunteer with the Red Cross in Indiana, “I used to deliver supplies to people after disasters,” she said. “I know the work you do, God bless the American Red Cross!”

Ruth Schoenfeld, a Southbury resident, took shelter to take advantage of the power at the center and to get comfortable so that she could peacefully knit a blanket for her soon to

Ruth Schoenfeld of Southbury shows off the blanket she is knitting for her soon to be great grandson to Red Cross worker, Angelina DiBacco. Ruth’s home lost power after the May 15, 2018 storms and she was glad to find a comfortable place to pass the time.

be born great-grandson. She had never been to a Red Cross shelter before but was extremely happy to have it there for her. “I appreciate the hot coffee! It’s important to start the day with a fresh cup of hot coffee,” she exclaimed when asked about the comfort the shelter was providing for residents.

Over at Brookfield High School, people gathered for various reasons, but recharging phones and showering seemed to be the most prominent. Connecting with loved ones is important and the need to charge phones to connect with family was in high gear. The shelter offered a fun place for people to connect with not just their families, but with their community that was experiencing the same issues. Children came together, while their families figured out long-term plans, and played video games that the high school and volunteers provided. Everyone was super friendly despite the situation they were experiencing.

Eloise “Elie” Swenson, a woman from the Brookfield community, was evacuated from her home by the Fire Department on Wednesday morning, May 16, 2018, and brought to the Brookfield High School shelter. Elie and her husband, Bill were

Elie Swenson describes the story of how her roof collapsed during the storm. Elie and her husband Bill were brought to the Red Cross shelter by first responders.

home when the storm started, “I looked out the window and saw the clouds, I told my husband it did not look like normal clouds and the sound didn’t sound like normal wind, like a weird wind,” Elie said. “As my husband told me to come downstairs, the roof crashed into the second floor.” First responders arrived the next day and evacuated the Swenson’s from their home. Because of the storm and the situation, Elie had to postpone a major medical procedure, but the Red Cross was there to help, “The Red Cross volunteers have been so nice,” she said with the smile on her face touching her eyes. “They have been so accommodating, finding more comfortable chairs for me to sit in and constantly checking on us.”

Bill Swenson explains the damage caused by his home from the severe weather on May 15, 2018. Bill and his wife Elie were brought to the Red Cross shelter at Brookfield High School after first responders told them to evacuate.

In addition to the Red Cross shelters in Southbury and Brookfield, the Red Cross volunteers were out in the other impacted communities providing snacks, water, undertaking damage assessment and checking in with residents to determine their needs and to provide comfort and support. Individuals and families in the impacted areas who may need Red Cross support or assistance, please call 1-877-287-3327.

In times of disaster, Red Cross volunteers are ready to help within minutes and begin to provide relief for those being affected. They plan for shelters, feeding, and other needs to help prevent and alleviate human suffering.  Each disaster is different, but the Red Cross volunteers adapt to the people they are serving and make them feel comfortable and not a burden. If you are interested in joining the Red Cross as a volunteer, visit




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