Story: MaryJane Mudd / American Red Cross •Photos: Laura Seifert / American Red Cross

The idea came to Albert Cantu during a staff meeting.  “Much of Fort Bend County had been flooded, especially the Edgewood Mobile Home Park,” said Albert, the City of Richmond Fire Marshal. “We were discussing emergency response in the area and it hit me: we could do more to help this community during such a hard time.”

Albert immediately called his friend, Angela Ortiz, a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Two brains were better than one and the result was the Citizens’ Relief Support Program, a community event co-hosted by the City of Richmond Fire Department and the Red Cross.

“I was so excited when Albert called me,” said Angela. “I contacted our Red Cross Disaster Program Manager, Jeff Stewart, who supported the idea and helped lead the effort. Now here we are, helping our community.”

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” said Ortiz, standing next to Cantu before a backdrop of activity including parents eating lunch, children playing tag and partner agencies offering services. Red Cross volunteers were there distributing food, blankets, water and critical relief supplies like mops, rubber gloves, bleach and personal hygiene kits. Ortiz shared safety tips in Spanish, often kneeling to the height of small children and giving them stuffed animals donated by a partner agency.

Cantu reinforced the program’s recovery education goal. “When these families come back, they need to know how to do it safely. They need to know where to get assistance, how to make their homes livable—what to do.” The Richmond Fire Department ensured all visitors received flyers with helpful contact information as a first step toward that goal.

Reflecting on the relationship between the Richmond Fire Department and the Red Cross, Cantu said “We appreciate the Red Cross all the way around. We work closely with them on fire response and other activities throughout the year. The great thing is we can make a call and know they’ll be there.”

This is a partnership that will support the Richmond community not just during flood cleanup but for a long time to come.