By Duchess Adjei, American Red Cross
The landscape in the wake of a disaster is a minefield of confusion, anxiety and frustration.
Katy, Texas resident Kimberly Clayborn found that out in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. But she also found family hospitality, as well as the compassion of strangers in the form of the American Red Cross.
Weeks after the disaster, she can breathe a sigh of relief and reflect: “Every door I knocked on was closed, but it was the Red Cross’ that was open. We can now rebuild.”
In the immediate aftermath of Harvey, Clayborn and her family took refuge with family members in Lake Charles, La. “My entire subdivision was underwater and we were unable to access our property,” Clayborn said.
A week after the storm, the Clayborns were allowed back into their home. The destruction was breathtaking. “Ripped papers and photos, saturated furniture, broken glass and wood – our beautiful home was decimated.
“In the beginning, I didn’t believe I needed any immediate assistance due to our insurance. With our car and home destroyed, I quickly realized that our everyday needs like food and clothing were items we needed now.”
The Clayborns tried to apply for emergency assistance with a variety of agencies, but were denied time after time and rerouted to the Red Cross.
The reality of their loss took the Clayborns to their lowest point: All of their personal items were gone, 17 years of memories erased. “I was adopted and all my adoption papers and photos were destroyed,” Kimberly explained. “I lost my adoptive parents nine and 18 years ago, so this truly took a toll. We’ve all seen these horrific events take shape as you watch television and listen to the radio, but this was like nothing we’ve ever seen.”
With tears in her eyes, Kimberly recalled her first encounter with the Red Cross in the person of a disaster worker named Marytha.
A Red Crosser for more than a decade, Marytha understood what Kimberly needed. “She took her time with me, was incredibly patient and listened to my story. She let me cry and explain my frustration,” Kimberly said.
“Marytha took out paper, and even though the Red Cross was not set up for assistance, she didn’t pass me by to another organization. She captured my information and said she would let me know when a (cash assistance) plan was finalized.
“Shortly after, Marytha called me by phone to walk me through the entire Red Cross’ Immediate Assistance Program. The $400 that was available to my family was immeasurable. Every door I knocked on was closed, but it was the Red Cross’ that was open. We can now rebuild.”