Melissa and Curtis Fowler begin the registration process for emergency lodging in Beaumont, Texas. Photo Credit: Juanita P. Casanova, Red Cross volunteer

“My mother is on oxygen; I think she could use a visit.”

Richard McCorry, a Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care volunteer from Western New York, was in the lobby of the Sheraton in Arlington, Texas, when one of the Hurricane Laura evacuees sheltering there approached him with that request. When McCorry and his partner made their way to the woman’s room, they met an 89-year-old woman who was forced to evacuate when Laura devastated her hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“Three months earlier, she was diagnosed with COVID,” McCorry said. “She developed blood clots in her lungs and is now permanently on oxygen.”

The Red Cross is taking multiple safety precautions to continue to provide help and hope when disasters such as Hurricane Laura strike during a public health crisis, including; prioritizing individual hotel rooms or opening more shelters that can support fewer people than normal to help with social distancing, wearing masks, and using enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices.

More than two weeks after Hurricane Laura made landfall, more than 7,000 people in Texas are still staying in emergency lodging through state and Red Cross supported shelters and hotels, with more than double that number in Louisiana.

The Red Cross has served more than 47,000 meals and snacks with partners across Texas. While not nearly as visible, Health Services, Disaster Mental Health, and Disaster Spiritual Care volunteers like McCorry have made more than, 4,800 individual care contacts to help people like this 89-year-old woman from Lake Charles deal with the emotional toll a disaster like this can inflict.

“Her husband left her this year, too,” McCorry learned. “We asked what we could do for her. On the verge of tears, she said, ‘Pray for me.’ And we did.”

“I’ve found that one of the gifts of volunteering is perspective,” says McCorry, who has deployed on multiple disaster relief operations during his volunteer career. “If I think I’m having a bad day, I think of her. I haven’t had a bad day in my life. I continue to pray for her.”

Red Cross volunteers often report that they get more from their experience than the people they’re serving. Right now, the Red Cross needs volunteers to help in our community and that are willing to deploy to support national relief operations in the COVID-19 environment. To learn more about how you can start receiving some of the “gifts” Richard describes while helping your neighbors in need, visit

Story by: Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross contributor