On a Tuesday morning in early May, Rachel Evans of Howard City, was getting her seven children ready for the day. Her four older children were preparing for school as she fed breakfast to the youngest three. Rachel’s friend, Gary, had made a special trip over to help her with the typical morning chaos of a full household.
As the older kids caught the school bus, Rachel took a second to catch her breath before taking her five year old to afternoon kindergarten. She sat with Gary in the kitchen to have her first cup of coffee, listening to the kids playing in the back bedroom.
It was only a few minutes later that Gary asked if Rachel smelled smoke. They raced to the back bedroom only to find their worst fears confirmed, smoke rolling out the doorway, the dangerous glow flickering farther in to the room.
“From there it was just sheer panic,” said Rachel, “we grabbed the kids… they were all right, thank God. Then we just got out.” Gary called 9-1-1 from the front lawn and fire trucks raced to the scene.
The battalion chief on-scene recommended that Rachel contact the Red Cross and placed the call for her. Volunteers on the Disaster Action Team immediately grabbed their supplies and headed to the scene, where they met with Rachel, her two sons, and Gary on the front lawn.
“We saw them arrive and they came over to us. First thing they said was, ‘we’re here to help’ and they wrapped blankets around Jacob and Caleb. That’s when Rachel started to cry, but they were tears of relief.”
“We didn’t have any insurance, we just couldn’t afford it. I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Rachel said, “my mind just kept spinning.”
In less than an hour, the Red Cross had arranged a hotel room for the family and provided them with a debit card with money for food and clothes.
“I think the best thing Rachel got was advice.” Gary pointed out, “None of us knew what to do next. The Red Cross walked us through what we should be focused on and helped us start planning.”
This story is not unique. Every year, the Red Cross serves hundreds of families in West Michigan who find themselves in this same position, standing on their front lawns, staring at the place they used to call home, wondering how they can start picking up the pieces. The Red Cross is ready at a moment’s notice to step in and provide information, help, and resources, but most of all; the Red Cross provides encouragement and hope.