A few winters ago, a family in Leelanau County woke one night to a fire in their chimney while an ice storm raged outside. It spread so quickly that they escaped with their lives—and not much else. But as the fire department was dispatched, someone else was on their way to the family too: American Red Cross volunteers.
Strangers in the night, so to speak, they arrived and offered the family a warm place to process what had just happened, immediate financial assistance to buy what they needed to get through the next few days and comfort.
“A year later, a letter arrived from the family. They had rebuilt their home and moved forward,” says Cathy Anthofer-Fialon, executive director of the American Red Cross Northern Michigan Chapter. “They were amazed that Red Cross volunteers had come out on icy roads in the middle of the night to support them. But that’s what we do!”
Home fires are the most common disaster in Northern Michigan, according to Anthofer-Fialon, and volunteers like those in Leelanau County make up 80 percent of the American Red Cross workforce.
Donations fund many of their support items: $30 provides a four-person family with a comfort kit and blankets after a fire, $15 provides a smoke alarm installation and $100 provides “clean-up” kits for five families after a flood.
“We were there when the straight-line winds blew through Glen Arbor in 2015,” Anthofer-Fialon says. “Red Cross provided clean-up kits and tarps to families to begin the recovery process.”
Visit redcross.org to learn more.