Lumberton couple helps tornado victims

David and Dickie Henderson

In the aftermath of a tornado outbreak that began Sunday, April 27, and according to media reports spawned at least 21 confirmed tornadoes and caused at least 35 confirmed fatalities across the South and Midwest, American Red Cross has responded by beginning disaster relief efforts in the areas affected by the storms.

More than 200 people spent last Sunday night in shelters in Arkansas that were opened or supported by Red Cross workers, according to the American Red Cross website.

The Red Cross is also providing health and mental health services and Red Cross emergency vehicles to distribute food throughout the affected areas.

Locally, the Beaumont and Orange chapters of Red Cross dispatched volunteers David and Dickie Henderson of Lumberton.

The retired couple has volunteered with Red Cross for the past two years, said Natalie Prosperie, disaster program manager for the Beaumont and Orange chapters of American Red Cross.

“They are very involved with American Red Cross,” Prosperie said. “David Henderson has deployed many times. This will be Dickie’s first time to deploy.”

Prosperie said even though David Henderson has deployed many times in case management and mass care capacities, this will be the first time he or his wife have deployed in an ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle).

According to the nonprofit’s website, the American Red Cross has more than 320 ERVs in 49 states that get help to people in need after disasters big and small, from tornado outbreaks in Arkansas to everyday house fires just down the street. American Red Cross disaster workers like the Hendersons climb into emergency response vehicles and travel to the neighborhoods of those in need — providing food, water and comfort.

David and Dickie left Beaumont early Tuesday morning, April 29, in their ERV headed to Little Rock, Ark., where Red Cross has set up a center of operations to respond in the wake of a storm that produced an outbreak of tornadoes, one of which carved an 80-mile path of destruction through suburbs north of the state capital, according to media reports.

“They are going to be stationed there,” said Cameron Ballantyne, executive director of the Beaumont and Orange chapters of Red Cross. “Ultimately, their role is to do mass feeding and mass supply distribution, so that emergency response vehicles will be filled with breakfast, lunch and dinner … that our partners have cooked for us to deliver. And when it’s safe for people to go back into their neighborhoods and assess their own damages, the Red Cross will be there to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks.”

Each ERV can feed up to 500 people for each meal of the day, Ballantyne said.

Red Cross purchases food from surrounding communities of the disaster area rather than ship in food from Beaumont, so the food will be fresh when it is distributed, he said.

Red Cross also provides cleanup kits to residents returning to their damaged homes.

“It’s a box with a mop, bleach, bucket, gloves — things that people may not have access to, but they need to start cleaning up their homes,” he said.

Ballantyne said the Hendersons would be deployed for a minimum of 10 days. Teams from Houston and Lufkin were also deployed April 29. There are other volunteer teams on standby to deploy if needed.

“The (Hendersons) are leaving their home, their family to help folks in Arkansas,” Ballantyne said. “To be a Red Cross volunteer, you have to have a willingness to help your community. Be a person — or a couple in this case — willing to be on call and have the availability to travel for at least 10 days and be able to help throughout Texas or neighboring states if needed.”

For more information on how to become an American Red Cross volunteer, visit www.redcross.org/support/volunteer.

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