On April 4, 2021 Long-time Red Cross volunteers Dick and Carole Beauchamp were getting ready for a much-needed vacation to Houston, Texas when a senior assisted living center in Flint, Michigan caught fire. After the call came in, the couple did what they always do – they quickly responded to provide assistance to the residents who had been affected. The Genesee County couple have been doing exactly that for more than 20 years. Dick handles logistics and Carole provides mental health counseling to those affected.
“When responding to a disaster, it’s kind of like starting a corporation that is just getting started,” Carole said. “Everyone has a different job. Everyone knows what their job is and it gets up-and-running quickly because we’re trained the same way across the country.”
With the recent Flint fire, the first thing Red Cross volunteers had to do was get those affected away from the scene and locate suitable lodging. In this case, it was a local hotel that had the available capacity. 20 units had been affected by the blaze which also resulted in one fatality.
“This particular hotel served breakfast, so we provided lunch and dinner to each resident’s door, making sure we maintained proper COVID-19 social distancing protocol,” Dick said. “We also assisted with any special needs such as shower stools and medications. The main thing we do is get them focused on tomorrow, not tonight.”
While Dick keeps busy getting fire victims the items they need to stay comfortable, Carole focuses on the mental health of those affected. She conducts one-on-one meetings with those who may be experiencing anxiety or any other mental health issue. Since the pandemic, this process has been very different for Carole.
“It’s been difficult for me because, as a therapist, I usually see eye-to-eye with the person because so much of the communication is done through body language,” she added. “It’s more difficult talking on the phone with them. I can’t even hold their hand to comfort them.”
Volunteers like Dick and Carole are the lifeblood of the American Red Cross successfully completing its humanitarian mission. Both say after the hundreds of fires they’ve responded to, they’ve never met a victim who wasn’t grateful to see the Red Cross during one of the most difficult times of their lives.
“Things like money, clothes and furniture can be replaced,” Dick added. “The one thing you can’t replace is your time. When you assist someone for two or three hours of your time, that’s a very precious thing.”
The Flint senior assisted living center disaster response wrapped-up the day before Dick and Carole were scheduled to fly to Houston to visit their son. All affected residents were able to return to the center and begin some normalcy in their lives. This amazing couple were able to catch their flight and enjoy a well-deserved week-long vacation with family members.