Unexpected Relief, A Katrina Story

By Maureen Gargiulo, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross

It all started about two weeks into “Katrina”, my service with the Red Cross, I mean. My husband, Ray, and I decided we wanted to do something to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but we weren’t sure what we could do. Not knowing how to get started, we went to an outside volunteer agency which set us up with the Red Cross.

Ray and I both worked during the week, but we would come down on weekends and volunteer Friday through Sunday doing different jobs, whatever was needed, really. As we were nearing the shelters closing, residents began to get worried. We had been working to place them or help them find places to live, but it wasn’t always easy.

Near the last day of Reunion Arena being an open shelter, the mayor of Dallas decided she wanted to march the people out of the building and around the streets of Dallas, as a sort of “march out of the disaster”. Unfortunately, we still weren’t sure that EVERYONE had a place to go once the shelter closed, so we were hesitant about what to do and how to help the ones still struggling to find somewhere to go.

I came across a couple, a husband and wife, who had three little girls with them. They were all dressed so nicely, the girls looked beautiful and clean, and like they were ready to go but I could tell something was wrong. After talking to the husband, he informed me that they couldn’t get an apartment and didn’t know where to turn.

I was still green and fairly new, so not knowing what the process was, I marched the family up to a caseworker and asked what needed to be done to get these people a home. After a while, the caseworker dug through his papers and realized that the husband’s information had been mixed up. It took some work, but we were able to help these people find a place to live!

That experience showed me that the Red Cross is about helping people. Even now, if I’m not sure what I’m doing, I know I can turn to someone here who will have the answer. And that’s why I’ve stayed here, with the Red Cross, helping people for 10 years.

Maureen Gargiulo began her Red Cross service doing many jobs, but mostly canteening and helping feed victims of Hurricane Katrina. 10 years later, she is still a volunteer and is the lead of feeding for the North Texas Region.

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