By Ken Rosenauer, American Red Cross
Diana lost everything in Hurricane Harvey – everything but her Yorkshire terrier, Chester.
Chester and his 70-something-year-old owner were among the first residents when the American Red Cross opened a shelter at Ben Garza Park in Corpus Christi on Sept. 3.
Diana was an instant hit among staff and residents, with her spunky attitude in the face of disaster. It didn’t hurt her popularity that Chester was the center of attention among shelter residents, volunteers and visitors; everyone wanted to pet the dog and maybe spend a minute scratching behind his ears.At its height, the shelter housed 150 people displaced by the storm. The operation
At its height, the shelter housed 150 people displaced by the storm. The operation had its share of challenges, until David Welch arrived to take charge.
Known to all as Pastor Dave, Welch had a knack for connecting with shelter residents, many of whom had been homeless even before Hurricane Harvey hit. In true Red Cross fashion, he credits his shelter team.
“This team has done the best job that I have ever seen done,” he said.
The pastor of the Sigourney, Iowa, Christian Church, has his share of experience in Red Cross shelters. He first volunteered after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was assigned as a shelter worker. Soon, the shelter manager asked him to serve as his assistant. After returning home, Welch spent the next seven years volunteering for the Iowa Red Cross. He went to Nebraska for three years, where for nine months he was employed on the Red Cross staff.
Then, it was back to Iowa, where the Sigourney Christian Church called him to be their pastor 18 months ago.
Watched the destruction from Hurricane Harvey and then Hurricane Irma unfold on TV, the pastor knew he had to respond.
“I’m going to do one of my crazy things,” he told his congregation from the pulpit one Sunday. He explained that he was answering his own call to volunteer with the Red Cross. He was nervous even bringing this up, given his relatively short time as pastor there. Yet, the congregation understood.
“We can’t stop you,” they said, and sent him off with their support and prayers.
When he signed up, the volunteer coordinator asked where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do.
“Put me where you want me,” was his answer.
The Red Cross needed him in Corpus Christi, at the shelter at Ben Garza Park. His firm attitude and high expectations have earned him the respect of shelter residents, volunteers and Red Cross leadership.
Pastor Dave admits he may not be the strongest with paperwork; taking care of people is his priority.
His goal is to work himself out of a job, seeing that his shelter residents have either been placed in better housing or have opted to return to the streets where they were living before the storm.
Daily, the resident count grows smaller; Red Cross caseworkers and FEMA personnel are helping them make plans.
Finally, Diana and Chester were ready to leave, heading for a temporary apartment until the intrepid senior citizen could find a more permanent home.
But first, Pastor Dave and the rest of the volunteers had a surprise: a three-wheeled bicycle, complete with a basket to carry Chester. She and her dog have been an inspiration to the shelter staff; they will be the wheels beneath her future.