Tom Freitas gets the help he needs and deserves

By Ellis Levinson

Tom FreitasTom Freitas, a senior citizen, and his stepson, Mark Johnson, refer to each other as father and son. Mark said he brought his father to the Sonoma County Red Cross Service Center this morning because “The Red Cross can provide us help.”

Two weeks ago, fire, smoke, and howling wind swept through their Santa Rosa neighborhood. The deadly combination almost took their lives. Tom said he smelled smoke then looked out the window and saw a glowing red sky.

At that moment, a neighbor banged on his door and yelled for Tom and his daughter to get out. “I grabbed my wallet and my keys, and we headed out the door.”

Mark recalled that as his sister ran, her slipper started burning, searing her foot. She left it behind. Alerted to the fire, Mark searched for and found his dad and sister sitting in their car blocks away, near Tom’s business.

While fire totally destroyed their apartment building, it left another building in their complex, just yards away, completely unscathed.

With Tom now living with his son, the father has become understandably depressed at times, not always knowing where to turn to put the pieces back together.

That’s why it was a relief for both to come to the service center, where Mark credited the Red Cross with helping his father turn things around. “Knowing you guys are here is going to be a big help.”

Tom received financial assistance, vouchers for partner organizations and businesses, and a list of agencies that provide further assistance. Tom also received emotional counseling, and a Red Cross nurse verified Tom was up to date on his medications.


 Lori Wilson and Jim Burns provided editorial support for this story.