Two women make a Red Cross connection during North Bay fires

By Mauri Shuler

When Gail Hale was suddenly evacuated from her home this month because of wildfire, she joined hundreds of others at a Red Cross shelter in Santa Rosa. Upon arrival, she found herself still stunned by the fast-moving fires — and the fact that they had resulted in the total loss of her home. “A wonderful woman greeted me, made sure I had a soft blanket, and talked with me; she was great,” Gail recalled.

A little over a week later, Gail walked into the Red Cross Services Center in Santa Rosa and the same Red Cross volunteer was waiting at a desk to help her. Lisa Hurt, a volunteer who flew in from Kentucky, recognized Gail and waved her over.

“It’s breathtaking; it’s amazing,” said Gail, “We have made such a strong connection between us. You hear some stories, but the people in these red vests are from all over the country and they try to provide everything you need; anything they can.”

Gail is not alone in her sentiment, and Lisa Hurt agrees they’ve made a strong connection. For example, she gave Gail her personal phone number in case she ever wants to talk. “We may even get together some day if she travels my way,” Lisa said.

It’s obvious that Lisa enjoys her volunteer work very much. “Through my work with the Red Cross, I really get more out of this than they do.”

As for Gail, she is taking it one day at a time. “I left the shelter to stay with friends,” she says, “and this is the first day I had to get out in the world since the disaster.”

But however challenging her days have been, Gail is grateful for her new friend. “Thank God I walked in here and found her,” she said. Lisa held Gail’s hand while she talked.

Even though she’s lost everything, Gail Hale knows there are people who have it worse than she does. “The light at the end of the tunnel was very dim, very dim,” she said. “But not now. I want to get my life back together so I can volunteer to help others, too.”


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