Veterans impacted by Mendocino Complex Discover Resources at Red Cross Shelter
By Susanne Lafaver, Red Cross volunteer
When Lakeport residents Dean and Patricia Ebbeson evacuated to a Red Cross shelter after fleeing the Mendocino Complex Fire, they found safety and comfort amid an almost celebratory atmosphere, and also came across valuable new military veteran benefits.
“We knew the Red Cross would come through for us,” the Ebbesons said. But not only did volunteers bend over backward to meet our needs, but we got a pamphlet on veteran resources.”
That led them to Douglas Bratholt of Veteran’s Affairs, a social worker who helps rural vets get housing. During crises, Bratholt works alongside the Red Cross to connect with evacuated veterans. The San Francisco VA then checks with individuals and follows up with $50 gift cards as well as enrollment forms for VA health care and non-service related pensions.
“Getting these benefits can be life changing for vets,” Bratholt said. “For example, a $50 gift card can mean gas to drive to safety during a crisis and get to a Red Cross shelter. We work to get homeless vets transitional housing using Section 8 Housing and Urban Development (HUD) vouchers.”
As of August 3, Bratholt contacted 30 vets due to the Mendocino Complex Fire. He and VA outreach coordinator Robert Fisher of Rohnert Park are focusing on supporting veterans in Red Cross shelters.
“I loved my military service, but now I feel appreciated and grateful to be remembered,” said Patricia Ebbeson, a Navy aviation storekeeper for a squadron in Washington from 1972 to 1975. Her husband served in aviation ordinance loading and unloading planes from 1964 to 1974.
“The Red Cross really took care of us,” Ebbeson said.
Besides cots, blankets, and toiletries, AT&T and Apria were onsite with oxygen tanks, phones and wifi. The Red Cross supplied baby diapers, activities for kids, and ear plugs for weary adults. A shower trailer was provided, as were extra blankets on cool nights.
Staying at the Red Cross shelter was a real gift to the Ebbesons. “This has been like the world’s biggest slumber party, and I loved it,” said a beaming Patricia Ebbeson as she and her husband prepared to return home.