Shelter from the Storm

“You feel good. You’re glad to do something.”

John Sternberg
John Sternberg of Kentucky helps serve meals to storm evacuees

Volunteer John Sternberg flew to California from Kentucky to help with the Red Cross response to the powerful storms and flooding. John joined other Red Crossers to help set up a shelter at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. He also welcomed new shelter clients and got them settled in with a cot and a blanket.

“We’ve met everybody in the shelter here. I’ve talked with them and dealt with them.” Volunteers are available to listen to evacuees’ experiences and help them begin to recover and process the experience they went through.

Volunteer Andy Witthohn of Santa Rosa also is working in the shelter. He and his wife Betsy first volunteered with the Red Cross in 2017 when the devastating Tubbs fire swept through Sonoma County.

“There was a disaster headquarters and we walked in and said ‘what can we do?’”

Andy sorted clothing, drove supply trucks and distributed food and cleanup kits to fire-ravaged neighborhoods.

“It was very tough. Friends of mine lost their homes. It was very difficult.”

Now during the California floods, Betsy is working at Disaster Headquarters while Andy is in the Santa Rosa shelter, serving up food with a smile and friendly conversation. The people staying in the shelter say they are thankful for people like John and Andy.

“Amazing. I’m very grateful,” says Erick Langbehn. “I just needed someplace to get out of the rain for a little bit. I can’t sleep in my car. It’s a Challenger so that’d be a little hard he says, laughing. “If this wasn’t here, then I don’t know what I’d do.”

Wajeeda Curtiss of Guerneville is staying in the shelter with her teenaged son. Her apartment building sits safely above the Russian River, but they lost power days ago. “We stayed in a hotel a couple of nights but I didn’t want to use up my money for a hotel, so I decided to just come here.”

Wajeeda says she has been homeless in the past, and that she is grateful for this temporary home with the Red Cross. “Just be thankful for what you do have. The food here’s good. I can’t complain. I like that they always have water and snacks, something available.”

Everyone is welcome to take refuge inside the Red Cross shelters, as the storms continue to pound the region.

To find a shelter, or to learn how you can help those hit hard by the rain and floods, visit redcross.org, or call 1-800-REDCROSS.