TH man helps Colorado flood victimsThe September floods in Colorado displaced more than 10,000 residents and will have a $2 billion impact on the economy, according to CNN Money. But Red Cross volunteer Dave Gearou said that what he remembers most from his 12 days in Colorado is the individual stories that came from the small town in which he worked.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
The September floods in Colorado displaced more than 10,000 residents and will have a $2 billion impact on the economy, according to CNN Money.
But Red Cross volunteer Dave Gearou said that what he remembers most from his 12 days in Colorado is the individual stories that came from the small town in which he worked.
“There was more damage than I expected. It was total devastation,” said Gearou, who lives in Two Harbors.
Gearou spent almost two weeks in Milleken, Colo., a town with a population of less than 3,000. Two trailer parks were completely flooded, leaving its residents, many of whom didn’t speak English, without basic necessities. Gearou and other volunteers provided support through a translator. Gearou said in addition to losing their homes, many lost their vehicles and were unable to travel to work.
“It was a real financial hardship for them,” he said.
He said that some may have been undocumented, as well, meaning they won’t be able to receive support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Red Cross, however, provides support to all in need.
“I didn’t care. We’re going to help whether they are documented or not,” Gearou said.
Gearou’s main function was to organize community partners like churches and food banks to provide the most efficient support to victims of the flood. One such organization was the Weld Food Bank. Gearou started working regularly with Glenn Smithey, the driver for the bank. Eventually, he found out that Smithey wasn’t just providing support – he was a flood victim himself.
The Evans, Colo., resident lost his mobile home to the flood the very day he finished paying for it, according to the Greeley Tribune. The next day, Smithey got up and went to work like he had every day for the last nine years, joining Gearou and other agencies to deliver food and other support to flood victims.
“There’s nothing more that I can do right now to make any difference in my life, but I can help others,” Smithey told the Greeley Tribune.
Gearou said he was inspired by the man who had lost so much, but was willing to helping those with less.
Gearou retired from his fulltime job at Honeywell five years ago and moved to Two Harbors. He was a volunteer firefighter in Maple Grove for 22 years and he started volunteering for the Red Cross three years ago.
“I got bored being retired,” he said.
His years of firefighting experience made him an asset to the nonprofit and they’ve already sent him to 11 disaster areas, including Hurricane Sandy and the 2011 floods in Minot, N.D. Every disaster has been different, but Gearou said it’s always fulfilling to help people in the hours immediately following devastation.
“You get a good feeling because after you’re there, they try to get to know you a little bit and know that you’re trying to help them,” he said.
The Red Cross Disaster Relief fund is still supporting flood relief operations in Colorado. Donations can be made at redcross.org, by calling (800) 733-2767 or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to add a $10 donation to your phone bill.