By Connie Black/American Red Cross of Alaska
We want to thank our amazing team of Mat-Su Red Cross volunteers for springing into action one month ago today to provide assistance to local residents that were impacted by the Willow Creek ice jam and flooding disaster just before midnight on December 21, 2019. We were honored to help the community and to support the first responders on scene, including the Mat-Su Borough, Mat-Su Emergency Services, Willow and Caswell Fire Departments and the Mat-Su Water Rescue Team.
As Willow resident, Red Cross volunteer nurse and Willow CERT member Brenda McCain said, “I was very impressed that so many Red Cross volunteers could be called up to Willow to open a shelter at midnight in December!”
Within one hour of activation, our Red Cross volunteers had opened an evacuation and warming shelter at the Willow Community Center. Over the course of two weeks, over 20 Red Cross volunteers located throughout the Mat-Su Valley helped staff the community center – which was used as a hub to provide a safe place to warm up, relax and recover for affected residents and first responders alike.
“I feel that I can speak for the community in saying that the presence of the Red Cross and the safety net that was provided was truly necessary and appreciated,” McCain said.
From December 21-30, Red Cross volunteers also served more than 485 meals and snacks like sandwiches and hot soup both to those affected by this disaster, and to responders like the Mat-Su Water Rescue Team and local fire fighters as they rested and regrouped following many hours spent looking after those affected and delivering supplies to those that needed them, often under very difficult circumstances.
“The image of the dozen red-faced [water rescue] team members sitting on the floor of the [community center] hallway with their brightly-colored dry suits still wet up to their thighs, stays with me,” McCain said.
After working in temperatures that reached 15 degrees below zero and walking through knee-deep (or higher) water with ice chunks flowing with the current, all were exhausted and appreciative that the center was open, staffed, and providing hot food and drinks, for everyone.
“It was wonderful to get to know many of the team better,” McCain said. “I feel honored to be associated with the Red Cross and this great group of Mat-Su Valley volunteers.”
Thank you to our Red Cross of Alaska Mat-Su team for a job well done! We’re proud of you!