Stories: His house destroyed by fire, John was unsure of where to turn, or how he and his wife would find shelter

After a devastating house fire, John and his wife had to rebuild. Their situation could have ended in tragedy and homelessness but the American Red Cross (one of United Way's network partner agencies) helped make a difference.

(Note: This story comes courtesy of Kim Cribb with the American Red Cross. Names and images are changed to protect privacy.)

The fire started in the kitchen, but the severe flame and smoke damage impacted every room in John’s home.

“Since I had never experienced a disaster of any kind, I had no idea what to do or what to expect,” John said.

All John really knew was that his home had been ruined, parts of it gone except for the ashes left behind. Remnants of his belongings were chaotically strewn about the front lawn – a reflection of the thoughts in his mind about what to do next  and finding a place where he and his wife could live.

“At the time I had no money, no renter’s insurance and no idea of what to do next,” he added. “Then someone mentioned that I should call the American Red Cross.”

When John called the United Way partner agency, he was connected with an after-hours volunteer who listened to his story and helped explain to him what to expect next. A short time later, an agency volunteer drove to John’s home to assess the situation.

Your Support Impacts Lives“He made sure my wife and I had food and shelter for the night and provided instructions on how to contact the agency the next morning for additional assistance,” John said. “The volunteer was so kind and empathetic, helping me understand that the fire was an accident and that we were truly blessed because no one was injured.”

John and his wife met with staff members the following morning at the shelter. John admitted he felt some embarrassment for being in a situation where he had to ask for food and shelter, even for a short period of time.

“I realize now that I didn’t have a clue about the magnitude of our needs,” John said. “I had never been in a house fire before, and I didn’t know what to do when I was displaced.”

John and his wife were without their home for two months while damages were repaired. During that waiting period, John says it was only by the grace of God and encouragement and kindness of people at the agency that prevented him from giving in to despair.

“There are not enough words to tell everyone how much of an impact the American Red Cross had on my life during our time of need. I just want to convey our gratitude,” he added.

Your support of United Way throughout the year helps ensure that organizations like the American Red Cross are ready and able to help when an unexpected disaster takes place. Thank you for your gifts to our network of organizations that make a difference in times of need.

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