Monday, December 20, 2010

Why I Volunteer: The Sheltons

Imagine moving to a new city just days before it is struck by one of the biggest natural disasters in our nation’s history.  Travis and Laurie Shelton had been in New Orleans just three weeks when Hurricane Katrina shut the city down in 2005. 

“We went to a baseball game that Friday,” Laurie said.  “Everyone was joking about the next named storm.” 

“The next morning, I went to go get breakfast at McDonalds,” Travis said.  “They were boarding it up, and the Wal-Mart was already closed.  That’s when we decided we better get out of town.”  The newly-married couple packed an overnight bag and drove to Mobile, Alabama, planning to return for work on Monday.  By the time they arrived, the hotels were already full, and gas was sold out.  After finding a similar situation in Montgomery, they decided to continue driving to Georgia to stay with Travis’s family, where they watched the devastation unfold on the news.

“We saw the McDonald’s I was in two days earlier under water, and we just started crying,” Travis said.  When they could finally get back into their house weeks later, the Sheltons found their ceiling collapsed and all of their belongings, even their clothes, moldy and water-logged.  Making things even worse, the Shelton’s had been in their home less than 30 days, so their flood insurance did not cover the damage.

The American Red Cross in Macon, Georgia provided Travis and Laurie with clothing and other basic assistance, while back in New Orleans, the American Red Cross partnered with Tide to offer laundry service, which helped the newlyweds get back on their feet.  “New Orleans was one big volunteer effort,” Laurie said. 

The Sheltons spent four months living with co-workers from Geico in the upper floors of a hotel whose ground floor was gutted out after Katrina.  Work eventually brought the couple to Western New York, and the Shelton’s began volunteering with the Greater Buffalo Chapter’s Disaster Action Team in March of 2010. 

“We’ve always wanted to give something back,” Laurie said.  “We understand what it’s like to lose everything.  Our experience is something clients can identify with.”
“We’ve gone from empathy to sympathy,” Travis added.  “We’ve been in their shoes.”

For more information about volunteering through our Chapter, please contact Mary Walls at 716.878.2140.  To make a donation so that we can continue to help other families like the Sheltons, please visit our website and Holiday Giving Catalog or text GIFT to 90999 to make a $25 donation. 

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