Thursday, July 14, 2016

"We will always remember the help the American Red Cross gave us"

On Saturday, June 11, at approximately three in the morning, Debra Howard was awakened by ominous crackling noises. As she peered outside her window, she saw her neighbor’s home ablaze. In seconds, the fire quickly spread to the Howard's home. With a dose of adrenaline, Debra and her husband, James Howard, ran out of their mobile home on Carefree Lane. Unfortunately, by the time the Cheektowaga Fire Department arrived, their belongings were consumed by the burning flames.

Debra, a scrapbook-enthusiast, relied on her creations to reflect on wonderful memories she shared with her loved ones. In the fire, Debra’s scrapbook collection turned into ashes, which included pictures from her wedding, vacations, and much more. With the exception of a few items, their home and memorabilia could not be recovered. Thankfully, the Howards were cared for by compassionate neighbors and the American Red Cross.

“We were working with nothing, but the American Red Cross was here to help along the way,” Debra said. Red Cross Disaster Services volunteers Betsy Crocker and Bill Miles assisted the family to find recovery and peace during their hardship by providing a hotel for the couple to stay in, as well as funding for food and clothing.

The Howards faced an incredible loss. Nevertheless, they felt it was their duty to return the favor to the Red Cross. To do so, Debra and James Howard wrote a sincere thank you card to the Red Cross enclosed with a check “to assist other Western New Yorkers in need of disaster assistance.” The severity of home fires can be devastating; therefore, the Howards felt responsible to help others who may have to undergo the tragedies of home fires.

Debra reiterated the importance of fire safety, especially in a community where the houses are close together. Home fires can be avoided by being aware of the proper safety precautions. A main cause of deaths and injuries due to home fires is lack of smoke detectors. Thus, as part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross offers free smoke alarms to ensure community safety. To schedule a free smoke alarm installation, please email or call 716-878-2353.

“We will always remember the help the American Red Cross gave us,” the thank you card reads. During a house fire, the Red Cross provides a number of services to ensure that people are safe, protected, and are on the road to recovery. If you are interest in being a part of the recovery process for those affected by a disaster, apply online to become a volunteer at

-Grace Carnall, Communications Intern
American Red Cross, WNY Chapter