Street to street and block to block

Red Cross responds to storm damage, provides food, supplies

Left: T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS Red Cross emergency response vehicles continue to comb the post-storm streets of Marshalltown. Last week, teams inside the ERVs handed residents water, hot food and other supplies. Right: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are taking up a temporary home in Babe Harder Gym at Marshalltown Community College as they help storm victims get on the road to recovery.

It didn’t take long after the 144-mph winds of an EF-3 tornado shook Marshalltown on July 19 for aid organizations and volunteers to come rushing to help — one of the primary agencies has been the American Red Cross.

Response teams were in town almost immediately after the storm. Since then, 75 Red Cross staff members and 218 volunteers from all over the country have been sheltered at the Marshalltown Community College campus — they wake each morning and get started helping those in need in the community.

“So many people are without electricity still, and those are the people who don’t have refrigerators operating,” said Greater Iowa American Red Cross regional communications officer Mark Tauscheck. “We just go street to street and block to block and we pull up and stop and make our announcements, usually if we see groups of people in the street, we’ll pull up and stop and offer them food, water, snacks … and I would say nine times out of 10 they accept something.”

The white and red ERVs, emergency response vehicles, are unmistakable, emblazoned with the red cross symbol on the sides. Tauscheck said emergency response in the city has meant a lot of teamwork among different agencies.

“We coordinate with the Salvation Army, they have routes that they’re doing, so we’re not doubling up,” he said. “The ERV drivers, pretty much the direction is ‘This is your route,’ … it’s up to them to make sure they canvas the area, and they’ll go back a second and third time.”

Hot meals provided by Hy-Vee were served up to those in need last week, as were water and supplies like shovels, rakes, work gloves, tarps, totes, bug spray and more.

“We’re seeing a lot of destruction, but a lot of hope because people are starting to get their power back up, utilities are coming back online,” said Red Cross Regional Mass Care and Logistics Program Manager Kyle Morford of Chicago on Friday. “This is our seventh day of feeding and I think the first day a lot of people in the community were wary about who we were … as we’ve been there everyday, two meals a day, people have started to see us — we’ve built a lot of trust.”

Along with the ERVs hitting the streets, the Red Cross has also set up an emergency shelter at the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, 108 Washington St. The shelter consistently saw 30-40 overnight users last week, Tauscheck said.

The shelter relies on volunteers like Sue Smith of Des Moines, a veteran Red Cross helper.

“I do health service, I do recovery work, I do office work, I do a little bit of everything,” she said. Smith said shelter users have many questions, including “Where am I going to go?” “When am I going to go?” and “When are they going to have the electricity on?”

Many of the shelter users show signs of prolonged stress, and Smith said she often gives Tylenol and ibuprofen to help relieve tension headaches.

“There are a couple of people here who had cuts and scrapes from the tornado, (we) made sure they were bandaged up or saw the doctor,” she said. “We’ve had a couple blood sugar reactions with the diabetics.”

Smith said many users stayed at the shelter for a few nights and then moved on to live with family members or friends. She said getting electricity back city-wide would help reduce the need for the shelter.

Tauscheck said the Red Cross plans to stay in Marshalltown for a while longer and that donations are a good way to help. He said those especially motivated to help with similar disasters can join the organization after going through training.

“I’d say right now we’re still looking at an extended period of time here in Marshalltown,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say as long as we’re needed, we’re going to be here.”

Smith said those in need can seek the organization’s help.

“They can call us for referrals, we can relay them on to other agencies that we know of,” she said.

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or