Heroes' Café hears from Carol Janssens and Faith about volunteering with Red Cross to aid Hurricane Ian victims

Monday, March 20, 2023

Service dog Faith wearing her 
Heroes' Cafe badge
Photo by Doug Cerretti
By Doug Cerretti

Carol Janssens and her four-legged friend, Faith, are volunteers for the American Red Cross Northwest Region. 

Faith, a Labrador, is trained as a support and therapy dog. They have two areas of expertise. The first is the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program which supports military personnel, veterans, and families including monthly visits to Heroes Café in Shoreline and Heroes Café in Lynnwood. 

Their second function is disaster relief: sheltering and reunification of families after fires and natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. 

Damage around Ft. Myers
Photo courtesy of Carol Janssens
At Heroes Café Shoreline last Tuesday, March 14, 2023 Carol told attendees about their deployment to Florida after Hurricane Ian last fall. 

Hurricane Ian was the third-costliest weather disaster on record and the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida. 

The American Red Cross Northwest Region deployed 27 volunteers including Carol and Faith. 

After landing in Orlando, the team rented cars and drove to Ft. Myers near the center of destruction and joined FEMA in disaster relief.

Carol Janssens and Faith
Photo by Doug Cerretti
The destruction was widespread with 1000s of families in need. Carol served as the Reunification Manager directing 19 team members to help in the reunification of families. 

With power outages and cell towers destroyed communication was impossible except for the phone service Carol’s team had which allowed families to communicate with each other i.e., to let their families know they were safe. 

They also made wellness visits, arranged for doctor visits if needed and acquired needed medicines. 

Carol and Faith stayed in one of three FEMA tents which housed 2000 people. Fortunately, the tents were air conditioned as the temperatures in the Ft. Myers area rose to 90 degrees.

The dining tent fed 2000 aid workers
A fourth tent served as a dining hall and specialized trailers were on site that provided bathrooms with flush toilets (much better than Honey Buckets), showers and laundromats. 

After 2 ½ weeks Carol and her team moved to a hotel once their power was restored. 

Volunteers were given debit cards and encouraged to visit restaurants and stores to help the local economy. Carol and Faith returned home after 4 ½ weeks.

Legion member Fred Cornelius, Jr shared a
photo of his home near Ft. Myers
At the end of Carol’s talk, Shoreline’s American Legion Post 227 member Fred Cornelius, Jr. related that his house and car in North Port, 20 miles from Fr Myers was severely damaged. 

Only now, 6 months after the hurricane was Fred able to get a new roof and is now able to repair the extensive water damage to the interior. 

Mold fills the interior of Fred's home,
a result of 19 inches of rain and no roof.
Photo courtesy Fred Cornelius, Jr.
That happens when you get 19 inches of rain with no roof. Fred said it will take a long time for he and others to recover as there is a scarcity of most everything: contractors, building materials, gasoline and groceries. 

Food trucks make daily visits to his community. Power has not been restored in many areas and several roads are still impassible. Carol said that it will take years for things to get back to normal and for some, it may never get back to normal.

It will take years for Ft. Myers to get back to normal
It should be noted that the vast majority of American Red Cross people like Carol are volunteers. They are not paid except for expenses, whether helping families find housing after a local apartment building fire or traveling 3300 miles to Florida to aid hurricane victims. What a wonderful group of dedicated people!

To help the American Red Cross mission please donate money or, just as important, donate blood as there is a critical shortage. 


The Starr Sutherland, Jr Post 227 of The American Legion, 14521 17th Ave NE, Shoreline, WA 98155, is sponsoring a blood drive from 1 pm to 6 pm Friday, March 24, 2023. You can make your reservations for the Blood Drive using the "Shoreline" sponsor code at www.redcrossblood.org.

Heroes' Cafe Shoreline meets the second Tuesday of every month from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the Seattle Scottish Rite Center, 1207 N 152nd St, Shoreline, WA 98133. Veterans, Family, Friends and the Community are welcome.


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