Red Cross shelter open in DowagiacPublished 8:00am Wednesday, November 20, 2013
While much of the city has recovered from the tumultuous winds and rain that swept through the region Sunday, a number of Dowagiac residents continue to deal with power outages that have left them without electricity or heat.
However, the volunteers with the American Red Cross have arrived to provide a safe haven for local families whose homes remain off the grid. The service organization has set up an emergency shelter inside of the local National Guard barracks, located at 700 West Prairie Ronde St., providing cots, food and showers for locals who have no where else to turn.
“The Guards have been phenomenal,” said Red Cross employee Jim Jervue. “They opened up their doors to us and they’ve been helping out non-stop ever since.”
Besides offering the use facilities, the guardsmen stationed at the post lent a hand to the residents stopping in at the location. They even provided a projector to keep children entertained, showing off DVDs of cartoons like “Scooby-Doo,” which were provided by the local library.
American Electric Power also donated to the relief shelter, providing bottled water and towels to the beleaguered individuals and families making use of the facility. A number of local volunteers from the community have also provided support as well, backing up the Red Cross and National Guard members however they could.
A number of different individuals and families have come and gone from the shelter throughout the day. Some have only stayed to warm up for a few hours with a cup of hot coffee. Others, though, plan to spend as many nights as possible at the shelter, until power is restored to their homes.
One Dowagiac resident staying at the shelter is Francis Galvan. She and her three children have stayed at the shelter since Tuesday afternoon, though their apartment at the Eagle’s Wood complex has been without power since 3 p.m. on Sunday, she said.
“We couldn’t take the cold anymore,” Galvan said. “If I couldn’t take it, I couldn’t imagine how my kids were taking it.”
Galvan was told of the Red Cross shelter by her daughter, Justine Chavez, who has also been staying at the shelter with her own three children.
“We’ve been in the cold, with no light, no electricity,” Galvan said. “All our food that has been in the fridge and freezer has gone bad by now.”
Before arriving at the shelter, Galvan said she and her daughter have drove around the neighborhood in their vehicles to stay warm, and have cooked all their meals on a charcoal grill instead of their electric powered stove and microwave. While they had the option of staying with family in Hartford, both have opted to use the local shelter instead, as some of their children attend school in Dowagiac, including two at Patrick Hamilton elementary located within walking distance of the shelter.
Both Galvan and Chavez said they will likely stay at the shelter for as long the power outage lasts at their homes.
“We plan on spending as long as we can here,” Galvan said. “Especially for our kids’ sake.”
Officials with the Red Cross said that they tentatively plan to close the shelter on Friday, though they may keep the doors open for even longer, depending on the number of outages and usage from citizens.