News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 3, 2011

Red Cross shelters offer warm place for families

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — This is not the first time Dorothy Deverick of Terre Haute has needed emergency shelter provided by the Wabash Valley Red Cross.

In 2008, Deverick’s home was destroyed in the June flood. At that time, she and her family lived for several days at Terre Haute North Vigo High School, which had been converted into a Red Cross emergency shelter.

More than two years later, Deverick, her husband, daughter and four grandchildren are once again taking shelter at North Vigo. This time, the Red Cross is offering food and shelter at the high school to people without electricity because of this week’s crippling ice storms. Deverick’s family lost power Tuesday evening, she said.

About 50 people were registered to use the emergency shelter at North Vigo as of 5 p.m. Wednesday. evening, Red Cross officials said.

MCL Cafeteria was donating the evening’s meal and Kroger donated cases of bottled water, volunteers said.

About 25 people utilized the shelter Tuesday night, said Carol Stevens, executive director of the Wabash Valley Red Cross. Another 48 people were housed Tuesday night at two different Red Cross shelters in Sullivan and Chrisman, Ill., where power was also lost due to the storm, she said.

Young children made up a large number of those in the North Vigo shelter Wednesday morning. Several kids were running around the auxiliary gymnasium, which was serving as the shelter facility.

“They are having a ball,” Deverick said, watching her grandchildren, ages 2, 3, 5 and 7, energetically playing with a basketball. One granddaughter is fond of apples and had eaten three provided by the Red Cross, Deverick said. “She said, ‘Grandma, these apples are really good.’ ”

Dozens of cots or exercise mats were spaced around the gym floor, providing temporary beds for the people using the shelter. The lights in the gym were low Wednesday morning as some people were still resting from a difficult night away from home. Vigo County sheriff’s deputies were also present in the shelter for security.

In addition to warm shelter, the Red Cross was providing snacks, a hot meal and emotional support.

“They are concerned about their homes,” said Janice Hawkins, the volunteer shelter coordinator for the Red Cross. Otherwise, the temporary residents “seem to be fine,” she said.

Shelter volunteers planned to show the movie Shrek on Wednesday night. Board games were also available.

Looking ahead to a cold night, the Red Cross opened additional emergency shelters Wednesday in the towns of Little Cincinnati and Scotland in Greene County. A third Greene County shelter was on standby in the town of Midland. Also, the Red Cross opened an emergency shelter Wednesday at the Presbyterian Church in Paris, Ill. The shelter in Chrisman, Ill. was closed Wednesday after power to the community was restored.

In addition to the various overnight shelters, the armory in Brazil is also serving as a “warming shelter,” Red Cross officials said.

This is the first time in more than 20 years that people in this area have needed multiple Wabash Valley shelters in response to an emergency, Stevens said.

Like Deverick, Hawkins also spent time at the North Vigo Red Cross shelter in 2008. At that time, Hawkins was also acting as the volunteer shelter coordinator. A total of about eight Red Cross volunteers were expected to man the North Vigo shelter in shifts Wednesday and Thursday morning. It was not yet clear how long the shelter would need to remain open, Hawkins said.

Families coming to the emergency Red Cross shelters should bring identification, pillows, blankets, medications, a change of clothes, toiletries and toys for any children, Red Cross officials said. Pets are not permitted, they noted.

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or