WRIGHT, Ark. — As needs change for victims of the Arkansas River flood, the American Red Cross has closed the last of its overnight shelters. But the volunteers at one day shelter in Jefferson County believe the need is greater than ever.
The shelter at the Wright-Pastoria Fire Department Station in Wright has seen an increase in visitors.
Mary Morgan counts herself thankful that her house was not affected by flooding. “It’s just devastating, and there’s need everywhere you look,” she said.
Morgan is one of several women who have volunteered to run the shelter, which has been open for more than three weeks.
“Last week, we fed 35 people for lunch a day,” Sarah Oliger stated. “And now, we have asked Red Cross to increase our sandwiches to 60 per day.”
Oliger said more people are stopping by the shelter because the water has receded. With flooding behind them, they have started the arduous process of cleaning their homes.
“A lot of the people, you know, they left, stay somewhere else. And now, they’re back,” Oliger mentioned, “trying to do their FEMA assessment, working with the Red Cross. And those that are going to be able to get back in their homes eventually, they’re trying to get the mud, they’re trying to clean.”
The American Red Cross brings supplies and lunches each day, and the volunteers cook dinner each night. Nobody spends the night in the shelter, but because it has power and running water, it has become an invaluable resource for everyone working on their homes.
“Oh, yeah, they come here,” Oliger stated. “A lot of the people that are not staying here still come. You know, we have a shower house outside, we have a shower in here and they still come in here to shower.”
FEMA agents and volunteers walk the streets of Wright to see how they can assist homeowners. Oliger said she thought the shelter would remain important because of her fear that homeowners would get less assistance than they anticipate.
Morgan said she and the other women have spent each day at the shelter since it opened. “It has been tiring,” she admitted, “but I think we feed off of each other, you know? Kind of to keep us going. But to know that you’re needed. And (Sarah and I) are widows, and so it gives us things to do.”
“I think our biggest thing,” Oliger added, “is we’re not getting to see our grandbabies enough! We miss our babies.”
Workers from the American Red Cross and United Way dropped off food Tuesday morning, just ahead of the lunch-time rush. Morgan said many groups have offered food, money, and supplies, making the volunteers’ job easier, even as it gets bigger. And she said hearing about the struggles of the people who visit allows her to put aside any troubles of her own.
“I realized that I could’ve been in the same place that some of these people are,” she explained. “If the levee had broken, we would be sitting here, too, in need.”
Oliger said the volunteers will try to keep the shelter open as long as they are needed, but they might stop making nightly, home-cooked dinners by this weekend.
The shelter is located on the corner of Clark Thomas Road and Earl Chadick Road in Wright.