Red Cross volunteers from Whatcom area working at mudslide shelter

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 24, 2014 

It was a heartbreaking weekend for volunteers from the Mt. Baker chapter of the American Red Cross, as about two dozen local volunteers went to Darrington to provide disaster relief for people affected by a massive mudslide that devastated the area Saturday morning, March 22.

The one-square-mile mudslide swept through the area, destroying about 30 homes and killing at least 14 people as of Monday afternoon. Dozens more remain missing.

About 25 local Red Cross volunteers have been helping to staff an emergency shelter at a community center in Darrington, said Stacy Rice, executive director of the Mt. Baker chapter. Volunteers are feeding and supporting first responders and working at the shelter to provide food, emotional support and help with any medical needs that people have. They're also assessing people's long-term needs because the recovery process is going to take time, Rice said.

"With this magnitude and seriousness, it's heartbreaking," she said. "These are people that are really hurting and have lost so much."

Watching the aftermath of the slide in the close-knit community has been both inspiring and sad for Mavis Dalzell, a local Red Cross external relations coordinator who was working in the Darrington shelter on Sunday. Dalzell has been impressed by the community's generosity in the wake of so much destruction.

People are offering up their homes for those who have been displaced, and are bringing food to the shelter, she said. Some people share stories of how they got out just in time, and wonder if their friends and neighbors were able to do the same.

"We did a lot of listening to the stories of what people had been through," Dalzell said. "A lot of people came in wanting to donate and wanting to help."

Residents have been coming to the shelter to fill out forms to identify missing people, and even kids have filled out forms for missing friends.

"Darrington is a very close community, so it was pretty sad because there were a lot of things that weren't known and a lot of missing people. The community is really rocked by this disaster," Dalzell said. "If one person is lost, the whole town is grieving."

HOW TO HELP

People can donate to the American Red Cross disaster relief fund by calling 800-RED-CROSS or by going online to redcross.org. To donate $10, text redcross to 90999.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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