By LORI FAYBIK
---- — OTTUMWA – Julie Smithart spent over two weeks this fall helping flood victims in Loveland, Colo.
Smithart was one of 21 Iowa Red Cross disaster workers deployed to Colorado to help victims of the devastating flood there.
As an AmeriCorps volunteer with the National Preparedness and Response Corps (NPRC), Smithart has been assigned to the Red Cross in Ottumwa. She is trained in disaster preparedness, damage assessment, sheltering, logistics and more.
To assist those in need in Colorado, she did client case work, assessing the needs of flood victims and directing them to find needed items such as food and housing.
She saw quite a few people who had been airlifted from the Estes Park area into Loveland after floods wiped out roads into the area.
“They had no idea if their houses were still standing. There were a lot of issues with just not knowing. They had no idea if they had a house to go back to,” Smithart said.
A news release by the Red Cross stated, “More than 850 Red Crossers are deployed to the region where they have served more than 33,000 meals, handed out more than 46,000 relief items and provided as many as 4,700 health and mental health services.”
Many victims stayed in temporary shelters for up to two weeks, before FEMA stepped in and provided temporary housing, Smithart explained.
Locally, Smithart helps residents prepare for emergencies in this area. Parts of Highway 34 that go through Ottumwa and extend past the flooded area have been demolished by recent floods and may take up to two years to repair.
Recently she has led several fire prevention and safety talks at local schools, she will be at Liberty Elementary Oct. 28 to discuss earthquakes, and she leads presentations on other disasters such as tornadoes, floods and winter storms throughout the year at variety of venues.
Anyone wishing to volunteer with the Red Cross or make donations can do so by visiting www.redcross.org/ia, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or simply stopping by the local office.
“The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers,” Smithart said.