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by Kathleen Maclay, volunteer contributer, American Red Cross

The Red Cross is intensifying its efforts to make sure residents affected by the Valley Fire nearly a month ago get a solid and secure footing on their road to recovery.

Some 1,000 cases have been opened on behalf of individuals in the Lake County region by Sunday, said Martin “Rusty” Brown, the Red Cross’s client services lead for the Valley Fire.

“Our big push has been to reach clients and get them into the system, so we can help them get the help they need for recovery at each and every stage,” said Brown, for whom the Valley Fire is his 14th disaster deployment over the past four years.

The Red Cross shelter in Middletown transitioned to standby on Sunday, October 4th after answering the immediate needs of residents in the region for shelter, food and clothing  in the aftermath of the deadly fire that ignited on Sept. 12.

“Even though some of that part of the emergency response goes away, we don’t go away,” said Brown, who deployed from Winterhaven, Fla., where he belongs to the Red Cross Mid-Florida Chapter. “We will always have a presence.”

Ongoing support will include feeding, clean-up supplies, physical and mental health support and the Red Cross can open new shelters should the need arise.

And via its long-term recovery efforts, Red Cross caseworkers provide guidance and monitoring for residents trying to navigate an often daunting and frustrating assemblage of entities necessary to resolve housing, transportation, environmental, utility service or medical issues now, said Brown.

“We’re the Global Positioning System (GPS),” Brown said. “We’re not driving the car. We’re not building the road. We’re the voice on your GPS and sometimes when we need to get you back on the right path, you might hear us saying, ‘Recalculating.’”

Anyone in need of assistance can call the Red Cross 24-hour hotline at 855-224-2490.

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