By Laurelle Walsh
The Methow Valley’s Red Cross shelter, located at the Winthrop Barn, is providing a place to sleep, hot meals, bottled water, cell phone charging, and information to anyone who comes in. The shelter is staffed 24 hours a day and has electricity and running water.
Currently the shelter is housing two individuals who rely on oxygen for medical conditions. A third person, Shannon Aikins, has set up a tent in Mack Lloyd Park and comes into the shelter for meals and to use the facilities, according to Red Cross Shelter Manager Fran Adams of Olympia.
Other displaced people are staying with friends and family members in tents and RVs, Adams said. Several people were sleeping in their cars behind the Barn before the shelter opened on Friday (July 18), she said.
Three hot meals a day are being prepared and served from the Barn’s kitchen. Breakfast is served from 8:30 – 10 a.m.; lunch is from 12:30 – 2 p.m.; and dinner is served from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Community volunteer Suekii Cornwall of Winthrop Teepee Dinners is the shelter’s volunteer cook at breakfast and dinner, assisted by other local volunteers.
Volunteers from Room One are preparing lunches each day. Snacks and water are available 24 hours a day. Over 300 people were assisted in the Barn on Sunday (July 20), according to Adams. The same day another 428 were served from the area’s Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), which drove to locations in Twisp and Carlton to distribute sandwiches and water.
The volunteer-staffed ERV will continue distributing hot meals, snack bags and water daily at the Local Church in Carlton at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and at the senior center in Twisp at noon and 5 p.m., according to Red Cross volunteer Rebecca Thompson, a 2010 Liberty Bell High School graduate who is acting as the local liaison to help orient out-of-town volunteers.
Besides cases of bottled water, the Red Cross is providing dust masks for the smoky conditions, sanitizing wipes, and toiletries to anyone who needs it. The biggest unmet needs at this time are shower and laundry facilities, Adams said.
“One of our biggest challenges is how self-sufficient people in this community are,” said Adams. “People don’t want to ask for help.”
“It’s not a government handout,” said Red Cross volunteer Sandy Hancock from Ohio. “This assistance is coming from volunteers like us from around the nation.”
“We’re just like the people here,” said Red Cross volunteer Harriet Halkyard, who flew in yesterday from Texas. Both Hancock and Halkyard were mobilized to assist at the Winthrop shelter when the Carlton Complex Fire was raised to the level of a Type 1 national incident.
Thompson said she was impressed by the outpouring of assistance and donations that have come from within the Methow Valley community and from around the state.
“Through word of mouth people find out one of our needs and bring it by,” Thompson said, as a truckload of donated bottled water was being unloaded in the parking lot.
“Yesterday, Christina Rawley of Wolf Ridge Resort came by to tell us she is opening up the rentals there for displaced people with pets,” Thompson said. Shortly before that, “a guy came up from Chelan with a generator wanting to give it away,” said Thompson, who sent the generator to Wolf Ridge with Rawley.
A truckload of canned goods, dog food and bottled water that had been donated from the community of Sumner, Washington, was distributed in the Barn parking lot yesterday, Thompson said.
“We have had spontaneous community volunteers show up to sweep the floors, wash dishes and help out with meal preparation,” Adams said. “This is such a giving community.”
Adams, who has managed shelters around the nation in the aftermath of hurricanes, floods and tornados, added that the Barn “is the best location I’ve ever been in.”
Two other area shelters are set up at Brewster and Chelan high schools. A shelter that had been set up in Pateros on Thursday (July 17) was closed later that night and clients were evacuated to Chelan as the firestorm raged through Pateros.
The Methow Valley’s original shelter at the Twisp Valley Grange was also closed on Thursday night when a Level 2 evacuation order was issued for Twisp. The shelter at the Barn was opened the next day, according to Adams.
Although there is no official telephone number for the Red Cross shelter in Winthrop, Adams said, people may call the Barn at 996-2117.