Red Cross sets up shelter for Ike victims at state fairgrounds

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A Red Cross volunteer helps a disabled woman with her lunch. The Red Cross of Greater Columbus set up a shelter at the Ohio State Fairgrounds for people needing a place to stay, shower and eat.(Photo: Mandie Trimble)
A Red Cross volunteer helps a disabled woman with her lunch. The Red Cross of Greater Columbus set up a shelter at the Ohio State Fairgrounds for people needing a place to stay, shower and eat.(Photo: Mandie Trimble)

For Central Ohioans still without power, it’s been about 48 hours since they last had electricity. That means perishable foods like meats, milk and cheese are no longer fit to eat. To help people in need of a good meal and a hot shower, the American Red Cross of Greater Columbus has a shelter at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

It’s close to lunch time and about 17 people are carrying plates of turkey sandwiches and bags of chips. Remnants of Hurricane Ike have effected everyone – in the lunch line are young children and teens. There’s a woman with a walking cane. A young mother has an infant in a car seat.

Natalie Young, the lady with the infant, has four other children. They live near the Ohio State campus, and like many others, lost power around 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon. She says the food in her refrigerator is “toast” so they came to the Rhodes Center to get some something to eat – and to get her kids out of the house.

“It hasn’t been too bad. They survived good yesterday, obviously, schools are closed. Today they’re a little more bored than yesterday. Yesterday was a more fun helping pick up branches, cut them up for the fire pit. Today’s kind of like, OK, it’s the second day what do we do now? But it hasn’t been bad. They have been very good troopers through it,” Young said.

The cafeteria in the Rhodes Center looks much like one in a school. Dozens are tables are lined up in rows. Several tables over from Young and her children sit Hazel Davis and Kenneth Brewer II.

“It’s hard. I got three kids at home and it’s hard to find them something to eat when we can’t cook,” Davis said.

Brewer, who appears to be a jolly kind of guy, kept a light-hearted disposition despite the severity of the circumstances.

“Well it’s been very hard because you know the power went out on Sunday and I missed the afternoon games of the football on Sunday. So it was kind of hard for me. On a real note though, it’s been very difficult because you can’t cook. You gotta light a candle and then when you want to go out for fast food most of the restaurants’ power is out. So it’s pretty hard,” Brewer said.

Brewer said he and Davis plan to stay at the shelter tonight but will take their children to their grandmother’s house.

Cindy King is the Shelter Manager for Red Cross of Greater Columbus. King said they’ll provide blankets and sheets for people who stay over night and towels and other toiletries for hot showers.

“We had folks stay over last night and expect more tonight,” King said.

Red Cross of Greater Columbus CEO Mike Carroll said the numbers have been low – only nine people stayed last night. And he thinks that’s because people are helping each other out. He said, though, that the Red Cross will feed anyone who comes to the shelter.

“If they have a place to stay but are hungry and can’t cook and haven’t been able to resolve this problem on their own we’ll feed a lunch, we’ll feed a dinner and we’ll do this until further notice,” Carroll said.

Patricia Lester lives on the east side of Columbus. She puts some mayonnaise on a turkey sandwich. Her children and grandchildren sit at her side.

“What has this been like? Tell me the challenges you’ve faced. Well, you’re food going bad. And that’s not good when you have children. So you don’t know how to explain to them well, they want this, they want that. But you can’t give it to them because it’s done ruined,” she said.

She said they just came in to get something to eat. They do not plan to use the showering facilities or to spend the night even though they do not have hot water at their house.

“No. We’re fine on that part. We’re really fine. Thank God. I really do. Cause we only depend on Him. No matter what happens we depend on the man upstairs,” Lester said.

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