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Sometimes, a mop is what you need most.

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

By: Diane Weber / Red Cross volunteer

Homes come in many forms from massive mansions to tiny campers. For the past six months, home has been a tent for 67-year-old Theodore, AL resident Thomas (Tom)Burns. Tom set up a permanent camp along the banks of the Fowl River in Mobile County and enjoyed the scenic solitude. That peace ended when flash flooding swept away his tent and his belongings.

“I found my boots in the woods,” he said as he pointed to the muddy pair drying beneath a tree. “But I lost everything.” A Red Cross Damage Assessment team spotted Tom sitting beneath a tarp strung under some trees as he sorted through his belongings. “I keep hunting in the woods,” Tom explained to the team, “and I find a pot here and maybe a shirt somewhere down the riverbank”. Tom has enjoyed the peace and the beauty of living by the shady riverbank but that may be coming to an end.

Tom Burns stands with Red Cross responders

“I cut grass and work around the landlord’s house for part of my rent,” he said, “but now my lawnmower’s flooded, and I’m just too old to use the push mower in this heat.” Less than 24 hours later, Red Crossers, Lesia Alexander and Diane Weber brought a box of relief supplies including food, water, tarps and bedding to help replace what was lost and help Tom begin to recover. “I really appreciate what the Red Cross has done for me,” Tom said. “I don’t know what I would have done. I was left with nothing.”

Although he has loved living outside, Tom said he was rethinking his future. “This storm has taken the starch out of me,” he said. “I can’t climb ladders like I used to, and I can’t stand the heat.” Tom motioned to a friend sitting underneath his tarp. “He and I have some ideas,” he said. “And I think I have a place to go.” Before he left, he thanked the team again, “Thanks to the Red Cross, I’ll be able to get some things to help me get a new start.”

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