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Everyone is Welcome.

Updated: Apr 2

Red Crosser, Melody Stogaard found a friend in 18-year old, Emily Robinson. Emily has a severe form of autism that causes significant developmental delays. Emily is kind, gentle but can be overstimulated and reactive to loud noises and crowds. Emily doesn't like strangers but she quickly connected with Melody and Diane.

Emily and her mother, Malinda, took shelter in their apartment as the tornado beared down onto their town of Amory, Mississippi. "The walls were shaking, the windows were broken and I wasn't sure if we would make it out alive", says Malinda. They came to the Red Cross shelter once they realized staying in their apartment was unsafe and they had no one to turn to for help.

Malinda, grateful to be alive and appreciative of the shelter staff, spent the first night trying to keep Emily content while trying to balance her own emotional health. "Kids were running around and having fun but I could see that the noise was affecting Emily". Malinda added, "I thought to myself, should I be a good mother and expect everyone to accommodate for my child or should I find ways to get Emily to cope. It was stressful."

Shelter manager, Melody recognized the signs of emotional distress that Emily was displaying and asked if Emily would like to have her own space in a vacant room close to the front of the building. "I never expected that the Red Cross would make special accommodations for us," says Malinda. "I was grateful for the shelter workers already, but this is just amazing!"

Along with her own room, Melody was able to locate a pair of noise-canceling, over-the-ear headphones for Emily to use whenever her environment started to get a little noisy. "I like it here. I like Melody", says Emily.

Emily enjoys the shelter but is looking forward to reuniting with her dad after nine years of no contact. Her dad is driving to the shelter to pick her and Malinda up and take them to Alabama to stay with him until they can figure out their next steps.

“I will forever be grateful for the help and support I got from the Red Cross. Thank you for what you are doing” says Emily as she gives a hug to Melody before leaving the shelter.

In the coming days and week, the Red Cross will continue to support families like the Robinsons who have been devastated by tornadoes.

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