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Shelter Transition Worker Linda Shelley Helps a Tornado Victim Rejoin His Family

Shelter Resident Transition Caseworker Linda Shelley helps Michael Henderson settle into temporary lodging until he can move to join family members out of state.


By: Diane Weber

Selma, Alabama native Michael Henderson knows how to face challenges, but he says he is very thankful for the Red Cross assistance in facing his latest one.

Michael Henderson is a veteran of the 1980s Middle East conflict, where he worked as a government statistician. He returned to the U.S. and worked several jobs, including driving trucks and construction. He married and had several children, all of whom live outside of Alabama from Boston to Arizona. When the children were young, Michael wrote children’s stories for them, as well as three chapbooks of poetry.

His construction career brought Michael back to Alabama, where he worked on restoration of historical homes. Then his next challenge hit. He said that 12 years ago, he suffered his first stroke, and his health has declined ever since.

As his health declined, so did his financial situation. Following the years of COVID shut down, Michael found himself alone, estranged from his family, in poor health, and living in the shed of a family member.

When the tornados damaged his home, a family member brought Michael to the Red Cross shelter. Michael suffered another stroke while in the shelter and was rushed to the hospital. Despondent and alone, Michael faced his new challenges.

Then Michael met Linda Shelley, his Shelter Transition Caseworker with the Red Cross.

Linda met with Michael daily, documenting his history and searching out the best medical and community resources for him. She learned that Michael has a nephew who lives in Oklahoma. This nephew, also named Michael after his uncle, has for several years tried to get Michael to move near him. Linda called the nephew, and a plan was born.

“You’re not going to cry on me again, are you?” Michael joked with Linda when she informed him that his transportation to Oklahoma had been approved. He had witnessed the passion and emotion Linda showed when she helped one of her clients overcome an obstacle to recovery.

As the shelter closing date approached, Linda worked with a partner agency and secured lodging for Michael at a nearby hotel until Michael could leave the area. Linda worked with RC Disability Integration Volunteer Harry Lampton to secure a wheelchair for Michael. Then, Linda completed necessary forms and organized Michael’s medical documents, secured luggage for his belongings, and worked with Reverend Leodis Strong at Brown Chapel AME Church for someone to do laundry for Michael so that he could travel with clean clothes. Lastly, Linda secured transportation for Michael from his hotel to the Montgomery airport and on to his family in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Even after she rolled off the DRO deployment, Linda remained concerned for Michael.

“I told him to call me when he reached Tulsa,” she said. “I just want to make sure that he is okay.”

The move will be another challenge for Michael; but thanks to the Red Cross and dedicated volunteers like Linda Shelley, he has the means and the support to start this new chapter of recovery.

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