Giving and Receiving

Story by Anne Wheeler


Dan and Barb Poel (pictured) have been Red Cross volunteers for over nine years

Barb and Don Poel of Whitehall, Michigan, enjoyed a pleasant visit to see family in warm Arizona, last year, from October through the New Year.  They’ve made the trek by car many times but didn’t anticipate it taking more than a week to drive back to Michigan.

“We left our children and grandchildren on Friday, January 3 heading back to the Midwest,” recalls Barb.  “We can usually make the return trip home in about four days.”  But with snow and ice hitting the country’s mid-section, the Poels, both volunteers for the Muskegon chapter, found them seeking comfort in a Red Cross shelter.

“I’ve never seen so many truckers in the ditches and parked at truck stops as we ascended on Effingham, IL, Monday afternoon,” shares Barb.  “With traffic at a stale mate, all the motels in the area were full and travelling farther wasn’t an option. Staff at the local Comfort Inn advised us to head to the Red Cross shelter.”

“How ironic we thought,” Barb said.  “I’m a nine-year volunteer at the Red Cross driving seniors to medical appointments and Don drives blood to area hospitals, and we weren’t able to continue our trip and had to stay at a Red Cross shelter set up at the local recreation center.”

“We talked with the shelter managers as they prepared for nearly 200 people to stay the night,” tells Don.  “It was a well-run shelter with plenty of food and water. We arrived (at) about 6 p.m. and there was a steady stream of folks arriving all through the night.” 

“After our night’s stay, we started our journey back to Michigan only to make it as far as the local Hampton Inn where we got the last room available on Tuesday,” tells Barb.  “Wednesday morning we traveled 40 miles going 25 mph with terrible conditions.  We knew we weren’t getting home that day either.”

Eventually, the Poels made it home to Whitehall, appreciative of receiving Red Cross services they were used to providing. 

To become a Red Cross volunteer, like the Poels, visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

To support Red Cross shelters and other relief efforts, donate today at


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