Royce Brown, a man who believes that smiling for long enough will bring out the sun, smiles while telling his story in Downtown Barberton.
Severe storms rumbled across Northeast Ohio the afternoon of July 10, 2013. In Barberton, flood waters climbed fast and strong. As a local automotive dealer worked quickly to move their inventory to higher ground, residents found themselves stranded on pockets of land surrounded by rushing rivers that only hours before had been neighborhood streets. Area fire crews responded to numerous reports of basements filled with water and weakening foundations.
The American Red Cross of Summit and Portage Counties responded by opening an shelter at the local YMCA for residents who had been displaced by the flood waters. Once the flood waters began to recede, people began returning to their homes to survey the damage.
In the midst of this chaos, one man found that he no longer had a home. The Shamrock Motel, a fixture on Norton Avenue, and Royce Brown’s home had closed as a result of the damage sustained during the floods. Unaware of the shelter provided by the Red Cross, Royce loaded his belongings into his new home, his Chevrolet.
Royce continued living in his car, parking at a local grocery that was open 24 hours and eating a small breakfast and washing up at the McDonalds before going into work. On the ninth day, Royce had to fill out paper work for his participation in the local Relay for Life, a 24 hour walk-a-thon benefiting the American Cancer Society. When asked for his address, Royce confided in a co-worker that he was living in his car.
“There’s nothing broke on me. I’m one of those people who won’t ask for a hand,” said Royce, an avid community volunteer. “But I love to help others, to see the smile on their faces. To have someone reach out to me, when I was in need, was truly a blessing. People cared about me, people who didn’t even know me.”
With a little assistance from co-workers, Royce was put in touch with a Red Cross case worker. Through the collaboration of the Red Cross, YMCA, Public Health and other agencies in Barberton, by Tuesday he was in a new apartment complete with furniture, linens, cooking supplies and personal hygiene products.
Royce has come out of his experience feeling like a new man.
“I have a second shot at life, I’m not going to take anything for granted. I believe in keeping on going and keeping the faith.”