Red Cross volunteers acknowledged at the Heroes and Volunteer Recogniton Banquet

Contributed by Randy Burns

Nancy Cataldo, the executive director of the Sandhills Chapter of the American Red Cross, and the volunteer staff members at the Sumter office know all about treating people with respect.  No matter who the people are – clients, volunteers or donors – they do people right!

Janice Oden, Veronica Sharp, Larry Nettles, Larry Huff, Jackie Saddlemire, Jennie Geddings, DeEtte VanVechten, Ruth Heater, Sue FUller and Amamda Forke, Sandhill Chapter volunteers, get recogonized at the Heroes and Volunteer Recognition Banquet.

At Thursday night’s Heroes and Volunteer Recognition Banquet in the fellowship hall at St. James Lutheran Church in Sumter, Cataldo and the Red Cross acknowledged the contributions of the Sumter, Clarendon and Lee County community with plaques, certificates, pins, cups, barbecue and plenty of kind words.

The target audience was the donors – individual and corporations – that contributed money to Red Cross, and the volunteers who gave of their time and money to reach out to victims of disaster.

There’s been plenty of need in the tri-county community.  Since July 1, 2011, disaster action team volunteers have responded to 112 disasters – mostly fires.  The work of the nine Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteers was recognized as they brought home the Jennie Geddings Humanitarian Award.

Typically, the award goes to one person who demonstrates his or her devotion to Red Cross by reaching out to others with their time and service.  This year Nancy decided to pay tribute to the entire team.

Nancy talked about how it is amazing to think that nine people have gone out to 112 disasters (all but one or two were fires).  These folks know if their name is up on the schedule, that they will go out no matter the time of day.

It’s important to remember that these people are not paid.  They are doing it because they care.

DAT volunteers, Debbie Kirven, Jennie Geddings, Larry Nettles, Jackie Saddlemire, Ron Smithwick, Sue Fuller and Gregory Haskins recieve the Jennie Geddings Humanitarian Award.

This year’s Jennie Geddings Humanitarian Award Winners are DAT volunteers Larry Nettles, Jennie Geddings, Sue Fuller, Jackie Saddlemire and Greg Haskins of Sumter County; Sue Blackwell, Ron Smithwick and Steven Hill of Clarendon County; and Debbie Kirven of Lee County.

Yep, one of the disaster action volunteers is Jennie Geddings herself.  She just can’t run away from awards even if she declared several years ago that “she didn’t want any more.”

The Geddings Humanitarian was first given in 2005 as a tribute to Geddings, who has been a Red Cross volunteer she retired from South Carolina Emergency Management in 1995.  Even today, Geddings volunteers more than 30 hours a week to Red Cross.

By 2005, Geddings had received about every volunteer award given out by Red Cross.

Jennie told Nancy and the advisory board to give the awards to someone else.  She didn’t want any more attention called to herself.

Jennie didn’t realize the advisory board would create the Humanitarian Award in her name and honor.  That was a surprise. And because she’s a DAT volunteer, she couldn’t turn down receiving part of the recognition this year.

It’s hard to find a volunteer more devoted and committed to Red Cross than Jennie Geddings.  Still, it’s hard to deny that Larry Nettles is one of a kind.  Always positive and upbeat and often funny and crazy when the occasion calls for it, Nettles received the Clara Barton Award, the highest volunteer award given by Red Cross.

At Thursday’s banquet, Nancy had her first chance to tell the tri-county area about Larry receiving the Clara Barton Award.

Larry’s credentials are really mind boggling.  He is a DAT member, and thus one of the recipients of this year’s Geddings Humanitarian Award.  He and Nancy work together in fundraising. Larry, who is passionate about the opportunity to help others, has no problem in asking people to give money so Red Cross can do its job.  He is the chairman of the Tri-County Red Cross Advisory Board.  He sells pecans to generate more revenue for Red Cross. He cooks barbecue, and hauls off the trash. He cracks jokes, and makes people laugh. Larry Nettles also makes referrals to other agencies so victims can receive additional help.  At their request, Larry will stand beside victims when they talk to insurance or agency representatives.  Larry Nettles is truly a Red Cross Volunteer Extraordinaire.  The bottom line is that Larry Nettles cares about people, and he is a true believer in the mission of Red Cross.

Nancy Cataldo, Executive Director, presents Heroes co-chairs, Eric McKnight and Jack Osteen with a Certificate of Appreciation for their service to the Red Cross.

Nancy also honored the 2012 Co-Chairmen of the Heroes Fundraising Campaign, Item Publisher, Jack Osteen and Miller Communications, Executive Eric McKnight.  The tri-county area has raised more than $100,000 so far with more than three months left in the fiscal year.  Nancy said she could not have better leaders on board than Jack and Eric.

Other community leaders recognized for their work on the Heroes campaign include Kay Farmer of Lee County and Ann Kirven of Clarendon County.  They were the chairpersons of their Heroes campaigns in their communities.  So many others in the tri-county area have played a role in fundraising, and many of them were recognized by Nancy, Jack and Eric.

Red Cross Volunteer Coordinator DeEtte VanVechten presented Volunteer Ruth Heater and Randy Burns with a special citation for exceptional volunteer service.

Ruth volunteers in the Sumter office two days a week, but gets about four days of work accomplished.  Randy has increased visibility for the Red Cross by continually telling the Red Cross story and helping make the community aware of what services the Red Cross provides.

Manning Mayor Julia Nelson and Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen were on hand to present proclamations to Cataldo recognizing March as Red Cross Month.

Firefighters, David White and Wayne Holmes received the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit for using the skills learned in Red Cross certification training to save the life of Danny Stokes. The Certificate of Merit is the highest lifesaving award issed by the American Red Cross and it is signed by the President of the United States.

Thursday night’s recognition banquet had many highlights, but the biggest of all in my opinion was the recognition of two Sumter firefighters, Wayne Holmes and David White.  These two gentlemen received the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit and the Gene Franklin Lifesaving Award.  The first is a national award, and the first to be given in the tri-county area since 1999.  The second is a local award, given to honor the late Gene Franklin, a chaplain and firefighter who was also a Red Cross volunteer.

In giving the awards to Wayne and David, Nancy told the story of Danny Stokes, and the events of Christmas Eve 2011 in a remote Sumter County field near Mayesville.

Danny Stokes, a member of the Sportsman Hunt Club, was deer hunting with friends and other members of the club when he was struck in the lower abdomen by a ricochet bullet.

Wayne and David, who were in the same area deer hunting themselves, were among the first to arrive on the scene.

While waiting for the arrival of EMS, Wayne removed some of Danny’s clothing to get a better understanding of his wounds.  He began to apply pressure low in his abdomen to help slow the blood flow. As he was doing this he kept talking to Danny in order to try to keep him conscious.

Other volunteer firefighters were on hand and were able to move Stokes to a back board and began administering oxygen.

David soon realized that they were going to need immediate action beyond EMS and the local hospital, and called for a life flight helicopter and arranged transportation toPalmettoRichlandHospital, where he faced surgery and hours of treatment.  Doctors credited the immediate attention Danny received on the scene as being an essential part of his survival.  Danny would be released, and less than three months later – able to walk to the podium on Thursday night to thank Wayne Holmes and David White, for what they did on that night.

The National Red Cross Certificate of Merit is given to those who save or sustain a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Health and safety Services course.  The award is the highest award given by Red Cross for lifesaving and exemplifies the highest degree of concern of one human being for another, Nancy told the audience.

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