Neighbors helping neighbors

contributed by Ginny Parrish-Loy, Red Cross Volunteer

On February 1st, Joey Hutto, the Disaster Manager of the Aiken County Chapter of the American Red Cross, received a call at 10:56 p.m. from the incident commander at the scene of a fire at the Clearwater Finishing Plant in Clearwater, SC.  The incident commander requested drinks and snacks for firefighters who where responding to the scene of a mill fire.  Aiken County firefighters from Bath, Beech Island, Belvedere, Clearwater, Langley and North Augusta were on the scene trying to contain the fire.  According to observers, the fire could be seen up to 12 miles away and explosions from the fire were triggering 911 calls from the public.

Joey called his lead disaster volunteer, Jerry George, who immediately called his volunteer team, which included, Debbie Sasser and Mark Maxwell. The three went to work immediately. Jerry inspected the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle and Debbie and Mark contacted Walmart, who donated water, bananas and granola bars for the first responders. Joey responded to the scene in his private vehicle.  By 12:15 a.m., a little over an hour later, Red Cross volunteers, were on the scene serving beverages and food to the first responders.  Jerry George said of the scene, “it was like a snow storm of ashes.”

Firefighter enjoying the hot beverages provided by volunteers.

The Waffle House across the street from the fire generously donated coffee and hot water for cider and hot chocolate.  The team served over 90 first responders.  Mike Harris, a volunteer firefighter with Beech Island and a driver for South Star EMS, said of the Red Cross volunteers, “what they’re doing is great…they had plenty of everything we needed. It was a big help.” The volunteers stayed on the scene until 3:30 a.m. providing assistance.

Jerry says it is not hard to get up and go (to the scene) in the middle of the night. It is what these volunteers do.  Debbie, a volunteer who lost her home to fire just six weeks earlier, did not hesitate when the call came to help.  Volunteers like Debbie, Jerry and Mark are the heart of the American Red Cross.  Their level of service and passion to respond at all hours of the night makes it possible for the Red Cross to be there in times of disaster– no matter the time or place. 

This was the second time in one week that the Aiken County Chapter assisted first responders. On Saturday, January 28th, volunteers Becky Fitzpatrick, Dale Crouch, Craig and Linda Holmes and Larry Becker, responded to a call from public safety officers for assistance. They provided meals for over 70 first responders.  

This is yet another way the Red Cross provides services in the community.  Volunteers go out in the middle of the night, not only to help victims of disasters but also to serve first responders so they can go about the important work of helping and protecting their neighbors. 95 percent of the Red Cross workforce is made of volunteers – just like the dedicated ones in Aiken County.      

Volunteers responded to the scene providing snacks and beverages to first responders.

You can help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief.  Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.  Visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.  Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter at 1314 Pine Log Road, Aiken, SC 29803 or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243,Washington, DC 20013. 

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