Long-time Red Cross Worker from South Carolina Becomes a Hero in New York


When Kathy Garrison began volunteering for the American Red Cross in 2006, little did she know that it would be the start of an incredible journey. Kathy has lived in Chester, S.C. since 1964. She had been searching for a volunteer job for quite some time and in April 2006, she found what she was looking for and hasn’t turned back.

There was an ad in the paper seeking volunteers for the Red Cross and Kathy thought this would be a perfect place to start giving back to her community.

“After a week or so of joining the Red Cross, we had the Great Falls Mill fire and I was needed,” said Garrison. “I had not had much training at that point, but went to help out in the shelter. It was quite the learning experience, but I knew from that point that I had found the place for me.”

Later, Kathy began volunteering with the Upper Palmetto Chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves Chester, Lancaster and York counties. She was a volunteer for several years, and in September 2012, Kathy accepted a job offer for the Office Manager at the Chapter.

“Starting a new job usually has its moments—like getting used to the other employees, finding your way around in a new office, new duties, etc. But this wasn’t like other jobs, this was like joining a family,” said Garrison. “I had been working with most of the employees for years as a volunteer. It was the perfect fit for me.”

When Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast of the United States on October 29, 2012, Kathy received updates daily on the magnitude of the disaster. Kathy had always wanted to volunteer on a national disaster, but her previous job had prevented her from doing so. On November 16, Kathy received the request to deploy to help with the Red Cross national response to Sandy in New York. Kathy was deployed as a client caseworker and assisted displaced residents that had been moved from shelters to hotels in the middle of Manhattan.

“Each day we went to the hotel we were greeted with smiles and thanks from people we didn’t even know,” said Garrison. “I missed Thanksgiving at home with my family, but I knew in my heart that I was where I needed to be.”

The second week, they went out in teams to canvass the area for any victims that needed help. They talked to many people, some with very sad stories and some who just wanted someone to talk to.

“The last day for me at the coast, we helped a couple that had been staying in their apartment for three weeks without electricity, but were thankful that their building was built high enough so that the only flood damage was in the garage. According to the client, they sat and watched their car float all around the front of the house,” Garrison said.

Kathy and her team were able to help so many and truly made a lasting impact on people affected by Sandy. “They were in shock that someone would do something like this for them and said when they were able, they would pay-it-forward and always remember what Red Cross volunteers did for them and others in the area,” said Garrison.

Kathy is one of 140 Palmetto SC Region disaster volunteers that deployed to help with the Red Cross Sandy response.

“This is the American Red Cross in action. I will certainly deploy on another national disaster, but I will always be here for my community in their time of need,” said Garrison.

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