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. 


SRR and URS become Lifesavers for the Red Cross!

contributed by Lindsay Findley, Aiken County Chapter Executive Director

The American Red Cross, with help from corporations like Savannah River Remediation (SRR) and URS Corporation, will help present the first annual Rachel Hodges Leadership Institute to be held May 19 – May 24, 2012 at Francis Marion University.

SRR and URS representatives present a $5,000 sponsorship check to support the Rachel Hodges Leadership Institute.

SRR and URS have graciously offered to become lifesavers with a $5,000 sponsorship.  With this gift, local staff and volunteers will be able to receive comprehensive leadership training to better serve the community when there is an emergency or other disaster.  This promises to be a unique and creative program for educating those who will be front-line caregivers in natural catastrophes. 

SRR and URS make meaningful contributions every year that strengthen the community.  This partnership is essential to our moving forward and strengthening the American Red Cross, and we are incredibly appreciative. 

The Institute is designed to ensure that Red Cross staff and volunteers have the opportunity to develop and become more prepared to respond to small and large-scale disasters down the street, across the country and around the world.  In total, over 300 Red Cross volunteers and staff will be trained from seven states, including South Carolina.

This six-day Institute will be broken into three tracks, including, Executive Leadership, Development and Disaster Services.  Attendees will receive advanced training in the following four core areas including Disaster Readiness, Chief Executive Officer Training, Disaster Fund Raising and Public Affairs .

The URS Global Management and Operations Services General Manager David Pethick says, “Safety is paramount in everything we do at URS and we are proud of our employees’ commitment to safety. In honor of their continued excellent safety performance, we are pleased to make this contribution to the Red Cross for this leadership institute.”

Dave Olson, SRR President and Project Manager, said the donation marks another opportunity for SRR to not just be a good neighbor, but to aid in the safety and health of others. “Our employees perform their high-hazard jobs safely every day,” Olson said. “SRR’s focus on safety is also important outside the boundaries of the Savannah River Site. For that reason, we wanted to help those who help others in the community, which we are pleased to do.”

For more information, about the Rachel Hodges Leadership Institute, please visit

Sweet Charity Society shares its sweets for a cause

The Sweet Charity Society invites women in the community to an afternoon of Sherry and Chocolates on February 12th to benefit the Aiken County Chapter of the American Red Cross.  The Red Cross is looking for compassionate women, who may be leaders in the community and who are interested in supporting the mission of the American Red Cross.

Click here to learn more about the event.