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

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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.

Red Cross Helps 20 Residents Displaced by a Multi-Unit Fire at Stone Ridge Apartments in Columbia

On March 6th, we received a call from the Columbia Fire Department about a multi-unit apartment fire that they were battling at Stone Ridge Apartments located at 1000 Watermark Place in Columbia. We immediately begin to dispatch our disaster workers to help meet the immediate needs of all residents that were displaced by the fire.

Here are some photos from our response…

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Our workers provided all 20 displaced residents with financial assistance to purchase food, clothing, shoes and other essential items. We also gave each person a blanket and a hygiene kit, which includes basic items such as a tooth brush, soap, and shampoo. Children were given stuffed animals for a sense of safety and security.

We also worked with the apartment complex to secure temporary housing for all displaced residents.

Thank you to our disaster team for helping make this response possible!

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The Palmetto SC Region is made of up seven Red Cross chapters that span across 35 of 46 counties of South Carolina.  On average, our volunteers respond to a disaster every 6.5 hours.

You can help your neighbors recover from disasters like home fires by making a financial contribution or volunteering your time by visiting redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.  Donations may also be mailed to your local Red Cross chapter.  

Become a Red Cross Volunteer Today!

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Volunteers are the heart of the American Red Cross, and we’d like you to join us.  Volunteers are involved in every aspect of the Red Cross mission and constitute 98% of our local workforce.

When disasters strike, our Red Cross volunteer disaster responders are on the scene to help individuals who have lost everything.  From home fires to tornadoes, Red Cross volunteer disaster responders are ready seven days a week, 365 days a year to help people in their darkest hours.

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The Red Cross needs you. Find out how rewarding giving your time and efforts can be, by becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

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Interested in becoming a disaster volunteer responder?  Here’s an overview of what you will be doing as a disaster responder….

Disaster Volunteer Responsibilities:

  • Respond to local disasters, providing individuals with Red Cross assistance in the means of shelter and financial assistance to purchase food, clothing, shoes and other essential items, as well as providing them with personal hygiene kits and referrals to community partner agencies
  • Complete necessary paperwork and activate client assistance cards
  • Follow-up with the client/family following the initial disaster response

Requirements:
Disaster Responders

  • Available to be on-call for disaster response shifts: Day shift: 8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.; Afterhours shift: 5:00 p.m.- 8:30 a.m. Weekend shift
  • Have access to reliable cell phone and transportation
  • Able to answer late night or early morning calls
  • Ability to handle crisis situations, think clearly, act appropriately and handle others with compassion
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Team player with a positive attitude

Additional Requirements for Client Case Workers/Card Activators

  • Computer access at home that is compatible with Red Cross database system or transportation and access to the office after hours to activate client assistance cards
  • Ability to work in the office or from home

There are many other opportunities to volunteer with the Red Cross if Disaster Reponse isn’t for you. We have other opportunities for volunteers such as blood drives, office management, preparedness, health and safety, school clubs, and many more.

For more information about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, click here or contact Katharine Stafford at (803) 540-1242 or at Katharine.Stafford@redcross.org.