Volunteer Spotlight – Amy Smith

Each week during Red Cross Month, we’d like to recognize our Everyday Heroes who give of themselves and help their community.

We’re proud to recognize Amy Smith for her dedication and commitment to fulfilling the Red Cross mission in the SC Region. Amy is the type of person any organization would be lucky to have on its team. Every Tuesday and Thursday for the past nine months, she has walked through the doors of the Columbia Red Cross building with an upbeat attitude and a smile on her face.

Amy contacted the Red Cross after seeing a listing for volunteer opportunities online. After coming on board as a volunteer, she also became a blood donor during the annual Boots & Badges blood drive competition at the Columbia donation center.

While having a disability can present additional challenges in many aspects of life, Amy doesn’t let it get in her way of giving back and thriving as a Red Cross volunteer.

“Even though I’m disabled, I still wanted to be a productive member of society, and the American Red Cross gives me the opportunity to do just that,” said Amy.

As a volunteer who provides support for multiple departments, Amy is busy from the moment she arrives until she leaves in the afternoon. A typical day for her begins with scouring area print publications for Red Cross articles and inputting new volunteer information into the volunteer database.

Her next stop is the Human Resources Department where she assists with clerical duties and other tasks as needed.

“Amy is a very important part of our HR team,” said Karen Crumpton with the SC Region Human Resources Department. “She has taken on many projects that we would not have the personnel to handle without her. She is always happy and smiling and willing to do whatever it takes to help us out. She manages our filing, shredding and data entry. We truly are grateful for all she does.”

But Amy doesn’t stop there. She also helps out in the Donor Recruitment Department with sorting promotional items and folding T-shirts for specialty blood drives and events such as the Family and Friends blood drive.

For this year’s Family and Friends drive, Amy used her personal funds to purchase crafts so donors’ children would have a fun activity to do while their parents were donating—talk about going above and beyond!

“I truly am inspired by Amy’s dedication and ‘can do’ attitude”, said Astrida Thomas, HR Manager. “She is very engaged, efficient and a team player at all times. We would be unable to be as efficient and effective in our daily HR activities if it were not for her assistance. We are fortunate to have her as a part of the HR team and hope to continue to have her on our team as long as she is willing.”

Amy is an asset to the Red Cross volunteer program, and she epitomizes what the Red Cross mission is all about—people helping people. We’re grateful for her support and dedication to the organization.

If you’re interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer, please visit Redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.


South Carolina Red Cross Volunteers Deploy to help in Mississippi

Three of  our local disaster volunteers have deployed to help with relief efforts in Hattiesburg, MS after tornadoes ripped through the state on Sunday, February 10th. 

Long-time Red Cross volunteers, Bob Levangie,  Beverly Blackwell and Debbie Fauver, have deployed on multiple national disaster relief operations like Hurricane Katrina,  Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.

 “I volunteer with the Red Cross because I know that people appreciate having someone there for them when they have lost everything,” said Levangie. “To get a hug from a Red Cross volunteer lets them know that someone cares.”

RedCross MS Deployment

Long-time Red Cross volunteers, Bob Levangie and Beverly Blackwell, complete pre-deployment paperwork with Red Cross worker, Darlene Harsey, before leaving for Hattiesburg, MS

The tornadoes damaged homes and businesses, as well as the Red Cross chapter in Hattiesburg and one of its emergency vehicles. In response, the Red Cross has mobilized volunteers, dispatched relief supplies and response vehicles. Red Cross disaster workers are assessing damages, sheltering people and providing mobile feeding through hard hit areas in Mississippi.

You can help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, as well as countless crises at home and around the country, by making a donation to support the Red Cross. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.

To make a donation, visit Redcross.org, call (803) 540-1230 or mail a check to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 91, Columbia, SC, 29202.

If you would like to become a local Red Cross volunteer, please call (803) 540-1242.

What Are You Thankful for This Year?

Written by Anna Kate Twitty, Regional Communications Officer, American Red Cross, Columbia Region

If you had asked me what I was thankful for a month ago, I would have given you an answer like this: “I am thankful for my husband, my family, my friends and all of the amazing opportunities that surround me each and every day.”  I would still include these wonderful blessings in my response, but today my answer would include so much more as my perspective on life has changed in a few short weeks.

After seeing first-hand the devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy, I now know what it is like to see pure heartbreak, communities destroyed, dreams shattered and hard work depleted in one night.  Through all the devastation that I saw, one thing was constant –people have so much hope and resiliency.  Before Sandy, I had personally never seen the amount of compassion and humanity that are within people and among communities.

I had the great honor to deploy for nine days to represent the American Red Cross in New York.  I met people from all walks of life and spent time at Red Cross shelters, at fixed feeding sites, at mobile kitchens and on mobile feeding routes in highly affected neighborhoods.

Red Cross volunteers in a mobile feeding truck travel through Long Beach, N.Y. to serve meals and snacks to people affected by Hurricane Sandy.

I will never forget riding with our volunteers on a mobile feeding truck through the cold and flooded streets of Long Beach, N.Y.  Homes were destroyed by severe flooding, cars had been washed away to random locations, waterlogged furniture and other belongings pilled the streets and people were left with no power and heat.

While on a Long Beach food route, one woman made an everlasting impact on me when she looked me in the eye and asked the simple question, “Why are you helping me?”  My answer was immediate, “because it’s the right thing to do.”  Once I told her that I had traveled 750 miles from South Carolina to New York, she was shocked and tears filled her eyes while she hugged and thanked me.

She told me her personal story and showed me her destroyed home.  In addition to listening to her, I gave her a turkey sandwich and an apple for lunch.  From her reaction and gratitude, you would have thought that I had given her a million dollars. I think the most important thing that I gave her was hope and reassurance that the Red Cross was there to help.

I spent some time visiting with the Reiter family at a Red Cross shelter at Nassau Community College on Long Island, NY.

I had similar encounters while spending time at a Red Cross shelter at Nassau Community College on Long Island, N.Y.  I met people who profoundly moved me and people who had lost everything, but had so much to be grateful for.  I met Red Cross volunteers that were personally affected by Sandy’s devastation, yet continued to volunteer their time to help others.

Red Cross workers discuss logistics that are involved in cooking thousands of hot meals in one day. The Red Cross is teaming up with the Southern Baptist Convention at multiple mobile kitchens in New York and New Jersey.

I was able to witness partnership and community giving at its best at one of the Red Cross mobile kitchen’s in Deer Park, N.Y.  The Red Cross has an amazing partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention, where together thousands of meals are prepared each day and delivered to neighborhoods hit hard by Sandy.

Through my nine day experience, I can whole heartily say that I am thankful this Thanksgiving for the Red Cross and the massive relief efforts that began before Sandy made landfall and that will continue for weeks and months to come.  More specifically, I am thankful for the following:

  • The 5,300 volunteers that have deployed from all 50 states to help
  • The over 100 volunteers that have deployed from South Carolina to help
  • The more than 300 feeding trucks that are delivering meals, snacks and relief supplies
  • The more than 6.7 million meals and snacks that have been served
  • The shelters that have been open since before Sandy hit that have provided over 149,000 overnight stays
  • The 78,000 health services and emotional support contacts that have been made
  • The various organizations and community groups that are working together with the Red Cross to help thousands each day
  • The generosity of the American people to open their hearts and donate millions of dollars to the Red Cross
  • The husbands, wives, children, relatives, friends, co-workers that are  supporting Red Cross volunteers while they spend countless hours away from their homes and work helping others

I am thankful that I am part of the Red Cross and that I get to see each and every day the important work that this organization does for so many.  The Red Cross works around-the-clock preparing and responding to disasters like Sandy.  Last but not least, I am thankful for the volunteers and staff that will be spending their Thanksgiving holiday away from home providing relief to thousand affected by Sandy in the Northeast.  These volunteers and staff are giving the greatest gift one can give – the gift of time.

Back on their Feet: Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee One-Year Report

Red Cross disaster worker Eilene Guy comforts Maria Pennell, mother of six, at a Red Cross shelter after a tree fell on her home when Hurricane Irene struck North Carolina.

One year ago, the entire East Coast braced itself for potential disaster, watching anxiously as Hurricane Irene formed in the Atlantic and took aim at U.S. shores. Irene’s path put millions in danger from Puerto Rico to Maine. Major landfall occurred on August 27, with Hurricane Irene threatening major metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston. On September 4, Tropical Storm Lee made landfall in Louisiana generating tornadoes that swept across Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Moving north, Lee exacerbated devastation in regions hit hard by Irene such as New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

In the middle of the night, Doug Ramage and Tricia Price were forced to evacuate their home in Ridgeland, Miss., because of flash flooding triggered by Lee. They walked through nearly two feet of water, then rescue teams met them with good news—the Red Cross had prepared a shelter for them and their neighbors at a nearby church. Knowing they had a safe place to stay was one less worry for the couple.

“Everyone has been good to us here. We are comfortable, this has been good,” said Ramage.

“I am so grateful for the Red Cross, we had nowhere to go,” Price added.

Despite the immense scope of the storms’ impact, the American Red Cross was ready to meet this challenge and assisted millions of people in the wake of both Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Nearly 9,000 Red Cross disaster workers from across the country provided more than 70,000 overnight stays in more than 600 shelters. We served more than 2.5 million meals and snacks and distributed nearly a million relief items, including cleanup materials, hygiene items and recovery tools such as buckets, tarps, rakes and shovels. In addition to providing these basic necessities, Red Cross health and mental health volunteers and caseworkers were in shelters and going door-to-door to ensure that families didn’t face this difficult time alone.

AmeriCorps and Red Cross volunteer Joseph Kennedy of New Jersey helps distribute relief supplies for those affected by Tropical Storm Lee in Binghamton, NY.

In the year that has passed since the storms struck, the Red Cross has transitioned from a national disaster response effort to local recovery assistance. The Red Cross is committed to helping ensure that disaster survivors have a plan for recovery and the community resources to help that plan succeed. Damage from Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and the floods that followed meant that thousands of families faced a long road to recovery. For many families, the unexpected repair costs would be an insurmountable challenge if it weren’t for the support from the Red Cross. The Red Cross assisted families with efforts such as tree and debris removal, home repairs, replacement tools that allow them to continue their professions, replacement medical equipment and special bedding for people with disabilities.

 As of July 2012, the Red Cross was still actively assisting clients in four states—New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia. Community non-profit agencies have formed long-term recovery committees to help coordinate services, locate resources for those in need and identify people in the community in need of long-term assistance. Through the recovery committees, Red Cross case workers meet one-on-one with families and individuals to fully understand their disaster experience and their unique disaster-caused needs. Together they develop a customized plan for recovery. By partnering with other agencies to deliver assistance, the Red Cross ensures that funds go further, helping as many people as possible get back on their feet.

A year has passed since Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee came ashore, but to those who lost their homes and their possessions in the storms, it seems as if the disaster occurred just yesterday. Each day survivors work diligently to restore their communities and return to their normal lives. Because of your support, they are not alone.

Facts at a Glance — Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee

  • Nearly 9,000 disaster workers deployed
  • More than 600 shelters opened, providing more than 70,500 overnight stays
  • 2.5 million meals and snacks served
  • Nearly 700,000 cleanup, comfort and relief supplies distributed
  • More than 43,000 health and mental health contacts made
  • More than 15,500 outreach visits conducted

The Red Cross is empowered by its supporters, who give selflessly because they believe in our mission. Thank you for choosing the American Red Cross as a conduit for your compassion. You can also visit us at redcross.org where you can view our Disaster Online Newsroom and find links to the Red Cross community on your favorite networking sites.

You can help people affected by disasters such as wildfires, tropical storms and floods, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, click here or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).  Contributions may also be sent to American Red Cross, P.O. Box 91, Columbia, SC 29202 .

Thank you to our local heroes!

Here’s to all the volunteers!

“Here’s to all volunteers, those dedicated people who believe in all work and no pay.”    -Robert Orben

April 15-21 is National Volunteer Week and the Red Cross wants to celebrate its dedicated volunteers and partners. These volunteers power the American Red Cross and making it possible for the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Our volunteers are central to the work of the Red Cross in our commuinity and in communities across the country, as on average, the Red Cross has 15 volunteers for every one employee. Our volunteers are people of action—whether providing comfort to a family whose home has been washed away in a flood or getting an emergency message to a member of the military whose father is critically ill.

Today and always, we salute you.  Your dedication to serving others helps to make the vision of the Red Cross a reality.

Heathwood Hall Students Team up with Red Cross to Help Fight Germs

By Anna Wrice, Red Cross Volunteer

Heathwood Hall students demonstrate the importance of washing your hands through an interactive song.

Heathwood Hall High School students served their local Red Cross by teaching the American Red Cross Scrubby Bear Hand Washing Program to children of local elementary schools during the week of March 5– 9, 2012.

A group of nine high school students from Heathwood Hall taught the importance of personal hygiene to the K-5 and 1st Grade students of A.C. Moore Elementary, Caughman Road Elementary and Carver-Lyons Elementary.  The personal hygiene lesson is taught through the fun and interactive Scrubby Bear Hand Washing Program.

The Scrubby Bear Hand Washing Program was chosen by the Red Cross as a way to teach children how germs are spread, how to prevent the spread of disease and how to properly wash their hands,” said Carol Morrett, volunteer coordinator, American Red Cross, Columbia Region. “Children love Scrubby and really respond to his message.”

The Scrubby Bear presentation lasts approximately 30 minutes. During the presentation the older students explain what germs are and where the kids contract them. To effectively communicate how to properly wash hands, the students read the Scubby Bear story and teach the song.  The older students say that their favorite part of the presentation is when they get to teach the steps and words of the song to the younger students. The elementary school students catch on quickly to the song once they recognize that it is set to the classic “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” tune.

“I loved seeing how much the students enjoyed getting in the classroom and performing the Scrubby Bear song as a tool to remind educators and children that infection can be fought through frequent hand washing,” Morret said.

After the presentation the younger students received a Scrubby Bear sticker and coloring sheet when they pledged to keep their hands clean and do their best to remember the Scrubby Bear motto, “Don’t get sick, wash up quick.”

Heathwood Hall offers their students a unique program, called “Winterim,” which is the chance for their students to perform community service for an entire week.  The students may choose to serve the public locally, nationally or abroad.  

This is the second year that the Red Cross has teamed up with Heathwood Hall during their “Winterim” to teach elementary students about personal hygiene. 

This program is most appropriate for children ages 4 through 7. Although the written and verbal materials are currently available in English only, they have been successfully used by schools, hospitals, health agencies and day care centers throughout the world.

 For more information about Red Cross programs and volunteer opportunities, please visit our website at www.columbiaregionredcross.org

Children Survive Storm that Landed Pet Horse in Grandparents’ Kitchen

contributed by Angela Nicholas, Red Cross Volunteer

When Barbara Green and her husband dug their way out of the rubble that was their home before the March 2 tornado ripped through West Liberty, Kentucky, they found their horse lying on the kitchen floor.  The couple rode out the storm in the hallway of their home and survived without injury.  “We got up and dug our way out.  I found the tornado had carried our horse through the roof and into our kitchen.  It was laying on its side but was okay,” she said.

Green brought her two granddaughters, Audrey Cole, 3 and Shelby Cole, 6, with her to Morgan Central Elementary School where the Red Cross had set up a Service Center to provide resources for tornado survivors.  The girls and their parents also lost their home to the storm. Green said the horse and the rest of the family’s animals except for one dog that was killed were okay and being tended by West Liberty veterinarian Dave Fugit.  They included a cat with a broken leg and a cat with a broken jaw, but otherwise, the injuries were not too severe.

Disaster through the eyes of a child: American Red Cross mental health professionals use art and other techniques to help small children work through the horror they experience during a major disaster. These drawings depict how a 6-year-old felt after a tornado destroyed her home. The picture to the left shows a fearful expression with the house torn into pieces at the bottom of the page. The drawing to the right shows how the child placed a smile back on her face after spending some time visiting with a Red Cross mental health worker. – Photo by Angela Nicholas

“Our animals were trapped,” said Shelby, who noted that the family has a donkey, chickens and ducks as well.  “It was sad and scary.”  Her little sister described what the storm did to their house, saying, “It flew everywhere.”

Volunteer Mental Health Professionals, Bruce Funk of York County, Pennsylvania, and Alex Weinstein of Charlotte, N.C greeted the children at the Service Center.  Funk spent some time talking to them and presented them with small Mickey Mouse toys to cheer them up.  Weinstein then chatted with the older child and used art to help her work through her fears.  Green received assistance to help the family get back on the road to recovery, and the little girls left the Center smiling.

Six-year-old Shelby Cole, who survived the March 2 Kentucky tornado, listens intently to American Red Cross Mental Health volunteer Alex Weinstein of the Greater Carolinas Chapter in Charlotte. Weinstein and other Red Cross mental health volunteers use artwork and other techniques to help children work through their fears. – Photo by Angela Nicholas


How You Can Help

You can help people affected by disasters by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief.  You may donate at www.redcross.org or call 1-800-733-2767.  Contributions may also be sent to your local chapter or American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.  On rare occasions when donations exceed Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters.