More than 1,600 American Red Cross volunteers from all over the country have made the trip to South Carolina to help people there recover after the recent flooding.
These disaster workers leave their homes, friends and family behind and respond when people need help. Here are some of their stories:
VOLUNTEER HELPS AFTER LOSING HOME TO FLOODS
Jennifer Briggs has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2005. When it comes to disaster, it would seem she’s done it all. “I do feeding, I do sheltering, I do client casework, I’ve done damage assessment – I’m versed in most areas of the Red Cross,” she explained.
But in Columbia, South Carolina, Briggs is dealing with something she’s never experienced before. She’s helping the Red Cross respond to a disaster that destroyed her own home.
Her home and most of her belongings are unsalvageable – inundated by over 14 inches of water. She relocated to Lexington this week to be close to her family, and instead of dwelling on what she’s lost, Briggs has jumped right in to help others in need.
“I moved here Monday and I came to work for the Red Cross on Tuesday,” she said. Briggs has been busy ever since, getting supplies such as water, snacks, clean-up kits and toiletries in and out of the Red Cross warehouse. With her support, the warehouse is helping to get thousands of relief items into the hands of people who need them.
For this volunteer, helping is a way to cope with what she’s been through. “It’s easier for me to get out here and do something,” she says. “I’m just here to help everybody else.”
FIRST FACE THEY SEE
Red Cross volunteer Deb Crowe is the first one to greet people with a cup of coffee when they wake up and the last person they see when they go to sleep at night at the Red Cross shelter in Summerville, S.C.
The night manager for the Red Cross shelter for Dorchester Country residents is wide awake at 3:00 a.m. in case anyone needs an extra blanket or a nighttime snack. Residents know if they need anything just ask the lady in red, who started volunteering 10 years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. “I was looking for my purpose,” Crowe said.
She found it with the Red Cross. Taking care of people in times of disaster became Crowe’s new passion. The flooding across South Carolina hit home for her. Crowe lives a few miles down the road from the shelter she’s managing. While her home was spared from the flood, those in her own community weren’t as fortunate. That’s why she offered to help her neighbors – any time of the day or night.
NAVY TRIO LENDS A HAND
As flood waters began to rise, U. S. Navy Officer Travis Akers, a South Carolina native, packed his bags like he was heading into combat. He recruited his Navy buddies, Lt. Zachary Bowen and Lt. Robert Council. The trio made the four-hour trek from their Jacksonville, Florida base to Akers’ home state. By early afternoon, they had boots on the ground in the Lowcountry, working with the Red Cross.
“I met an elderly lady from the French Quarter Creek area in a dress covered in dirt and drywall,” Akers recalled. “She told me the home had been her father's. She had lived there her entire life. Now destroyed, it would most likely be demolished. But she still displayed joy and gratitude for everything else she had in life - her church family and healthy grandchildren. I was deeply touched by her ability to maintain such a bright and positive outlook on life.”
“That’s what I got out of this experience,” he said. “It wasn't just being able to help my home state, but to find sunshine in a place that had been shadowed by clouds and drowned by storms. I was able to bring some of that sunshine back with me when we returned to our base.”
BECOME A VOLUNTEER
If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer and helping people in need, learn how here.
HOW TO HELP
The Red Cross depends on the continued support of the public to help people affected by disasters big and small. People can help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief to support disasters big and small by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.
View a video - Gail McGovern Shares Her Experience Visiting Flood Areas