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The love of volunteering

OKC family speaks with Red Cross volunteer
We’ll keep at it as long as we’re physically able to

For John and Kathy Manners, life and volunteering wouldn’t be the dame without their better halves. The Tellico Village couple has been volunteering all their life, but in the last 13 years they’ve used their love to assist disaster-stricken communities through the American Red Cross. Through volunteer work can sometimes keep them miles apart, they provide each other encouragement to keep volunteering, and, in turn volunteering provides a wealth of satisfaction.

“It’s giving back of yourself after being blessed throughout our lives,” Kathy said. ‘It’s paying it forward. It’s being able to help people in a time of need when people are suffering and just need a hand up to help them out. ‘It’s just a personal satisfaction knowing that I was able to reach out and help, and Kathy supports that “John said”. “It makes it feel even more right, like it’s the right thing to do.

As part of a disaster response team with the Red Cross, the Manners work at shelters and provide medical needs and first aid advice. John, who retired but works part time for Loudon County Rural/Metro, is currently on deployment in Moore, Okla., with the Red Cross, assisting those affected by the recent tornado. Though he misses his wife during deployments, he remembers her words of encouragement.

The couple deployed together for seven years, making their schedules available for whenever disaster would strike next. She now stays grounded in Tellico Village with her career as the community relations director at The Neighborhood at Tellico Village, but Kathy is still much a part of mobile operations, John said. “She as the biggest heart, and if it wasn’t for her encouragement I probably wouldn’t have gotten into this,” John said. “It was her encouragement that led me to do it. Kathy said she believes she’s able to give back through her work at The Neighborhood. “I have a passion for helping the elderly, the seniors and their families here at The Neighborhood,” Kathy said. Being involved in Alzheimer’s care and dementia and just helping families is kind of my ministry. I was working part time, and they have been generous in allowing me the flexibility to do that, but when I went full time, with the Red Cross you go out for approximately two weeks and plus someone has to stay home with the dog.”

“I can’t imagine not being a volunteer in some way,” Kathy said. “Even through our church community and our local community we are volunteering on some level. I just can’t imagine not doing it.” “I think it would be pretty boring,” John added. “Volunteering has probably made me a whole lot better person because you look at the disaster around here and you realize it could be us as much as somebody else. I think it has made us a lot more compassionate.”

Before the couple fell in love with their work with the Red Cross disaster response team, they have volunteered at Covenant Hospice, the Tellico Village Volunteer Fire Department, and Big Brothers Big Sisters and have even been foster parents in California and Tennessee. “We were looking for a way to give back,” Kathy said as to why the couple picked the Red Cross. “We moved up to Knoxville, and we were looking for something local. We started with the Red Cross in Loudon, and started taking classes in Knoxville to broaden our horizons and give us more opportunities, and that’s when we fell in love with being with the disaster response team.”

The couple encourages others to volunteer, saying the service is “a very rewarding experience.” “When there are fires or disasters there are so many ways people can help through the Red Cross. They offer a variety of classes to take, so if people have the time and motivation to want to be a part of a greater good the Red Cross is a great way to do it.”

Though Kathy labels her current role with the Red Cross as supporting John, she hopes to one day deploy again with her husband. “We’ll keep at it as long as we’re physically able to,” Kathy said. “We’ve always been a team ever since we started going together. We are best friends.”