COLUMBIA, S.C. – Jennifer Kelly had no previous experience with the Red Cross. She never needed the services of the Red Cross until a June night in Columbia. That night her world changed.
Kelly and her roommate were studying for their summer school classes at the University of South Carolina. The 22-year-old graduate student had just moved into the Club at Carolina Stadium and was getting settled. Sitting in her pajamas she heard a loud commotion outside, not uncommon in most off-campus apartments at night. This was different. The yelling got louder and someone started beating on her door. Something was wrong.
A two-alarm fire in their building started and was rapidly spreading. Jennifer, not even wearing shoes, grabbed her cell phone. Her roommate grabbed her cat. That’s all they had time for.
“The smoke was so thick we couldn’t’t see through it,” Kelly said of the June 13 fire. “It was shocking being thrown in that position.”
Kelly said she believes had someone not knocked on their door, they would not have survived the fire that night.
The fire spread quickly, engulfing the entire structure and claiming everything in its path. It was not until several hours later the fire department was able to tell her everything she owned was gone. Even sentimental items once belonging to her grandmother were lost in the blaze. In the face of disaster, the Red Cross stepped in to help.
“The Red Cross brought a calming presence in the midst of chaos,” Kelly said. “They were so patient and kind.”
Six months later Kelly says she has a new normal. Although she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, she is back on her feet thanks to the Red Cross. After the fire she was given a debit card with funds to get essential items such as food, toiletries and lodging.
“I thought it was so generous,” said Kelly.
She is working on a Masters degree in counseling and would like to work with kids. She also began volunteering with the Red Cross Central SC Chapter between classes and studying.
“My goal is to promote awareness about what the Red Cross does,” she said.
Because of trained disaster volunteers and financial assistance from the community, Red Cross has been able to help more than 4,400 individuals and 1,400 families affected by disasters in the Palmetto SC region since January 1. On average, the American Red Cross Palmetto SC Region responds to a disaster every 6.5 hours. It takes an average of $1,250 to support a family of four after a fire. Please consider donating to the Red Cross to help others. For more information on how to donate please go to http://www.redcross.org/sc/columbia/fire-hurts-red-cross-helps or call the Central SC Chapter at 803-540-1200.