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Volcano Evacuees Shower Red Cross Shelter Manager with Thanks

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"To our friend, thanks for your understanding and having compassion for our needs. Mahalo."

Carry "Doc" Morgan has only been a Red Cross volunteer for 11 months, but that's apparently been long enough for him to make a big impression on some of those he's helped in disasters.

In late June, as Doc finished up his fifth national disaster response assignment since September, many of the residents of an evacuation shelter he had managed on the island of Hawaii showered him with thanks.

As Doc prepared to fly back to his home in Arizona on a late-night flight, many of the 45 residents of the Kea'au Armory shelter secretly collaborated to make and decorate an oversized "Aloha" card expressing their gratitude.

"Aloha. You will be missed," the card said. Inside, along with the signatures of many of those who had fled their homes due to volcanic activity, it said: "To our friend, thanks for your understanding and having compassion for our needs. Mahalo." A rainbow and flowers embellished the personal messages they penned.

Kymi Rutledge, who's been living in the shelter since the lava flow forced her from her home, organized the card making.

Doc, she said, "was a good listener. He came around and asked people what they needed and wanted." And then, she said, "he came through."

"He fulfilled" their desires, she said. He helped the shelter residents get privacy dividers and storage containers, and other things that helped them make their temporary homes a little more welcoming.

Junior, an eight-year-old who has been living in the shelter with his four siblings and mom, agreed.

"Once we asked him for something, he got it done," he said.

The card was presented to Doc soon after he stood up in front of the shelter residents before dinner to say goodbye. As the military veteran read the messages, his eyes glistened.

"This was a genuine surprise," Doc said later. He said he admires the shelter residents. "Life gave them a harsh hand. The days I was there, I observed people who face an uncertain future do so with smiles and not a single 'woe is me'," he said.

"I tried to make things as normal as I could in an abnormal and strenuous situation," he said. "The fact the card had numerous signatures, and given the number of people who attended...made the gesture even more special," he said. Doc said he's already chosen a place of honor in his home for the card.

Doc said that serving the shelter clients was a group effort involving Red Cross workers -- including local residents who recently joined the Red Cross to help with the response to the volcano, the County of Hawaii Parks and Recreation Department, security providers, the Salvation Army and other volunteer organizations who served meals, the local police force, organizations and businesses that provided donations, individuals who provided entertainment, and the residents themselves.

"Collectively, that is why I was able to have a modicum of success," Doc said.

Written by Barbara Woods