Whether it’s a house fire across town, or a major disaster across the country, local Red Cross volunteer Richard Knight is there when called.
Knight, of Lancaster County, has been volunteering with the Red Cross since 1991. It’s because of his interaction with the Red Cross as a young Airman serving in the U.S. Air Force in 1954 that led to his continued service with the Red Cross nearly 60 years later. Then, away from home serving in Germany, Knight was the beneficiary of 30 days of morale leave thanks to the Red Cross after his father passed away suddenly.
“I never forgot that,” Knight said. “I respected the Red Cross so much because of what the station manager did for me.”
As the oldest in the family, the morale leave allowed him to return to Lancaster County to help care for his mother and younger siblings. After his time on active duty with the Air Force, Knight returned home to marry and began working for the U.S. Postal Service in Lancaster as city letter carrier until his retirement in 1989. He also continued to serve in the Air Force Reserves and deployed to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991. Knight retired in 1993 as a Chief Master Sergeant – the highest enlisted rank in the U.S. Air Force.
He did not have contact with the Red Cross until some 37 years later until his brother, Furman, who was volunteering with the Red Cross chapter in Lancaster County, asked him to volunteer in 1991. He became a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member and volunteered alongside his brother until Furman passed away.
While volunteering locally in his community, it wasn’t until January 1994 when he went on his first national deployment to California after an earthquake struck.
“I was impressed by the Red Cross at that job, so I just stayed on after that,” Knight said.
He and his brother wound up deploying together several more times including to the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Now 80, he has been on more than 50 deployments for the Red Cross, included were three trips to New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and again for Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He also responds to local disasters in his community. Volunteers, like Knight, are the backbone of the Red Cross.
“Some of the nicest people I’ve met in my life have been with the Red Cross, because they have a lot of compassion,” Knight said.
The Red Cross Upper Palmetto Chapter offices are located in Rock Hill, the Lancaster County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has donated space to the Red Cross to use. The new state-of-the-art facility houses several Red Cross volunteers, including Knight.
Knight said they need more volunteers. The Palmetto SC Region responds to a disaster every 6.5 hours and since Jan. 1, has assisted more than 4,300 individuals and 1,300 families because of trained disaster volunteers like Richard Knight. The Palmetto SC Region is made up of seven chapters and spans 35 counties in South Carolina.
For more information about how to volunteer with the Red Cross in the Upper Palmetto Chapter, please call 803-329-6575.