Macon, GA, October 20, 2018—Today is day eleven of our Red Cross Hurricane Michael relief efforts and in Georgia alone, more than 240 people are still living in Red Cross shelters. There are many factors that lead individuals and families to seek refuge in a shelter after a large-scale disaster, like a hurricane. However, in the case of Michael, one of the main reasons is this: Hurricane Michael was the third strongest hurricane in U.S. history and in southwest and central Georgia more than 800 homes were destroyed or severely damaged. To put it simply, people still need a safe place to stay.
As Regional CEO in Georgia, I not only understand the Red Cross mission of stepping in to alleviate pain and suffering after an emergency but, I also wholeheartedly believe in our humanitarian work and the ability of our volunteers to directly impact lives. Still, even knowing this, it always feels great to hear from someone whose mind was put at ease because of the work of the American Red Cross.
This is exactly what happened on Friday evening, after I pulled into a Cracker Barrel in Macon, GA.
I had ordered food - take out to go - and was waiting near the pick-up counter to pay before heading back to the disaster relief operations center where I have been deployed for almost the past two weeks. That’s when a woman, whom I have never met before, came running up saying, “Thank you, Thank You!” Then, before I knew it she had her arms around my neck and was giving me a friendly kiss on the cheek. Her husband stood by, shaking his head in disbelief but also smiling—because he already knew what she was going to say.
She had noticed the Red Cross logo on my shirt and couldn’t help but thank me. Her daughter and her three grandchildren lived in the panhandle of Florida near Panama City. She told me the Red Cross had saved their lives after Hurricane Michael all but destroyed their home and town. She made it very clear: if it wasn’t for the work the Red Cross was doing in the most heavily impacted areas of Florida, her family, the people she loved the most in the world, would not be alive today.
I listened to her every word and of course, assured her our disaster teams and volunteers would be on the ground helping for as long as help was needed. With that, she released my neck and made her way back to her husband’s side. I gathered up my take-out, headed out to the parking lot—but found myself having to stop and take a moment before starting up my car. What would’ve happened to this kind woman’s daughter and grandchildren if the Red Cross wasn’t there to help?
It is stories like these that make me so proud to be a member of the Red Cross, and that is why I am writing this today. This is my way of giving a big hug and a friendly kiss on the cheek to each-and-every Red Cross volunteer to thank them for giving up time with their own families to help save someone else’s family, a complete stranger’s family, during a time of great need.