The Nashville Area Chapter of the American Red Cross named new Disaster Program leaders this spring. Kelly Ferrell, Disaster Program Manager, and Katie Smith, Disaster Program Specialist, both joined the Nashville Red Cross team in early 2021. These positions are critically important in responding to and helping with recovery from disasters in Cheatham, Clay, Davidson, Jackson, Macon, Robertson, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, Williamson, and Wilson counties in Tennessee.
Ferrell, the Disaster Program Manager, is the first line of defense in a local disaster. “It starts locally,” she said, “and as response grows, and we bring in more volunteers and support.” She joined the Nashville team after working as the Disaster Specialist in Durham, North Carolina Red Cross for two years.
“My mom was a social worker so I don’t know if it’s in my blood or how I was raised, but I don’t think I would be fulfilled unless I was doing something where I could live my values every day,” Ferrell said. “That is what I love about the Red Cross. I get to live my values. Our mission really aligns with what I believe in, which is to try and prevent and alleviate suffering.”
As Disaster Program Manager, Ferrell is the first one to get the call when someone is in need, from a house fire to a flood. With that call, she and her team coordinate resources and volunteers. There are about 200 volunteers in 11 counties around the Nashville area.
“My job is to support (the volunteers) and make sure they have the resources and training. I fill in the gaps,” Kelly said. “What I enjoy about working with volunteers is that they all come from so many different backgrounds. They have a lot of wisdom and insight and advice to give. We all come to this organization because it aligns with our values. It’s nice to find all these people who are here because they just want to help other people. It’s very contagious and fun to be around.”
Smith’s educational background is in Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts. After college, she worked in the tourism industry, planning tours and trips as well as managing a call center. She later moved to the non-profit sector, working as the Volunteer Manager for a large church of around 4000 members and around 300 volunteers.
“I had always been heavily involved in the church,” she said. “My grandparents helped start this particular church, so I always loved it there. My main role there was volunteer management so recruiting, keeping people engaged, checking in on them and celebrating them.”
When Smith and her husband moved to Nashville, she kept her eyes open for jobs, particularly those involving volunteers. “I’m a big people person,” she said. “I love volunteers because they come with this fire to serve, and you have to help guide them and discover their passions as well.”
Smith serves as the Disaster Program Specialist for the Nashville Area Chapter, and oversees three different areas: Disaster Action Team, Preparedness and Case Work. She works closely with volunteers in the area in training and oversight. “They have taught me so much about my position and they have been so helpful,” she added.
Contributing Writer: Elizabeth Storey, Red Cross Volunteer