03/02/06 — Red Cross kicks off campaign to find $1,000 heroes

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Red Cross kicks off campaign to find $1,000 heroes

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on March 2, 2006 2:16 PM

When the Williams family lost everything in a fire right before Christmas, the Red Cross helped ensure they had a good holiday.

When Penelope Taylor almost died in an accident at the age of 15, the Red Cross blood supply helped save her life.

When Hurricane Katrina victims desperately needed help with the basics such as food, the Red Cross was there with hot meals and other assistance.

These are only three of the instances in the last year when the American Red Cross has helped people in various ways. The stories were part of the Wayne County chapter's fourth annual Heroes Campaign kickoff Wednesday.

The Heroes Campaign is the chapter's annual fundraiser. A hero is anyone who commits to raise at least $1,000, director Chuck Wallee said. He said the donor doesn't have to be an individual, but can also be a business, Scout troop, family or any other kind of group.

"For anyone who can't raise $1,000, any gift will be accepted," he said. "It takes gifts of all sizes to make this work."

During the kickoff luncheon, Donna Edmundson, board president, said the world is always changing, and the Red Cross must rise to meet those challenges on a daily basis.

"Volunteers provide our chapter with stability to move forward during these challenges," she said. "Our volunteers are our heroes."

Ricky Williams was one of three speakers. He and his family lost their home and everything they owned during a house fire shortly before Christmas. He and his wife have four children.

"They said that if we would have been asleep, we'd never have come out of it alive," he said. "We lost it all. Not even a shirt could be saved. We received help from the Red Cross. The Red Cross was there before I knew they were there."

A teary-eyed Mrs. Taylor told the story of a car accident she and a friend were in 13 years ago when she was only 15. Her friend died the next day.

Mrs. Taylor was airlifted to Pitt Memorial Hospital and was immediately put on life support and given a tracheotomy.

"When my parents arrived at the hospital, there were already donors waiting for my body parts," she said. "They were told I was going to die."

She had a damaged pelvis and a broken jaw along with a brain injury. Her mother put her on every prayer chain she could.

"It was like being reborn; I had to learn everything all over again," Mrs. Taylor said. "They gave me several blood transfusions. People who donate blood are angels in God's plan. The American Red Cross is full of angels."

Mrs. Taylor said she survived in part because of the blood others had given.

Donna Best discussed her experiences as a Red Cross mental health volunteer in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. She got there 90 days after the hurricane hit.

She stayed in a Naval base warehouse with 499 other Red Cross volunteers from across the country, sleeping on cots.

She said a typical day began with an 8 a.m. staff meeting and ended late at night. She made home visits and helped deliver meals in the Red Cross' emergency response vehicle.

While in the Gulf Coast, Mrs. Best saw a shrimp trawler that had been washed up onto the shore, million dollar houses that were damaged and destroyed, schools that were only shells now and even a church that was gone except for its metal frame.

"Entire blocks were leveled," she said.

One woman she met had seen 28 of her friends killed during a Hurricane Katrina party. "She saw their hands sticking out from the roof and knew they were dead," Mrs. Best said.

One man had been chased by an alligator.

One night Mrs. Best stayed in a Red Cross shelter with a woman who was suicidal because she had been forced out of her home for health reasons and was distraught about not being able to be in her home for Christmas.

Mrs. Best said the experience has made her thankful for everything -- for her family not being buried in debris or swept out to sea, for having a job to go to each day, for having a home still sitting on its foundation.

"I have not seen so much destruction and despair in my life," she said.

But she said she would do it all over again in another "Red Cross red hot minute."

Waller said this year's Heroes Campaign goal is $70,000.

"That's the most money this chapter has ever attempted to raise," he said. "But the more money we raise, the more people we can help."

This year's heroes include Allison Pridgen, Fontaine Swinson, Carlos Cotto, George Whitfield, Joe Smith, Donna Edmundson, Wes Waller, American Red Cross Team Disaster (Dora Perry, Durwood Bostic, Jo Peterson and Robert Mendoza), Wachovia, Outback Steakhouse, Sears, Jessica and Katherine Waller, Glenn Chitty, Chuck Umstead, Samia Garner, Efton Sager, Gail Charles, Wayne Alley, Capt. Glenn Barnes, Casey Nursery, Eastern Wayne Middle School, Arnold Wilbert Vault Corp., Wayne County employees, Massengill Best and Markham, Blue Knights Goldsboro Chapter, Alan Plummer, Sharon Britt, Donnie Barnes, David Perry, Judith McMillen, Ann Carver, Dr. Louis Leigh Jr., Red Cross board of directors, Brogden Primary School, Mike Davis, David and Danny Jackson, BB&T, Convenient Glass Service and Brantley, Jenkins, Riddle, Hardee and Hardee.

The Heroes Campaign will conclude March 31 with a wrap-up luncheon at noon at the chapter house.