03/02/08 — Red Cross launches 'Heroes' campaign

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Red Cross launches 'Heroes' campaign

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on March 2, 2008 2:00 AM

A tornado tore the roof off of Tammy Forrester's house. Carla Taylor's home burned down, and she lost everything.

The American Red Cross helped both women rebuild their lives, and they shared their stories at the 6th annual Heroes Campaign kickoff Friday.

The month-long campaign has a goal of $90,000. Heroes are ordinary people in the community who commit to raise $1,000 each.

The money will be used to help local disaster victims like Mrs. Forrester and Ms. Taylor.

Mrs. Forrester was only 18 when a tornado touched down in her neighborhood in March 1984, yet she recalls it vividly.

She was in charge of her 13-year-old brother, Woody, while their mom ran into town. While they were outside arguing, all of a sudden it got eerie, Mrs. Forrester said.

They went back inside immediately. She sent Woody into the washing room with the dog while she headed to the TV to see if a storm was coming.

She never made it.

"It sounded like the whole neighborhood was coming inside," Mrs. Forrester said. "I had just enough time to cover my head."

As quickly as it had come, the tornado was gone.

Mrs. Forrester felt rain and looked up to see the roof was gone. She also saw what she thought were rain clouds.

However, she soon discovered it was dust and debris from the houses on each side of hers that had been leveled by the tornado.

Mrs. Forrester grabbed her brother and headed toward an intersection close by, where she saw all sorts of blinking lights from emergency vehicles.

"No one saw me," she said. "That's when a lady with brown hair stepped through the crowd and looked right at me. She put her arm around me and told me it was going to be all right."

With tears in her eyes, Mrs. Forrester told how the lady, who was a Red Cross volunteer, took her and her brother to the volunteer fire station until their mom found them.

Mrs. Forrester calls that Red Cross volunteer her "hero."

"That's what your money goes for," she said.

Ms. Taylor also has a Red Cross hero. She was at work when her father called to tell her that her house was burning.

"Everything was destroyed," she said. "Nothing was salvageable."

The Red Cross gave her vouchers for food and clothing for herself and her father. They gave her a blanket someone had made.

"That was a couple of days after the fire," Ms. Taylor said. "I had not cried about the fire. That day I cried. I really can't thank the Red Cross enough."

During the kickoff, Red Cross Director Chuck Waller said that when the Heroes Campaign started six years ago, the goal was $25,000. But as the needs of the community have increased, so has the need to raise more money.

He said it costs about $1,100 a day for the Red Cross chapter to do what it needs to do. Last year, those funds helped train 7,400 people in CPR and first aid. The organization trained 6,700 people to use an automated external defibrillator and 4,200 people to give AIDS programs.

That money also enabled the chapter to collect 7,000 units of blood and to help victims of 51 fires. It enabled Red Cross staff to deliver more than 200 emergency communications to military personnel.

The theme of this year's campaign is "Paint The County Red" and the chapter ran with it, hanging paint cans, paint brushes and tubes of paint from the ceiling and covering the tables with brown paper with streaks of red paint.

As those attending left the kickoff, they were given paint brushes that had been dipped in red paint to remind them to paint the county red during March.