05/05/11 — Red Cross honors donors at annual Heroes luncheon

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Red Cross honors donors at annual Heroes luncheon

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 5, 2011 1:46 PM

Although local "heroes" raised only $75,000 of the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross' $85,000 goal, the 2011 Heroes Campaign didn't really fall short this year.

With the April 16 tornadoes, the chapter stopped its annual Heroes Campaign early and began raising funds for disaster relief, especially for victims in Greene County.

During the last three weeks of what was to have been the 2011 Heroes Campaign, the chapter raised $40,000 to help with food, shelter and other necessities for tornado victims.

The idea behind the Heroes Campaign is that local people, groups and businesses in the community pledge to raise at least $1,000 for the Red Cross, thus becoming heroes.

Wayne County students sold suckers and cookies, had a hat and jeans day and even conducted an Idol competition to bring in $15,602 of the $75,000 raised. They also decorated jugs and collected money for the Pennies for a Purpose portion of the Heroes Campaign.

Schools received hero awards during a celebration luncheon Wednesday. Twenty-two schools participated this year and seven reached hero status. They were Fremont Stars, $1,000; Eastern Wayne Elementary, $1,000; Eastern Wayne High, $1,000; Meadow Lane Elementary, $1,000; Norwayne Middle, $1,700; Eastern Wayne Middle, $3,714; and Tommy's Road Elementary, $3,748.

Three schools also received cash awards of $100 for the best decorated Pennies for a Purpose jugs. Tommy's Road Elementary students decorated their jug to resemble a striped cat with a long black tail and black ears. Their campaign was in memory of Patrice Worrells, a teacher who spearheaded the event at the school but died before the campaign ended.

Norwayne Elementary School students put big, bright, colorful flowers all over the their jug. And Eastern Wayne High School's jug donned a Jean jacket and an American flag guitar.

During the luncheon, two local Red Cross volunteers who helped tornado victims in Greene Country related some of their experiences.

Tara Humphreys spent the night of the tornado working a Red Cross shelter and helped feed victims the next day out of the emergency response vehicle.

She described it as "one of the most powerful and rewarding experiences I've ever had."

Being a Red Cross volunteer gave her an up-close view of horrific destruction.

But she also got to experience hugs from and tears of many of the victims who survived the tornadoes whose stories will stay with her forever.

"I distributed comfort kits and blankets to victims who acted like we'd given them gold," Ms. Humphreys said. "I bonded with the victims because I saw them over and over, and I also bonded with their dogs and cats -- and even pet turkeys."

Ms. Humphreys also saw the good that disaster brings out in people.

"People would stop us and give us money and food to help victims," she said. "One woman made 70 bag lunches for us to hand out. Everyone thanked us for just being there. I saw many scenes of compassion. And I received enough thanks and blessings to last a lifetime."

Ms. Humphreys said she came back exhausted, but satisfied, because she had been able to help. And her "heroes" are the ones who help raise funds so the Red Cross can do its job.

Tammy Forrester volunteered in Greene County for a week after the tornadoes ripped through the area.

When she first arrived on the scene, she went through neighborhoods letting people know the Red Cross was there.

"I saw people who were dirty, wet and some with dried blood on them" she said. "The victims were out looking for any belongings they could find and also their pets. All the material things they had were lost, but they had their lives and that was the most important thing."

Mrs. Forrester also saw people pitching in to help one another, even the victims themselves.

"When we were feeding the victims, they would tell us that if we didn't have enough food, to give it to the others, not them," she said.

"I saw spirit in people that we take for granted day to day. There is a lot of goodness among us."

Mrs. Forrester said she gained more from the experience than the people she helped received from her.

One of the victims she'll never forget is the woman who was walking, with her head down, through rubble where a house once stood.

"I thought she's snapped," Mrs. Forrester said. " I went over to her and asked if I could help. She was looking for her dentures."

And she'll never forget the man who she helped flip over his refrigerator so he could get his insulin out.

Or the two men trying to figure out which pile of rubble was their house so they wouldn't be pilfering through someone else's belongings.

Red Cross executive director Chuck Waller noted that 190 homes were damaged in Greene County and 90 of them destroyed and uninhabitable.

The cost of the Red Cross help to the tornado victims is estimated at $3-$4 million.

"Nothing happens without the dollars," Waller said.

"We can't do what we do without you," he said to this year's heroes.