03/16/12 — Calling all heroes

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Calling all heroes

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on March 16, 2012 1:46 PM

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Chuck Waller, executive director of Wayne County Red Cross, gives an emotional speech on setting a good example during the Red Cross Heroes Campaign kickoff Thursday.

Tabitha Groeneveld was at work when she got the call that her house was on fire. With tears in her eyes, she watched everything she owned but the clothes on her back be destroyed by the flames. She and her family were devastated and didn't know where to turn next.

But volunteers with the American Red Cross were there to help with food, lodging and more.

They were heroes to Mrs. Groeneveld and her family. And they are heroes to the Wayne County chapter of the American Red Cross.

The 10th annual Heroes Campaign kicked off Thursday at St. Luke United Methodist Church. Each year during a month-long campaign, the Heroes pledge to raise at least $1,000 each to help the Red Cross do what it does best -- help those in need.

One of the speakers for the kickoff was Mrs. Groeneveld, who told of her family's harrowing experience during a house fire.

As she made her rounds as a nurse at Wayne Memorial Hospital, a call came at 3:30 a.m. Dec. 3 last year. In a voice she didn't recognize at first, her husband told her she needed to come home because it was on fire.

"The very breath in me was sucked away," Mrs. Groeneveld said. "When I got home, I ran to find my husband and three children. I needed to see and touch my children. I'll never forget the moment I opened the car door they were in and saw them."

As the Groenevelds watched everything go up in flames, they had no idea what to do next.

"Then I saw a man with a red vest that said Red Cross on it coming toward me," Mrs. Groeneveld said. "I thought he was there to help the firemen, but no, he was there to help me. He gave us a gift card of a considerable amount to go get what we needed right away."

After the initial shock of losing their home and everything in it, the Groenevelds went to a local store to get things like toothbrushes, sippy cups for the children, food -- things Mrs. Groeneveld said she always took for granted.

Having worked in a mission hospital in Africa for the past five years and with Groeneveld working only part-time while in school, the family had no savings to replace what they had lost.

At first the couple couldn't understand the help that was being offered because they were usually the ones extending the helping hand.

"When it's turned around, it's a very humbling experience," Mrs. Groeneveld said. "If we have compassion but don't act on it, it's no good. That's what the Red Cross does, acts on it.

"Before the fire, I used to think the Red Cross helped other people. Now when I think of the Red Cross, I don't think of it as an organization for someone else."

Another recipient of Red Cross services who told about her experience at the Heroes Campaign kickoff was the reigning Miss Goldsboro, Blair Mozingo. She chose the Red Cross as her platform because of her experience with the organization.

"I was a healthy child growing up," she said. "I was into all kinds of sports and very active at school. But when I was 16 and a junior at Eastern Wayne High School, I was at a regional cross country event. As I crossed the finish line, I collapsed. I had an internal injury and was hemorrhaging. I had two blood transfusions during an emergency surgery."

Ms. Mozingo said she had never given blood before that incident, but now gives as often as she can.

Also speaking about his experience with the Red Cross was Dr. David Tayloe, who began giving blood when he was in medical school, not knowing his own family would need it one day.

His sister was in a car accident and had to have blood. His father had three open heart surgeries and had to have blood. His wife's mother also had open heart surgery and had to have blood.

"I don't think most people realize how important it is to have a robust blood supply," Tayloe said.

Red Cross director Chuck Waller thanked Wayne County's heroes for doing what they do to help the Red Cross.

There will be several events during the Heroes Campaign, including Pennies for a Purpose in the public schools, a Racquet It Up for the Red racquetball tourney April 20 and 21 at the Family Y, the eighth annual sports memorabilia auction May 10 at Walnut Creek Country Club and the eighth annual Ride for the Red May 19, sponsored by Blue Knights Chapter IX.