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Postcards from South Carolina

In early October historic rains battered South Carolina. Flood waters tore through communities, leaving devastation in their wake and South Carolinians facing a long and uncertain path to recovery.

Since the dawn of this disaster more than 800 Red Cross workers from impacted communities and across the country have joined in the effort to deliver comfort and relief to the flood-ravaged state. While the road to recovery may be challenging, heartwarming stories of hope are all around.


Red Cross Disaster Case Workers Carrie Smith and Beverly Scott chat with Ladson, SC resident Timothy Jenner about flood damage to his home.

“The first I knew was from a knock on the door and a National Guardsman telling me I had 15 minutes to get out. When I waded out the water was up to my waist,” said Jenner. His home uninhabitable, the Red Cross provided Jenner with financial resources for his clothing and food needs.

Photo by: Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross


Jennifer Briggs has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2005. When it comes to disaster responses, it would seem she’s done it all. “I do feeding, I do sheltering, I do client casework, I’ve done damage assessment – I’m versed in most areas of the Red Cross,” she explains.

But here in Columbia, SC, Jennifer is dealing with something she’s never experienced before. She’s helping the Red Cross respond to a disaster that destroyed her own home.

Prior to the recent floods, Jennifer was living in a trailer along the waterfront in Oriental, NC. Now, she describes her home and most of her belongings as unsalvageable – inundated by more than 14 inches of water.

For Jennifer, volunteering is a way to cope with what she’s been through. “It’s easier for me to get out here and do something,” she says. “I’m just here to help everybody else.” With her support, the warehouse is helping to get thousands of relief items into the hands of people who need them.

Learn more about Jennifer’s story in the video below!

Photo by: Eric Oubre/American Red Cross


Being uprooted from your home as floodwaters rise around you is frightening. It can be really scary for anyone, but especially children.

It’s times like these when families need comforting and help shows up in a red vest. Many times volunteers come prepared with stuffed animals, toys and activities, which can bring a sense of security to little ones. It’s those small touches that help children feel safe during a difficult situation like this flooding.

In this photo one of our Red Cross volunteers plays a video game with a youngster at an evacuation shelter in Columbia, SC.

Photo by: Carl Manning/American Red Cross


In addition to providing food and shelter for communities impacted by disaster, the American Red Cross distributes cleaning supplies, shovels, tarps, buckets and large containers at a bulk distribution site.

Red Cross volunteer Leslie Clark helps to load clean-up supplies into the back of a truck at one of several Red Cross “bulk distribution” sites following the South Carolina floods.

Photo by Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio/American Red Cross

In a world of what goes around comes around, Patricia Clark found a connection with the American Red Cross – from dark days of personal loss to giving back to others as a shelter volunteer. Patricia is a resident of Gulfport, MS, who serving as a shelter volunteer helping people displaced by the South Carolina floods. She’s logged long hours volunteering, but for her it’s worth it: “Meeting people and listening to their story and telling them it’s going to be all right. I want to let them know they can make it.”

Photo by: Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio/American Red Cross


“The response I’ve witnessed to these tragic floods is a testament to the resiliency of South Carolinians, the proficiency of the state’s leadership, the dedication of our partners, and the tireless commitment of our 800-strong Red Cross team,” says American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern upon visiting South Carolina. “The Red Cross stands by South Carolina and will continue to provide support in the days and weeks ahead.”

Photo by: Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross


Jennifer Briggs – Despite personal loss, volunteer gives back

Boots on the Ground for the Red Cross

Post by Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager helping with the Red Cross flood response in South Carolina

As flood waters began to rise in South Carolina, U. S. Navy Officer Travis Akers packed his bags like he was heading into combat. On a mission to help, he recruited his Navy buddies, Lt. Zachary Bowen and Lt. Robert Council. The trio made the four-hour trek from their Jacksonville, Florida base to Travis’ home state. By early afternoon, they had boots on the ground in the Lowcountry, working with the Red Cross.

The group’s experience, as told by Officer Akers:

DR 752 - Navy-Guys-Lowcountry-SCFloods-Oct2015-4“On the first day in the field, my team visited low-income, impoverished neighborhoods. The water line on the homes and cars was a clear indication of severe damage most personal property had been lost. The hardest hit area I observed was in West Ashley, where several homes had upwards of five feet of water inside. We saw families removing debris from their homes and even spoke to one gentleman who had removed several fish from his garage. The city was pumping water out of the neighborhoods as quickly as I’ve ever seen in emergency flooding responses.

I’m from South Carolina and the Palmetto State has always been my heart’s home. It was easy to make the trip being stationed only four hours away in Jacksonville, and our command staff gave us the opportunity to leave work for several days to assist the Red Cross. We make financial donations to the Red Cross, but I knew I had to return home and help out those in need, South Carolina has already experienced so much pain this year.

One thing that I always bring back with me from these experiences are the stories of those affected by tragedy. I met an elderly lady, probably in her 70s, from the French Quarter Creek area. She was in a dress that you would envision a Sunday School teacher wearing in an old country church: flowery, ankle-length, but covered in dirt and drywall. She told me the home had been her father’s. When her father passed, she couldn’t bear to leave, it was all she knew and had lived there her entire life. Now destroyed, it would most likely be demolished. I expected her to be angry or deeply saddened, but she still displayed joy and gratitude for everything else she had in life – her church family and healthy grandchildren. I was deeply touched by her ability to maintain such a bright and positive outlook on life.

That’s what I got out of this experience. It wasn’t just being able to help my home state, but to find sunshine in a place that had been shadowed by clouds and drowned by storms. I was able to bring some of that sunshine back with me when we returned to our base.”

The America Red Cross has a long, proud history of service to the armed forces with programs that support military members, veterans and their families. Thank you, Travis, for your service to the Red Cross and our country.


Photos by Jennifer Heisler, Regional Communications Officer, American Red Cross Palmetto SC Region


Red Cross Volunteer Pays it Forward in South Carolina

Written by Don Underwood, American Red Cross 

October 9, 2015. Columbia, South Carolina. American Red Cross is responding to the flooding throughout South Carolina. Photo by Danuta Otfinowski/American Red Cross

In a world of what goes around comes around, Patricia Clark found a connection with the American Red Cross, from dark days of personal loss and suffering to giving back to others as a shelter volunteer.

The Gulfport, MS resident lost her daughter in 1988 to illness and even now, talking about it brings tears to her eyes. Her grief nearly incapacitated her until a close friend forced her to “get out of bed and search for something to live for,” Patricia recalls.

They drove to a Red Cross blood bank at Keesler Air Force Base at Biloxi, MS where they stopped and Patricia volunteered.

Emily Shelby, the blood bank manager took Patricia under her wing and gave her something to focus on other than her grief.

”She was just like a drill sergeant. She didn’t give me a moment and kept me busy,” said Patricia who moved away when her Navy husband was transferred overseas.

A second tragedy hit Patricia and her family after they returned. In 2005, her family lost their home and just about everything inside it to Katrina. She turned to FEMA and private groups for help.

But a Red Cross volunteer found her.

“That woman said she’d been told I needed food,” Patricia says. “She took me to the store.”South Carolina Floods 2015

The paths of Red Cross and Patricia crossed again. She worked in other Red Cross positions including as a caseworker in her home chapter in Biloxi.

In South Carolina, Patricia has been assigned to one of the shelters housing people displaced from the flood, keeping busy with everything from greeting late-night arrivals with a smile, to holding a frightened child.

For Patricia, the long hours and sometimes hard work at the shelter is all worth it.

“Meeting people and listening to their story and telling them it’s going to be all right,” she said. “I want to let them know they can make it.”

Social Media Savvy Mom “Likes” Red Cross in Times of Emergency

Written by Patricia Kemp, communications manager, American Red Cross

Tina Branham was at home with her three kids October 3 when the rain began to fall. She logged into Facebook to check out the social media chatter. Severe weather was the hot topic in South Carolina.

The rain was relentless and water started to rise on the driveway. “I wanted to get out before we had to swim out,” said Tina, who is pregnant with her fourth child. “I was like, it’s time to go because if I wait any longer, I can’t carry three kids by myself. If I stayed it would’ve caused more stress for my family.”

Tina’s husband works nights in a Georgia factory, and wasn’t able to reach her and their children Thomas, 10, Christopher, 7, and 7-month-old baby girl, Laila. Tina remained calmed and assured him she would get the kids out of the house. She started planning an exit strategy and turned again to social media to see what she should do and where she could go. She clicked on the American Red Cross Lowcountry South Carolina Facebook page and got some answers.


Tina packed a bag of clothes for each of the kids and headed to the nearest shelter the high school in Summerville the Red Cross told her about on Facebook. They were the first to arrive.

Tina found volunteers were just as friendly face-to-face as they are online.

“The Red Cross has been so nice to us,” she said.  “We found a place where people can come and feel comfortable and lift their spirits a little bit since they kind of got ripped from their house.”

Over the next several days, nearly 100 more people displaced by the flood began filling the shelter and Tina helped them navigate the new terrain. She also allowed them to help themselves to her stash of supplies.

“I gave another mother some diapers and my Red Cross blanket,” she said.

DR-752 Tina Branham Family

Tina called her husband once the kids were settled to let him know they were safe, and of course she updated her Facebook status for all her friends.

Follow the American Red Cross of South Carolina on Twitter @RedCrossSC and Facebook at facebook.com/RedCrossCentralSC for all the updates on flood relief.


From the Archives – Hemingway with the Red Cross in Italy

From 1914 to 1918, Europe endured the horrors of The Great War, now known as World War I. In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the conflict, “From the Archives” will feature a series of articles on Red Cross involvement in the war.

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The enormous scale of World War I meant a staggering need for medical support for wounded soldiers. Although America was not yet directly involved in the conflict, popular support for American participation in the war increased. Volunteer organizations such as the American Red Cross Ambulance Service and the American Field Service capitalized on that spirit and enrolled many young Americans to serve as ambulance drivers in France and Italy.

These volunteers, who provided proof of America’s willingness to support its allies, received short orientation courses and wore uniforms patterned after those of the U.S. Army. When deployed, they served with Red Cross commissions to France and Italy. Volunteer ambulance organizations preceded U.S. Army ambulance units into Europe until the United States entered the war in 1917.

The work was frequently dangerous and involved transporting supplies and wounded soldiers in the midst of battle. Despite those disadvantages, many people volunteered to be ambulance drivers in the spirit of patriotism and adventure. The Red Cross Ambulance Service actively recruited volunteers through both its New York headquarters, as well as units in France and Italy. By the spring of 1917, it had 46 ambulance units supporting the Allies.


WWI Red Cross ambulance in Italy, 1918.

WWI Red Cross ambulance in Italy, 1918.

Eighteen-year-old Ernest Hemingway joined the service as a Red Cross second lieutenant and at the time was lauded by newspapers as one of the first Americans wounded in Italy. Hemingway (shown below at left recuperating with soldiers) received more than 200 artillery fragment wounds in his legs during a night attack in July 1918. He was also wounded by machine gun fire while carrying a wounded Italian soldier to safety.

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Hemingway (shown above in a portrait taken in Milan) received the Silver Medal of Valor from the Italian government for his bravery. He was one of the first Americans to be honored in this way. (Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Library.)

His experience in Italy during World War I was the inspiration for Hemingway to write his famous novel A Farewell to Arms.

Find more information on the American Red Cross in World War I on redcross.org.  Follow Nicholas Lemesh on Twitter, @NickLemesh.

Home Fire Campaign Interview

Yesterday we conducted a successful Home Fire Campaign radio media tour, featuring our own Russ Paulsen, Executive Director of Community Preparedness and Resilience. Russ spent nearly 18 hours conducting ten radio interviews on networks and stations large and small across the nation including CBS Radio News, Westwood One Radio News, and the hour-long Jim Bohannan Show. A highlight was his SiriusXM interview on the Joe Madison Urban View program, hosted by our Board of Governors member Joe Madison himself. We have embedded this clip below for you to listen to.

Two Ways the Red Cross Helps Children of Military Families

Today, American Red Cross is launching two new programs in the Reconnection Workshop series that focus on helping children of military families to better manage the challenges associated with growing up in the military community.

These two new workshops—Roger That! Communication Counts and Operation 10-4: Confident Coping—are designed to help military children and teens build coping and communication skills that are essential when a parent or other family member is deployed and/or has returned from a deployment.

The Roger That! Communication Counts workshop, designed for children 8 to 12 years old, focuses on the importance of developing quality interpersonal communication and listening skills. For teens 12 to 18 years old, Operation 10-4: Confident Coping involves bolstering strengths present in older military children to help them manage stressful situations.

The Red Cross has a history of commitment to children in the armed forces community. Last April, for Month of the Military Child, the Tennessee Region of the American Red Cross honored the strength and sacrifice of Tennessee’s military children by hosting The Military Kids Serve Too! (MKST!) program. Developed in collaboration with the Tennessee National Guard Child and Youth Program and Operation Military Kids, the program recognized the children of service members and veterans for the integral role they play in military family readiness.

In its second year, MKST! celebrated over 300 children at four events across the state, in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga. The festivities featured a coining ceremony for the children, where each child was given a firm salute and presented with a customized challenge coin commemorating their special designation as our nation’s youngest patriots.

Children who have a parent or guardian currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces (Active, Reserve, and Guard) and military veterans were invited to attend the event.

In Nashville, the MKST! celebration included a performance by country music superstar John Rich and a special song-writing session with Grammy nominated singer/songwriter, James Slater. The coining ceremony was led by Colonel Darrell D. Darnbush, Commander, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard.

A Family Pays It Forward With Smoke Alarm Installations

A version of this article was originally published on American Red Cross of Minnesota’s blog. Story and photos by Richard Underdahl-Peirce, Red Cross Volunteer.

Plainview FDOn a crisp and sunny Saturday morning, thirty-eight volunteers spread out across Plainview, Minnesota, to install more than 300 smoke alarms in family homes. On the previous Saturday, volunteers had canvassed around 400 homes in the community to identify where new fire detectors should be added or old ones replaced. Now, in mid-September, firefighters, community members and American Red Cross volunteers went in teams of three to five to install the new smoke alarms and to give home safety materials concerning home fire prevention and escape planning as part of the national Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

As the volunteers gathered at the Plainview Fire Department, the Sievers family was there to greet and thank them for the Red Cross help they received following a home fire disaster. A year ago Bobbie, Jake and their young son escaped from a fire that damaged the front of their house and up into the rafters. Red Cross volunteers responded, providing food and clothing for relief after the disaster. Finally, last December, they moved back home with much appreciation for the assistance they had received from local Red Cross volunteers. The Sievers family was a concrete reminder to the volunteers of the importance of what they were doing this day.


On hand for the Home Fire Campaign, Jake and Bobbie Sievers, and their son (r), survived a house fire in Plainview, MN, in 2014.


Residents receiving the smoke alarms ranged from young parents to senior citizens. Sarah Hassig, a mother with young children, had three new smoke alarms installed in the home where they have lived for ten years. James Haley, a 20-year home owner and proud grandparent, also had three new smoke alarms installed. His three dogs delighted in being petted by the visitors – one of the side benefits of being a Red Cross Home Fire Campaign volunteer!


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Sarah Hassig received home fire safety materials and had 3 smoke alarms installed during the Home Fire Campaign in Plainview, MN, on September 19, 2015.


The morning passed quickly, and the volunteers enjoyed rolls provided by the local Kwik Trip, plus water and pop on their return to the fire department. But most of all they left with the thanks of dozens of residents, and the satisfaction of improving the safety of the homes of so many men, women and children.

Super awesome: an additional 143 smoke alarms were installed on Sunday and during the following week! To learn more about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, click hereTo get involved, contact your local Red Cross

Know Where the Trash Bags Are, and Other Stories (New Podcast)

Check Out Non-Profit Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with The Barton Report on BlogTalkRadio


We have an incredible trove of stories at the American Red Cross. What better place to capture and share them than The Barton Report? Listen in to hear:

  • How a Texas chapter’s Piper the Puppy program started, and how it helps those impacted by home fires.
  • A heart-wrenching story from a volunteer responding to a home fire on Christmas Day.
  • Life lessons and the tale of how one Red Crosser came to join the Red Cross and what she did during her 19 years here (including a deployment to Haiti, volunteering on a military base in Korea, and more.)
  • What do hosts Beth and Sarah have in their survival kits? Custom tips for pet owners and families with babies, headed your way!

Listen here if the above player doesn’t work for you.

Special thanks to Audionautix for providing music clips.

FedEx Kicks Off the NFL Season with FANtastic News for the Red Cross

Written by Leigh-Anne Dennison, a Red Crosser from Browns Town (Cleveland, Ohio)

Isn’t it great how the football season brings people together? From tailgates to Super Bowl parties, folks gather to cheer on their champs or root for their favorite underdogs. Even “casual fans” will do the touchdown dance when their local team scores in the final seconds to win the game.

Now, FedEx and the NFL have another reason for fans to come together and cheer, and it involves supporting the humanitarian services provided by local American Red Cross chapters. For a second season, FedEx is teaming with the NFL to support the organization’s lifesaving services through their FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week (and Player of the Year) Program.

How the Program Works

Each Tuesday morning the NFL nominates three quarterbacks and three running backs based on their performances from the past week. Then, the fans come together (virtually) to vote for their favorite quarterback and running back by visiting NFL.com/FedEx.

On Thursday, the winners are announced and FedEx makes a financial donation of $2,000 to each of the winners’ local Red Cross chapters. At the end of the season, fans vote for the Players of the Year in each category, which triggers a $25,000 donation from FedEx to those winners’ local chapters.

These donations support Red Cross services – helping families affected by home fires, communities coping with disasters and a variety of other urgent humanitarian needs.

A Long-time Supporter

For two decades, FedEx has worked closely with the Red Cross to ship critical disaster relief supplies to communities in need across America. FedEx also has worked with the Red Cross to develop a variety of small business preparedness tools. As a $1 million member of the Annual Disaster Giving Program, FedEx ensures the Red Cross is ready to respond immediately after a disaster strikes.

Red Cross Ready

With the kickoff of the 2015 NFL season now underway, Red Cross teams in chapters across the country are grabbing their pompoms, and are eager to find out if players from their hometowns will be among the nominees announced on NFL.com/FedEx on Tuesday mornings.

So now we have to ask: Are you ready…for some football?!