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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.”