Sun City Red Cross volunteers respond to crises

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Sun City Red Cross volunteers respond to crises

By Eleanor O'Sullivan and Carol Weir
Special to The Sun City Packet
Published Friday, July 27, 2012   |  819 Words  |  

"A heart to help.''

"The face of hope.''


When four Sun City Hilton Head residents who are volunteers for the American Red Cross spoke recently, these references to love, hope and the personal rewards of service punctuated their conversation. Volunteers including Greta Pall, Terry and Tom Temple and Mike Brennan are on the front lines as the Red Cross responds to disasters, helps members of the military, provides blood for those in need and teaches lifesaving skills. Not a government agency, the Red Cross relies on donations of time, money and blood to do its work.

Nationwide, more than 500,000 people volunteer with the American Red Cross, and more than nine million people each year receive Red Cross training in first aid, water safety and other skills. Locally 320 people, including Sun City Hilton Head residents, volunteer through the Palmetto Service Center to serve primarily Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties, said Lisa Miller-Wills, director of volunteers and youth services for the ARC's Charleston region. The Bluffton office has received Sun City volunteers since the community first developed, she said.

Red Cross communications manager Nancy Olson said the organization would like more volunteers from Sun City Hilton Head.

"We respond to all sorts of disasters but home fires are the largest," she said, adding that in the last fiscal year her organization helped 43 families in Beaufort County.

"The more volunteers we have close by, the faster we can respond to these fires and help the families," Olson said.

Jeanne Carmichael, the Red Cross' regional manager for service to the armed forces, said volunteers also are needed to work at information tables on Parris Island and at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort.

Red Cross emergency communication services verify military families' births, deaths, illnesses and financial crises so commanders can authorize time off for service members. The non-profit organization also provides medical and non-medical volunteers for the Naval Hospital in Port Royal, Carmichael said.


CPR is a critical component of the Red Cross's work. Sun City resident Mike Brennan, a CPR instructor, said this skill applied in a timely manner can mean the difference between life and death.

"In six years, I've trained 800 people. If I speak to the Sun City tennis club, I end up with 60 to 70 people who want to learn how to do CPR. The same thing at the Sun City bike club; I've trained 50 of their members," he said.

A CPR class runs about four and a half hours and includes CPR basics, defibrillation and First Aid. A CPR refresher course also is offered.

At the ready

Volunteers staff the Red Cross' disaster action teams. Eight to 10 people are on call on any given day-- 24/7. They provide disaster preparation and follow-up for those in acute need. When a fire affects a local family, a fire chief contacts the American Red Cross and two or three volunteers go out on help calls.

Sun City resident Greta Pall is a member of a disaster action team and a mental health volunteer and instructor.

"We give short term emergency assistance at the fire--housing, clothing, money (in the form of a debit card) and referrals to non profit organizations who can give long term help," she said.

Victims of destroyed homes are housed in local motels. Pall said volunteers follow-up with calls to clergy, schools and licensed mental health workers to make sure the victims have support after the disaster.

Red Cross emergency response vehicles filled with water, food and other needed supplies also go out to people in need. Trained volunteers drive the vehicles, often to rural areas.

In 2010, Terry and Tom Temple of Sun City Hilton Head drove an emergency response vehicle when floods affected Nashville, Tenn. They drove again the following year after flooding battered Pennsylvania, parts of western New Jersey and New York state.

If the wind blows

While everyone hopes for a calm hurricane season, the American Red Cross is prepared just in case. If a hurricane affects the Lowcountry, 60 Red Cross shelters will open to house people in Beaufort, Hampton, Jasper, Colleton, Berkley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, Olson said. "The more people we can train to work at these shelters, the better," she said.

The Temples responded in 2011 when Tropical Storm Lee slammed Hazelton, Pa. and parts of New York state.

Sun City Community group

Terry Temple was instrumental in getting the Red Cross Friends & Volunteers community group established and showcasing the group at the Sun City Club Fair last October.

"There are many areas where the skills of our neighbors can be used," she said.