Red Cross Volunteer Overcomes Hardship to Support Blood Donations; Next Drive September 20

Sept 20, 2018 – Beautiful Carteret County, North Carolina, is a welcoming community positioned between the Neuse River and the Atlantic Ocean.

“We are a unique group of people,” Kristin Willis said of her beloved neighbors in Carteret County. But residents are now struggling with massive flooding from Hurricane Florence.

To hear Kristin tell it, “it looks like someone took a bomb and dropped it” on her hometown of Newport, which sits off State Route 70 near Morehead City.

Less than one week ago, Kristin, her husband and three-year-old son Liam, barricaded themselves in her parents’ Carteret County home to ride out the storm. They evacuated to Georgia, but came back when they thought Hurricane Florence was going South. The storm then returned to its original track through Carteret County and caused significant damage. Showing traditional Southern strength, she states that “we will get our lives back.”

Fast forward one week and you’ll find Kristin helping run a Red Cross blood drive at the Knights of Columbus Hall in New Bern. Kristin helps manage blood collection in Carteret and Craven counties.

“We had to cancel blood drives last week leading up to Hurricane Florence, we can’t delay getting back to it any longer.”

Chalk her commitment and work ethic to the belief she has her “dream career” but also to her understanding of the importance of a well-stocked blood supply. Kristin’s grandfather was helped by a lifesaving blood transfusion. With many neighbors in great need following Hurricane Florence, she views restocking the blood supply as particularly vital. Nationwide, the American Red Cross provides 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply.

Blood drives are a higher priority for Kristin than cleaning up the storm damage to her home, or helping her uncle whose farm was destroyed. That same dedication is seen in her neighbors who came from the midst of their own hardship, including homes damaged and without power, to donate blood. It’s no wonder Kristin is convinced those affected by Hurricane Florence will get their lives back.

If you’d like to help, another blood drive will be held Friday, September 21, from10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. at the Knights of Columbus Hall in New Bern.

You can make also make a financial donation to aid in disaster relief by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, by going to or by texting FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Story by Marita Salkowski/American Red Cross

Key Words: Hurricane Florence, Blood Services, Disaster Services


Red Cross Partnerships Improve Disaster Services

Sept. 19, 2018 – Kristin Curtis of the Southern Baptist Crisis Care Team, is one of thousands of volunteers on the ground in Eastern North Carolina helping residents recover from Hurricane Florence.

“The Red Cross, the Southern Baptists, and the Salvation Army represent a unique display of partnership that is working well,” Kristin said.

Kristin is working at a disaster relief kitchen in Washington, North Carolina, where she helped prepare more than 6,000 lunches and dinners for first responders, residents and survivors of Hurricane Florence.

For Charles Thomas, the co-located Red Cross lead for food service, “The Red Cross represents larger numbers of people, inventory and clients” than most organizations.  But managing the effort is rewarding and gives him purpose: “The minister [of the church where the kitchen is located] rolled up in his car and was in tears when he realized that his church members would be fed. Our partners are invaluable.”

It takes management and coordination involved in meal preparation:

  • The Red Cross coordinates ordering food; the day of our visit there were six tractor-trailers in the parking lot being unloaded by forklift.
  • 70+ Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers work for up to 15 hours a day preparing meals in a mobile kitchen equipped with generators, large tanks of propane, and industrial kitchen equipment positioned under large tents.
  • The Salvation Army and Red Cross then load prepared food into service trucks for delivery.

The Red Cross depends on the generous support of the American public to fulfill its crucial mission.  You can help people affected by disasters like Hurricane Florence and countless other crises by donating to support Red Cross disaster relief. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster. The Red Cross honors donor intent. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Florence relief efforts by choosing that option when donating on or on 1-800-RED CROSS.

Story by David Haas/American Red Cross

Key Words: Partnership, Feeding, Meal Delivery, Disaster Services

Cape Fear Area Chapter volunteer reflects on Hurricane Maria one year later

Meet CeCe Williams:

In late September 2017, Hurricane Maria barreled through the Caribbean, causing catastrophic damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands and across Puerto Rico. In Maria’s wake, loved ones were lost and infrastructure was destroyed. Since Maria struck, Red Cross volunteers and employees have been on the ground, delivering bulk food supplies like rice, beans and fresh produce, drinking water, cleanup supplies, tarps and comfort kits with hygiene items, as well as technology and generators. The Red Cross also provided critical health and mental health services to people with urgent needs.

On this 1st anniversary of the storm, hear from our Cape Fear Area Chapter disaster volunteer CeCe Williams about her experience deploying to the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria. CeCe arrived in St. Thomas on Oct. 16, 2017, for a six-week deployment:

Q: What was your role on the disaster relief operation (DRO)?

A: Logistics Chief and eventually Assistant AD for Logistics. The role of Logistics Chief on this DRO was responsible for managing the functions of the warehouse, transportation, facilities, supply and procurement supporting the needs of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.  It was very much a hands-on role since the complexity of this DRO presented many challenges such as finding appropriate resources, limited power, and distance between St. Thomas, home to our DRO headquarters and St. Croix.

CeCe Williams and Chuck Thurlow

CeCe Williams (right) with her Cape Fear Area Chapter volunteer logistics mentor, Chuck Thurlow. CeCe relieved Chuck from his multi-week logistics role in St. Thomas.

Q: Can you tell us about your first day on the job?

A: The day I arrived on the island it was certainly baptism by fire.  A cargo plane loaded with donations had arrived at the airport approximately 20 minutes after my plane landed.  The airport had limited power and the cargo plane was the largest plane ever to have landed on its tarmac.  I had enough time to grab my bag from baggage claim, throw it in the Jeep and turn around and… assist with the unloading of the cargo plane.

Q: Can you tell us about a challenge you and your team were able to overcome?

A: As I mentioned earlier, resources were very limited on the islands.  One of the first challenges I faced was resourcing the transport of our containers of supplies from the port to the warehouse….Car rental agencies had very limited fleets of vehicles that were not damaged.

Q: What would you say about the commitment of Red Crossers?

A: I am honored to be able to work among the finest volunteers in the world.  I say that sincerely.  I’ve been to multiple DRO’s and I’m always amazed at the volunteers who give up their comfortable homes, safety of their familiar surroundings and leave their loved ones behind to help and support strangers in need.  Most of the volunteers I have worked alongside are truly skilled and committed individuals full of compassion.

On the islands, the local volunteers were also the people we were sent there to help.  Much of the time the local volunteers put aside their personal needs to assist their neighbors. They were instrumental in helping us find our way around the island, identify those in the most need, identify available resources and they also took care of us. The local volunteers made sure those of us that deployed in from the states understood the local culture, they frequently recognized our needs and proactively stepped forward to assist in any way possible.  But most importantly the local volunteers made us feel as though we were family. They made us part of their family which alleviated some of the stress of our being so far away from our families many miles away. To this day, I still smile when I think of the local volunteers who came up to me and gave me a hug with a smile, thanking me for coming to help.

Q: Why do you volunteer with the Red Cross?

A: Why isn’t the question.  Why Not?  I guess I was born with the desire to help others.  I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t wanting to help someone with something.  As I grew up and saw the world through many different types of lenses, I saw so many opportunities to lend a helping hand. I’ve always been a volunteer of some sort – hospice, scouting, Handicapables, feeding the homeless, donating blood, Habitat for Humanity, just to name a few. I would give whatever time I had in between working and raising my family to help whatever organization I could.  As my career progressed and I had less and less time to contribute, I transitioned to writing checks to charitable organizations as my way of continuing to give back… I swore that when I retired I would give my time. Time is invaluable to the recipient and to the donor.

I retired from a DuPont Biotech company in California in August of 2014, and moved to Wilmington, N.C. in October 2014.  After four months of settling in and getting acquainted with the area, it was time to find a charitable organization to align myself with. When I was in California, I met a woman who was being deployed to New Orleans to assist with the response to Hurricane Katrina. I spent about an hour asking her about her deployment. She told me about the Red Cross. That conversation resonated with me for several years, so it was instinctive for me to investigate the Red Cross once I arrived in Wilmington. In February of 2015, I got on the internet and completed a volunteer inquiry form… and the rest is history.

Q: Any advice for others considering a volunteer opportunity?

A: It doesn’t matter how much time you have to give or if you have circumstances that inhibit you from doing physical work or even if you can’t leave your home, there is something you can do within Red Cross that will positively impact someone in need.  So, the question to myself was: ‘What other organization could I work with that has such a huge impact on so many people throughout the world?’  My answer: ‘NONE.’  So here I am.

Interested in volunteering like CeCe? Visit to sign up today.

North Carolinians seek refuge from Hurricane Florence

Sept. 18, 2018 — The American Red Cross continues to work around the clock to do all it can to provide shelter, food, comfort and other emergency support to victims of Hurricane Florence.

Overnight, more than 15,000 people sought refuge in more than 150 Red Cross and community shelters across the impacted region. This includes at least 14,200 people in 137 shelters in North Carolina, and 819 people in 9 shelters in South Carolina.

Hurricane Florence 2018

Beatriz Jerlen Covarrubias-Rivera with her sons.

Hurricane Florence 2018

Beatriz Jerlen Covarrubias-Rivera with her son, Jason. 

Beatriz Jerlen Covarrubias-Rivera relaxed on a Red Cross cot  at the E.B. Aycock Middle Schoolwith her four sons – Carlos, 10; Ever, 8; Irvin, 6; and Jason, 2. Beatriz’s husband leaves the shelter each day to check on their home in Greenville, N.C., which is near a river.

“We had to get out for safety,” she said. Her son, Carlos adds, “Everybody is nice to each other [in the shelter] and we’ve made new friends.”

Temiaka Braswell, who sat nearby, found herself taking shelter from Hurricane Florence in the same middle school she’s an assistant teacher in during the day. She and her two children have been in the shelter for four days.

“American Red Cross has been tremendous to me and my kids,” she said. “It’s been a blessing to be safe from the storm.”

Hurricane Florence 2018

Temiaka Braswell smiles as she relaxes in a Red Cross shelter.

Story by Brittany Jennings/American Red Cross

Photos by Adam Jennings/American Red Cross

Disaster Mental Health Volunteers Ease Burden For Others

Television news reports and social media posts show us not only the physical damage caused by natural disasters, but also the psychological suffering. How do you console a family who watched their home burn to the ground? How do you help a grieving mother who lost a child in a flash flood?

Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers are on the scene to do exactly that. They serve as part of a Red Cross disaster team, responding to nearly 64,000 disasters a year nationwide. Using their advanced training, along with their natural compassion and desire to serve, they listen to those suffering and provide encouragement.

The American Red Cross continuously recruits and trains individuals interested in disaster relief, including training for those who specifically want to help meet the psychological needs of disaster victims. Many of those who volunteer do so because they have been served by the American Red Cross and want to give back.

Tab Ballis, a licensed clinical social worker, and Dr. Allan Chrisman, a psychiatrist and educator, are two longtime Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers.

Tab Ballis: From Victim to Volunteer

Ballis volunteers with the Cape Fear Area Chapter of the Red Cross because he knows the pain of disasters from personal experience. In 1996, Hurricane Fran slammed into Carolina Beach. Ballis and his family were among the residents evacuated.

Tab Ballis

Tab Ballis

“When we were allowed to return to Carolina Beach I saw three-feet of seawater and sewage in our home. It was extraordinarily hot and humid with an army of mosquitoes and an unbearable smell,” he said.

Ballis was discouraged, but began the cleanup.

“I looked up and saw a Red Cross ERV (emergency response vehicle). Out stepped two retired gentlemen who offered me a bologna sandwich, an apple, chips, and a soft drink. I burst into tears. Their mere presence was so reassuring. They couldn’t take this burden from me, but they gave me hope,” he said.


Five years later, Ballis, a practicing mental health therapist, had his chance to provide hope for others experiencing an unspeakable disaster. Days after the 9/11 attacks, he volunteered to join a Red Cross team deployed to New York City. At Ground Zero, in a 16-acre tent, he offered comfort and support to the first responders tasked with recovering human remains.

“I sat with them and drank coffee and ate snacks and listened to whatever they wanted to say. We talked about everything from sports to the reality of the work they were doing,” he explained. “Like the volunteers who had brought me a meal after Hurricane Fran, it was more about their presence than the meal or the conversation.”

Ballis continues to serve the Red Cross. As a part-time faculty member at UNCW’s College of Health and Human Resources, he tells his story to his students and other faculty members in an effort to recruit them as Red Cross mental health volunteers.

Dr. Allan Chrisman: Helping Victims Help Themselves

Dr. Allan Chrisman, a psychiatrist, educator, clinician, administrator and mental health

Allan Chrisman

Allan Chrisman (right) with a fellow Red Cross volunteer. 

volunteer with the Central NC Red Cross Chapter, has been active with the organization since 2005. In addition to helping locally after a tornado in Raleigh and flooding in Chapel Hill, he was deployed to Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Matthew. He was also virtually deployed to assist during Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.



In Baton Rouge, Chrisman worked for two weeks in the mega shelter set up to assist displaced residents of the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas.

“These people had lost everything and seen family members die,” Chrisman said. “The job of the mental health volunteer is to be compassionate, and to help them realize their own strengths and resilience.”

Chrisman sees it as a privilege for volunteers to assist disaster victims. “It is gratifying on both sides,” he said. “The job is to not overwhelm the victims with an eagerness to help. It’s most important to listen and meet their immediate needs. Helping them understand what they can do for themselves is essential to their overall recovery.”

When helping families, Chrisman stresses the value of respecting the parents in their role as caretakers. “Parents will do more for their children than for themselves. We try to encourage them to stay physically and mentally strong so that they can help their children.”

The role of spirituality is also often underrated and overlooked in disaster situations, according to Chrisman. “People of all faiths and denominations are together, but they share a belief in the greater good and a higher being. As a volunteer, it is important to recognize that bond.”

As an instructor teaching Disaster Mental Health and Psychological First Aid to volunteers, Chrisman stresses that volunteers do not need to have previous experience in mental health or psychology. “Life experience and compassion are valued. Some of the tasks required are very simple, but have a tremendous impact. I encourage people to seriously consider this volunteer role,” he said.

The American Red Cross provides free disaster training for all volunteers. Trainings are both online and in-person depending on the course. To find out more about these training opportunities please contact your local Red Cross office.

 Story by Susan Washburn / American Red Cross

Cape Fear Area Chapter Volunteer Meets Inspiring Couple During Hurricane Irma Response Last Year


A year ago, even before Hurricane Irma made landfall, Florida’s Governor declared a state of emergency; activated the National Guard and ordered evacuations. Irma exacerbated a dire situation caused by the recent excessive rainfall in the south.

Community and Red Cross shelters were opened to provide safe, secure and dry places for residents. As with most disasters, residents and Red Cross volunteers worked together to help. One couple epitomized that sense of community – Fernando Suarez and his wife, Claudia Suarez.

Fernando and Claudia had no prior Red Cross experience, but they saw a need and wanted to help their community as Hurricane Irma arrived in Southwest Florida.

“We passed the Red Cross shelter in Estero [Florida] and saw the long lines waiting for safety and shelter and wanted to help,” Fernando said. “We saw the volunteers working frantically to check people into the Red Cross shelter. We called to find out how to help and became volunteers.”

Originally from Colombia, the couple had recently moved to Estero and started a business. Their home was not affected by the storm, so the couple volunteered in a shelter to help those who were affected. Fluent in English and their native Spanish, the couple was an asset to residents and staff. Fernando helped with the intake of new residents, as well as kept track of who came and went from the shelter. Claudia worked with case workers to make sure residents were partnered with other community organizations to meet their additional needs.

Because of their experiences serving as local event-based volunteers during Hurricane Irma, the couple planned to sign on as regular chapter volunteers. Fernando cheerfully commented, “I want to have a Red Cross vest!” They looked forward to additional training and serving on a consistent basis.

The Red Cross depends on compassionate volunteers like Fernando and Claudia to support the community in times of crisis. To learn how you can volunteer, visit

Story by Charlotte Rodriguez / American Red Cross


Longtime Volunteers Reflect on Decades of Service


For Linda and Fred Eldredge of Havelock, N.C., volunteering has just been a way of life.

The years rolled by, until Linda, 71, realized that this October marks 49 years of service with the Red Cross. She jokes that her husband, Fred, 80, lags a bit behind her at only 26 years as a Red Cross volunteer.

“But,” she says, “he was just a bit busy during his 30-year career in the Marine Corps.”

In 1969, Fred was serving in Vietnam and Linda was home with her mother and Pamela, their then toddler-aged daughter. Linda volunteered as a Red Cross office assistant after being inspired by her mother – a longtime Red Cross volunteer in the Navy surgical clinic.

Over the years, the couple was stationed at Navy and Marine Corps Bases and Air Stations in Quantico, Va.; Cherry Point, N.C.; Paris Island, S.C.; and Beaufort, S.C. During Fred’s 30 years and four months in the Marines, he moved up the ranks from private to major. All the while, Linda continued to care for their daughter, later their grandchildren, and volunteer for the Red Cross wherever they were stationed.

After Linda’s more than three years working as an office volunteer and coordinator, she answered the call to volunteer in the Naval Dental Clinic at Cherry Point.

“I had been enrolled in dental school years back but had to drop it when new orders came through,” Linda said. “I was excited to have the chance to take the Navy dental course and eventually received my dental assistant certificate.”

Linda remembers wearing the Red Cross pinafore and cap in the clinic and developing dental X-ray film by hand.

As their daughter grew up and had three children of her own, Linda and Fred helped care for their first grandchild, Alison. When Alison turned 12, she announced that she wanted to volunteer for the Red Cross like her grandparents.

“She was too young to work at the hospital, but she was able to be a Red Cross volunteer at the Cherry Point Base Library and later at the Cherry Point Base Veterinary Clinic,” Linda said.

Both Linda and Fred have since volunteered at Red Cross bloodmobiles, where Linda was trained to take patient information and vital signs, and Fred enjoyed working in the canteen. Fred also volunteered for many years at the Base Exchange Pharmacy, and Linda at the Naval Health Clinic.

Linda and Fred have never slowed down and don’t have any plans to do so soon. Their days are still spent volunteering and helping care for a young grandson.

“As long as it’s fun, we’ll keep on doing it!” Linda said.

Story by Susan Washburn / American Red Cross