Three years after tornado takes home, couple joins Red Cross to help others

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Beverly and Reggie Riddick

For most, retirement usually conjures visions of travels, hobbies and uninhibited leisure. For Reggie and Beverly Riddick, retirement presents an opportunity to give back.  

In 2014, severe weather in North Carolina produced six tornados across the eastern portion of the state. One ripped the roof off of Reggie and Beverly’s mobile home in Elizabeth City, N.C. As the Riddicks surveyed the damage after the disaster, Red Cross volunteers met them in their suffering by offering water, temporary housing and connections to recovery resources.  

Additionally, the Red Cross covered the cost of two nights in a hotel so Reggie and Beverly could develop a plan for future housing. The couple said they were most impressed with the way Red Cross volunteers followed up in the days and weeks after the tornado.  

“That really left a warm spot in our hearts,” Reggie said.  

The experience with the destructive tornado produced lasting influences on the Riddicks. The couple said it strengthened their faith in God and it established a spirit of gratitude toward the Red Cross. 

About a year ago, the Red Cross re-entered the Riddicks’ lives. Reggie was reading the newspaper and saw information about a volunteer interest meeting.  

“Put it on your calendar, we definitely want to attend,” Reggie said to his wife of 17 years.  

When reflecting on that meeting, Beverly remembers feeling overwhelmed by the inviting attitudes of the volunteers. As a perfectionist, she appreciated that the volunteers emphasized mistakes are learning opportunities.  

Now, the retired educators channel their spiritual passion into service with the Red Cross’s disaster spiritual care team and disaster action team.  

“When we lost our home in that tornado, it was our spirituality that held everything together for us. It brought us closer together as a couple and it brought us closer to God,” Beverly said.  

The Red Cross aims to meet the short and long-term spiritual needs of those affected by disasters through providing accompaniment, compassionate care, individual and communal prayer, and appropriate ritual. Spiritual care team volunteers also connect clients to resources according to their individual beliefs.  

Professional or board-certified chaplains, disaster spiritual care providers with other voluntary organizations and endorsed leaders of local faith communities are eligible to submit applications to become spiritual care providers for the Red Cross. Reggie and Beverly are both ordained deacons at Riddick Grove Missionary Baptist Church (no name connection) in Belvidere, N.C.  

“We wanted to find a way to give back because we are very spiritual people and God wants us to serve others,” Reggie said. 

As spiritual care team leads, the Riddicks are working on compiling a list of local contacts who represent various religions to serve their diverse clientele. Reggie said he never wants differences of traditions to keep people from receiving the care they need especially in the aftermath of disasters.  

“I think it’s very important for people to know that God is still with them, whatever God they do serve,” Reggie said.  

When serving on their local disaster team, often responding to home fires, Reggie and Beverly comfort distraught residents by listening to their needs and offering encouraging sentiments. The Riddicks recognize that their experience with losing their home gives them the unique ability to empathize with clients. Reggie said people are much more attentive once they hear about their own history with disaster.  

In the past year, the Riddicks have responded to a handful of home fires, served as shelter feeding leads during Hurricane Florence, and attended virtual training seminars and in-person training workshops. They haven’t been volunteers long, but they have each already accrued more than 100 volunteer hours.  

“We just enjoy helping people, it’s a part of our nature,” Beverly said.  

The Northeastern North Carolina Chapter is grateful Reggie and Beverly have chosen to dedicate part of their retirement to giving back to the organization that helped them on their path to recovery.  

“We are thankful that the Lord has given us the commitment and desire to do it,” Reggie said.  

Story by Shelby Raymond/American Red Cross

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