Chapter honors local heroes, commemorates 100 years


A spread of warm biscuits, fresh fruit, fluffy eggs, and steamy coffee greeted the guests who entered The Rose Hill Plantation Conference Center early June 1 for the Red Cross Northeastern NC Chapter Centennial Breakfast.

The breakfast celebrated the chapter’s centennial and recognized local volunteers with “HERO Awards.” Recipients demonstrated the seven fundamental principles of the American Red Cross: Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality.

This year’s recipients include: Dr. Richard G. Michal, Jean Bailey, the Rocky Mount Fire Department’s Swiftwater Rescue Team & Hilo Aquatic Rescue Team, and the United Way Tar River Region.


Ann Mosley presents the Norma Turnage Award to Jean Bailey, Thursday, June. 1, 2017.  (Photo by Garry Hodges)

Michal received the Red Cross HERO Award, commemorating his service both in the local community and internationally.

“He gives back so much behind the scenes that people don’t see,” said Amanda Bell, Michal’s colleague.

The Norma Turnage Award, presented to Jean Bailey,  a female leader in the community dedicated to the growth and sustainability of the local Red Cross.

“[Bailey] has been the most loyal and dedicated leader for 50 years,” said Ann Mosley, Red Cross board member.

The Community Hero Award recipients included the Rocky Mount Fire Department’s Swiftwater Rescue Team & Hilo Aquatic Rescue Team, and the United Way Tar River Region for their long-standing services to the community and for their recent contributions to the Hurricane Matthew response.


The Centennial Breakfast took place at The Rose Hill Plantation and Conference Center, Thursday, June 1, 2017. (Photo by Garry Hodges)

“It’s humbling to receive this award, but it’s part of our job,”said Chad Pridgon, member of the Swiftwater Rescue Team.

Along with honoring the services of those in the community, the event also marked the 100 year anniversary of the Northeastern NC Chapter. The chapter has served the community through disaster services; blood collection; health and safety classes; and services to the armed forces. Barry Porter, CEO of the Eastern North Carolina region of the Red Cross, began the morning with a remembrance of the founding heroes Henri Dunant and Clara Barton.

Last year, the Northeastern NC Chapter collected 24,418 pints of blood, conducted 331 emergency services for those in the military community, trained about 3,500 people in preparedness courses, and responded to an estimated 270 disasters, including one of the worst disasters in North Carolina: Hurricane Matthew.

The event served as a formal thank you to both the past and present heroes, volunteers and staff alike, who have carried out the Red Cross mission for the past century.

Story by Andrea Gulley/American Red Cross


Oldest Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle Driver Assisting in North Carolina

By Red Cross Public Affairs, Charlotte Rodriguez and Rich Woodruff


Bruce Travis, from Shawnee, Oklahoma, will soon be 90 years old, and is likely the oldest Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver at the Red Cross.   

After several disasters in their home state of Oklahoma, Bruce and his wife, Pam, wanted to help but felt that they needed training to properly assist.  “We wanted to have the knowledge needed to help,” Pam said.  “So we signed up to take Red Cross classes.”

Bruce and Pam took every disaster training course the Red Cross had to offer in their area; from sheltering, to feeding, and even case work.  It was after they took Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) training that they knew they found their calling. That was 17 years ago, and they are still driving an ERV and volunteering for the Red Cross until this day.


Deploying is not new to the hard-working couple, as they have assisted in approximately twenty other disasters across the United States.  Most recently, they flew to Missouri to drive an ERV to North Carolina to help with the impacts of Hurricane Matthew.

Four years ago, Bruce suffered a heart attack, but it has not slowed him down.  According to Bruce, “My good health is a result of healthy eating, exercise, and faith in God.”   Pam agrees that he is “healthy as a horse!”  The couple have no plans to slow down and look forward to helping again, wherever and whenever needed.

Give Something that Means Something and Double Your Holiday Donation

Alabama Tornadoes 2011This holiday season the American Red Cross is urging people to give something that means something by making a financial donation through the 2013 Holiday Donor Challenge campaign. You can give hope to local families in need and DOUBLE the impact of your contribution through a matching gift incentive.

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the first $20,000 in financial contributions to the Cape Fear Chapter of the American Red Cross will be matched this holiday season. Every donation will be matched dollar for dollar in  support of the vital programs and services provided to area residents by the Red Cross. Your donation can help save the day when fire destroys a neighbor’s house, when a patient needs blood, or when a member of the military has a family emergency back home.

rco_blog_img_tornado“We ask people to be generous in their support of the Red Cross this holiday season, and help us to provide assistance and relief to local neighbors in need,” said Vicki LaBelle, Executive Director for the Cape Fear Chapter of the American Red Cross. “We know these are difficult times for families and businesses across our nation.  That’s why we’re grateful for the ability to offer supporters this opportunity to double the impact of their holiday donation through this incredible matching gift incentive.”

Your tax-deductible contribution can be made by:

  • Mail or In Person: American Red Cross, Cape Fear Chapter 1102 South 16th St., Wilmington NC 28401
    Office Hours: M-F 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Phone: 910.343-5833
  • Online:

Two thousand and thirteen has been a busy year for the American Red Cross. Red Cross chapters responded to more nearly 70,000 disasters across the country, including major relief operations for wildfires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres; tornadoes that destroyed entire towns; and flooding that left communities under water.

Over the past year, our local Cape Fear Chapter has provided the following vital programs and services in fulfillment of the Red Cross mission:

  • Responded to 146 local disasters (primarily home fires) and provided more than $94,000 in direct assistance and relief to 161 families (508 individuals) including 194 children (age 17 and under).
  • Disseminated Community Disaster Education information and materials to 17,185 area residents at 70 community events throughout our five-county jurisdiction.
  • Made 1,325 client referrals to other community agencies and resources.
  • Supported 495 area blood drives through which 16,368 units of blood were collected and distributed to area hospitals to meet the needs of local patients; each unit of blood has to the potential to help up to 3 patients.
  • Facilitated emergency communications and other assistance for 536 military members and their families.
  • Provided “Get To Know Us” information to 246 military members and their families and delivered more than 2,500 holiday cards and cookies to active duty and veteran service members and their families across our five counties.
  • Trained 2,878 area residents in first aid, CPR, babysitter’s training, water safety and other lifesaving skills through certification courses taught by local Red Cross instructors.
  • Reached 301,099 community members through electronic and interactive health and safety
    course materials and other preparedness information accessed through, Red Cross
    social media sites, and via free Red Cross apps that can be downloaded for Android and Apple
  • Assisted with 3 international tracing cases and one international information and referral request.
  • And, mobilized volunteer resources and financial support from our community to aid in relief efforts across the country in the aftermath of disasters such as Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy, The Oklahoma Tornadoes, and the Western wildfires and floods to name a few.

All of this was made possible through the dedicated service of nearly 450 volunteers, a handful of paid staff members, and the generous support of nearly 2,000 local financial donors, and thousands of area blood donors.

The work of the American Red Cross impacts lives every day, and it is only through the continued generosity of our donors, partners, and volunteers that this is possible.

Greenville Volunteer Goes Above and Beyond

When you first meet Parsons, you are drawn in by her welcoming smile and engaging personality…

Like many Red Cross volunteers, Amy Parsons wears many hats. She is the Disaster Action Team (DAT) Coordinator for the Pitt County Chapter of the American Red Cross.  Parsons and her teams are on call around the clock to respond to local disasters like home fires.

Disaster volunteer Amy Parsons assisting residents at a shelter in Kinston NC after an apartment fire displaced 150 people from their homes in June 2013.

Disaster volunteer Amy Parsons assisted residents at a shelter in Kinston NC after an apartment fire displaced 150 people from their homes in June 2013.

Parson also makes herself available to deploy on national disasters when she is able to.  Last year she was in New York shortly after Superstorm Sandy struck the east coast and assisted as a shelter worker.

Parsons regularly helps respond to local disasters and specializes in shelter operations although she is skilled and trained in many other areas of disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Additionally, she goes above and beyond her role as a disaster volunteer by also participating in numerous regional and chapter community events and fundraisers.

“When you first meet Parsons, you are drawn in by her welcoming smile and engaging personality,” said Kathy Jones, Disaster Program Specialist for Pitt, Wayne, Greene and Lenoir counties.

Amy Parsons (left) with fellow disaster volunteer Nancy Barletto.

Amy Parsons (left) with fellow disaster volunteer Nancy Barletto.

Her congeniality and genuine compassion for the well-being of those around her are what set her apart from others.  Volunteers, clients, and Red Cross staff that interact with Parsons can expect to feel happy and cared for while in her presence.

“From her early days as an intern helping with fundraising and public affairs, we in Disaster Services are grateful she has found her niche with us,” said Jones.

When Help is Needed, Helen Miller, Onslow County Will Be There

Helen Miller

Helen Miller, Onslow County, awaiting her next assignment

Jacksonville, NC October 21, 2013—When the American Red Cross needs volunteers to respond to a local fire or teach a disaster class, you’re likely to find Helen Miller helping out.   Miller, a well-known asset around the Onslow Chapter, started volunteering with the Red Cross more than twenty years ago by answering the phones at the office.

Recently, Miller deployed to Colorado for more than two weeks to assist with the ongoing flood response.  Red Cross volunteers worked around the clock providing food, shelter, relief supplies and comfort to those affected by the devastating flooding.  As residents returned to their homes, Miller and other Red Cross caseworkers conducted interviews with families affected by the flooding to determine if they required any additional assistance for their disaster-caused needs.

Miller has been on many national deployments but indicated that the Colorado deployment was different because there were people of so many socioeconomic backgrounds affected.  Disasters do not discriminate and disaster recovery is a long and involved process whether you live in small trailer or a large mansion.  Miller was humbled by the gratitude expressed by the disaster victims for the support they were provided whether it was a hot meal, a roof over their heads or food to kit to clean up their flooded homes.

While her husband was serving our country in Desert Storm, Miller became a Red Cross disaster volunteer and the rest is history. “I became a volunteer because I figured my husband did his duty defending our freedom so I needed to do my part for our people,” said Miller.

Miller can often be found at the Onslow County Chapter office teaching a class or preparing to respond to a local disaster like a home fire.  When she’s not helping out locally you will likely find Miller on a national disaster response; she has deployed to more than forty responses throughout the United States.  During a large-scale disaster, the Red Cross can bring in additional resources from other chapters throughout the country and even the world as we saw during the Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy responses.

Miller’s primary volunteer duty is mass care, providing shelter and food during a disaster although she is experienced in other areas of disaster response and is always willing to learn a task.  During Superstorm Sandy, she was trained to drive a forklift and conduct warehouse operations in the New York City area.

Having been a long time Red Cross volunteer, Miller says that she likes mentoring new volunteers to be prepared for disasters and to teach the community to be prepared.  Her guiding tenet is to always be ready to assist in any situation where  people need feeding, sheltering and a shoulder to lean on.

Miller reflected on her most memorable deployment- volunteering in Louisiana and Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina.  For thirty-three days, she was in Louisiana feeding people every day.  On one of her two days off, she joined other Red Cross volunteers to fill sandbags in the bayou to reduce the impact from future storms.  After returning home for a short period, Helen returned a month later to Mississippi for two more weeks to continue helping feed Hurricane Katrina victims.

“The best thing about being a Red Cross volunteer is giving people hope and encouragement to get through a disaster and giving them a hug,” remarked Miller.

When she’s not at the Red Cross, Miller volunteers with the Disabled American Vets driving veterans to their hospital appointments in Fayetteville and Durham.  Miller is a small lady with a big heart that never stops giving.

Kinston Volunteer Recognized for Outstanding Service

During our response to the Kinston Towers Fire in June and July, Lenoir County volunteer, Sonia Johnson, proved to be an indispensable part of the operation.  Sonia was there from beginning to end, nearly four weeks, she utilized her skills in disaster response to help those affected while also providing leadership and training to new volunteers.

Sonia Johnson (front) along with fellow Red Cross volunteers Lani Morbley and Helen Miller.

Sonia Johnson (front) along with fellow Red Cross volunteers Lani Morbley and Helen Miller.

Johnson joined the Kinston Towers Response on day one, when the Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at 3am after nearly 150 residents were evacuated from the building. She worked at the shelter that day helping to provide meals supplies and comfort while also meeting individually with clients to begin the casework process to access their needs.

Johnson was quickly promoted to casework supervisor for the operation after Red Cross leadership observed the accuracy and reliability with which she conducted her work.  She displayed professionalism when interviewing clients and supervising casework teams while continuing to show compassion and consideration for the clients and her fellow volunteers.

“If it wasn’t for Sonia, this operation would not have run as smoothly as it has,” said Leslie Gillette, Red Cross operations manager for the Kinston Towers response. “You can tell that she put in a lot of hours before this operation began to ensure the chapter was ready and remained prepared for whatever came our way.”

Not only did Johnson assist with the Kinston Response, she continued in her day-to-day role as disaster action team member and responded to 5 home fire calls during the operation.  Staff and volunteers alike had kind words to stay about Johnson.  She is truly an asset to the organization and will be honored for her work at a volunteer celebration in late July or August.

Jacksonville Teen Receives Congressional Volunteer Award

JACKSONVILLE, NC, July 23, 2013 — On June 19, 2013, an outstanding youth volunteer from Jacksonville, NC, 16-year-old Carol Ann Schwarzenbach, received the Congressional Volunteer Award.  She was presented with the award by NC Senator Richard Burr and NC Congressman Walter Jones at a ceremony in Washington, DC.

16-year-old, Carol Ann Schwarzenbach of Jacksonville, receives the Congressional Volunteer Award.

16-year-old, Carol Ann Schwarzenbach of Jacksonville, receives the Congressional Volunteer Award.

“Receiving the award was a life changing experience,” said Carol Ann. “This whole experience gave me a sense of personal pride and accomplishment.”

Carol Ann completed more than 400 hours of volunteer service with the Onslow County Chapter of the American Red Cross while working to earn the award.  Carol Ann and her mother Carol Schwarzenbach have both been dedicated Red Cross volunteers over the years.

“Carol Ann has served as my volunteer executive assistant for a number of years,” said Joy Branham, CEO for the Onslow County Chapter of the American Red Cross. “She is extremely professional, dependable, and intelligent.”

Some of Carol Ann’s job duties at the Red Cross included assembling outreach packages to families of military recruits; preparing awards for donors; assistance with event preparation and planning; and mentoring other youth volunteers.

“There were many facets to this program and Carol Ann had to get out of her comfort zone to succeed,” said Carol.  “I am very proud of the fact that she was always able to effectively evaluate her milestones and use them as motivators to achieve her objective.”

Applicants for the Congressional Volunteer Program must fulfill four components to qualify for the award in the areas of voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and exploration/expedition.

“My mom motivated me to apply for the Congressional Award Program,” said Carol Ann. “If it weren’t for my mom I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.”

To complete the program requirements, Carol Ann volunteered with the Red Cross, played piano and participated in her church group, played both soccer and volleyball, and explored New York City on a recent trip.

When Carol Ann found the Red Cross, she knew that was the organization she wanted to volunteer with.  The other Red Cross staff and volunteers mentored Carol Ann and taught her about the different programs and services the organization provides to the community.

“The staff at the chapter is genuinely nice people who made me feel safe and comfortable,” said Carol Ann. “The volunteers I worked with were extremely supportive of what I was trying to do and they always wanted to know what my next adventure was going to be. That is one of the many reasons why I couldn’t live without the Red Cross in my life.”