When the American Red Cross needed an air conditioner for a heart patient living in a hurricane-damaged home in South Carolina, it just took one call to Terry Davis.
Davis, a councilwoman for the town of Mullins, phoned around and before long, the woman who recently had bypass surgery was loaned a window air-conditioning unit.
“It was no problem,” Davis explained recently, as she rushed between rooms in a Mullins warehouse, helping a team of volunteers sorting and gathering donations of clothing and food for people affected by Hurricane Matthew. “I know this lady’s grandson. I just called a friend of mine and I got a window unit in her bedroom. Now, I just need to find a volunteer to fix her air conditioning because it got so wet in the storm and quit.”
When disasters like the recent hurricane happen, it is community partnerships with people like Davis that are essential to Red Cross and the people it serves.
“By the sounds of it, I’m pretty sure that council woman Davis has not stopped since the hurricane, and we are very grateful for her assistance on behalf of people here,” said a community partnerships worker for the Red Cross hurricane response operation based in Myrtle Beach. “I just call her up and she’s on it.”
Meeting Davis one afternoon, Ogleretta White, a Marion County administrator said: “Yes, she is a whirlwind. She is an incredible person. I have worked with her on numerous committees and she works hard and really cares about her community.”
Davis explained: “I just could not see myself sitting around and not doing what needs to be done, what ever it is.”
As well as helping individuals, Davis has been organizing donations of clothes and food for people after the hurricane. “I got involved because I have never seen an outpouring of love like this. I thought, let me go ahead and find a place to store and distribute it all.”
But it has been a challenge, Davis said, because some donated clothes are not clean or practical, sorting the bags takes time and many volunteers, and large storage facilities can be difficult to find.
“It’s nice that people want to be generous but I can see now why this is such a big job. In future, I would appreciate if people just want to give gift cards and new items only.”
For years, the Red Cross has not accepted in-kind donations of clothing, homemade meals and other goods for the same reason. Of course, the Red Cross appreciates the good intentions of people who want to donate items, but financial support is the quickest, best way to help people in need. Financial donations allow Red Cross to be flexible and ensure disaster victims get what they most need.
Rushing off to Mullin’s historic Mt. Olive Baptist Church to help organize meals for people there, Davis said her philosophy has always been: “If I can’t give assistance, I believe in keeping in contact with people, that’s the main thing. I just love Mullins and making a difference – that’s the bottom line.”