Wednesday, December 20, 2017

From Hiking to Houston: A Volunteer's Journey

Deb Logan looked out of a second-story window at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing: thousands of people left wondering if Hurricane Harvey spared their homes.

Deb had been volunteering with the American Red Cross of Upstate SC for just four months. Her first deployment was to Houston, five days after Harvey roared ashore.

“Just seeing all those people who couldn’t go home, it was heartbreaking,” she said.

Deb is a registered nurse. Her main responsibility in Houston was to take care of volunteers, some of whom walked 15 to 20 miles a day throughout the convention center. Even with blisters and cramps, Deb said the volunteers kept working. She called the dedication ‘overwhelming.’

She would be in Houston for several weeks. When she returned to her home in Clemson, Hurricane Irma knocked out her power and downed a large tree in her yard. But, just a few weeks after that, Deb was on a plane again. This time to Santa Rosa, California. Once again, she took care of volunteers who were sick and exhausted but kept going.

While Deb was driving around a devastated neighborhood one day, she saw a tattered American Flag. Perhaps it was weighted down with a layer of grief for what that area was going through. Still, though, that flag flew as best it could.

“I thought, ‘That really is what America is about: We are all here helping each other and we are going to take care of each other as a nation,’” she said.

She would return home only to fly out to California again. It was her third deployment in her eight-month tenure with the Red Cross. Deb was going to take some time off, but one night she saw video of flames devastating lives and destroying homes.

“I saw this fire, and I thought OK, I’ve got to go,” she remembered.

Why does she do it? Deb said earlier this year, she was enjoying retirement. She was training to hike the Appalachian Trail. It was strenuous, she said. And then she had a thought.

“I realized there’s not a lot of meaning in this other than a personal achievement. I was working really hard, and I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t I work hard to help people?’”

While the deployments have not been easy, Deb said they’ve been rewarding. She’s one of nearly 200 disaster-workers from South Carolina who have deployed all over the country to help people recover from disasters since August. For Deb, it’s not about her fatigue. It’s about the people she’s helped.

“I just have a heart for these people who are going through such tragedy,” Deb said. “I get something back because it really gives me a purpose in my life and retirement.”

A purpose tied together with a mission of alleviating human suffering.

Nearly 90-percent of the Red Cross’ workforce is volunteer based. That’s why the Duke Energy Foundation has provided $45,000 to branches of the American Red Cross across South Carolina to support its efforts of recruiting and training volunteers, just like Deb. These funds enable the Red Cross to enhance its volunteer base in critical areas throughout the state to ensure that well-trained volunteers are always ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, click here

Monday, November 27, 2017

Give with Meaning this Giving Tuesday

November brings with it a chance for all of us to stop and give thanks. It’s a time to reflect upon the joys of life. And we want to use this time to give thanks for you. These last few months have been unprecedented, with three historic hurricanes, a mass shooting in Las Vegas, and wildfires in California.

We could not have responded without your help. We have realized just how generous South Carolina can be. Even young students have wanted to donate to our mission.

Earlier this month, we received a special donation and a heartfelt letter from the Junior Beta Club at Moultrie Middle School in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Over the last few weeks, the students held a donut fundraiser and sold Halloween Candy Grams to collect money for the Red Cross’ hurricane relief fund. At the end of the fundraiser, the students and faculty at Moultrie raised $850. We are honored they wanted to donate the money to the Red Cross. Their humility and desire to help have set such a fine example.
The Junior Beta Club raised $850!

Donations help the Red Cross meet its mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering. Here’s what that looks like:

Disaster-trained volunteers are in your neighborhood, helping people who’ve been impacted by a home fire or other disasters. In fact, volunteers respond to a home fire every 3.9 hours, on average. That’s as many as six fires a day. On Thanksgiving Day, the Palmetto SC region of the American Red Cross helped 23 people after home fires throughout the state.

And the work doesn’t end with home fires.

Across the state last year, the Red Cross trained more than 31,000 people in lifesaving skills such as first aid, CPR and water safety. Volunteers and staff were in contact with nearly 27,000 military personnel and family members. And volunteers were in communities installing more than 26,000 smoke alarms.

Your Red Cross is there every day and every night to provide hope, care, and comfort.

Today is Giving Tuesday - a time when the public gives so generously to non-profit organizations. Today, we urge you to give something that means something. Whether it’s a donation of your time, of money or of blood.

Join with the Red Cross and caring people around the globe to make an impact on #GivingTuesday. Every gift counts. Please joins to make a difference and #GiveWithMeaning. Click here to donate!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Eighth Annual Captain Tom Garrity Firefighters’ BBQ Challenge

This year marks the eighth annual Tom Garrity Firefighters’ BBQ Challenge benefiting the local American Red Cross.  In 2010, Captain Tom Garrity embraced the challenge of firefighters competing against each other while cooking.  We all hear that firefighters are great cooks, so this is an opportunity to prove how good they were and offer comradery amongst different fire stations throughout the southeast.  Firefighters will come from as far as Virginia to compete.
As a volunteer firefighter, Tom witnessed firsthand the services provided by the American Red Cross to fire victims and wanted to help raise money for the organization. Tom had a vision to see the BBQ Challenge come to life and become an annual event that would grow each year. The American Red Cross, the Garrity family and Tom’s business associates, along with many firefighter friends continue to make Tom’s vision a reality.  All proceeds for this event will benefit the American Red Cross Local Chapter. 

This year the event will be bigger and better than ever. There will be an “Anything Butt” competition on Friday, November 17th.  Tickets will be sold for tasting at the door. Saturday, November 18th will be the traditional Firefighters’ Challenge. The Southern Barbeque Network will sanction the event so teams can earn points for the SBN Competition. We will still have a Firefighters only competition for the Firefighter Pet Master along with the People’s Choice Award. The new addition is an open category for anyone to compete separately under the SBN. Each team will cook either a whole hog or Boston Butts. Anyone with a ticket will be able to taste and vote for the People’s Choice Award.  Our defending champions are Wedgefield Fire Station from Sumter. This year over $1,500 in prize money is up for grabs. 

Another addition that will continue this year is the Explorer’s Jr. Firefighters Skills Competition. Teams will demonstrate their skills using bunker gear and hoses. The competition is limited to five teams with a minimum of four members, and a maximum of seven. It will take place while people walk around and enjoy the BBQ from the various teams. While there is minimal fee for the team to enter, there is no additional fee to watch the competition.

We will have entertainment the entire time including a puppet show about fire safety. 

On Friday, November 17, for the Anything Butt Tasting Competition, gates will be open from 6-9 pm. Friday’s Anything Butt Competition will not have a ticket to enter but each sample will require a ticket to taste.  On Saturday, November 18th, gates open to the public and close at 2 pm. The Firefighters’ BBQ Challenge tickets cost $10, with children 10 & under free. Entry into the event provides each ticket holder the opportunity to sample each teams BBQ at no extra charge, while it lasts. Sandwiches, drinks and BBQ by the pound will be available for purchase until 2 pm. You can also pre-order a butt for carry out by contacting the Dutch Holland or Robert Pegram or any other committee member.

The American Red Cross responds to a house fire every four hours across South Carolina.   In the past 12 months, approximately 7,100 people were assisted after disasters, 169,000 pints of blood were collected and more than 26,000 smoke detectors were installed across the state.  The fact is an average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in its humanitarian services and programs.

For more information or to enter the competition, contact Dutch Holland at 910-973-3223 or or call the American Red Cross at 803-775-2563.  To enter the Firefighters Master Skills Competition or the Fire Apparatus Show,  contact Robert Pegram at 803-460-4877 or .  Applications and rules for entry for all areas can be found at  View the Facebook page at Capt. Tom Garrity Firefighters’ BBQ Challenge for more details and pictures of the event.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

From Heartbreak to Hope: A Volunteer's Reflection on Disasters

Lisa Scott stood outside of the American Red Cross shelter in Corpus Christi, Texas and watched the bus unload. She saw faces of defeat, hopelessness, and desperation.

Those faces came from Rockport, an area that took a direct hit from Hurricane Harvey. Lisa, a new volunteer from the Upstate South Carolina Chapter of the Red Cross, knew everyone walking into that shelter needed compassion.

While working overnights, one of her jobs was cleaning the restrooms. It wasn’t glorifying work, she said, but it was one thing she could to show that compassion.

“I just tried to do things that made life a little bit better and little more normal for people,” she said.

Armed with cleaning supplies and a smile, Lisa is ready to clean the shelter restrooms.

Lisa also realized the simplest actions could have the deepest impact on everyone who needed help.

“They needed to talk, and they wanted to talk about what happened. I was just there to listen.”

She spent several nights doing just that. She remembers meeting older couples, young mothers, and families with several children.

One of the people she met was a six-year-old boy who was just about to turn seven. School was back in session, but the boy and his family were still staying in the shelter. He wanted to be able to take goodie bags to school to celebrate with his classmates. Lisa left the shelter to buy bags, candy, and toys. The next morning the boy wore the “Happy birthday” button Lisa also bought and was ready to go. Goodie bags in tow.

But, Lisa wanted to do one more thing. She rallied those who were around, and they all sang happy birthday. The faces of defeat, helplessness, and desperation, she said, turned into looks of joy, gratitude, and hope.

“It would make you cry. It brought tears to my eyes. It was very simple,” Lisa remembered.

But then disaster struck closer to Lisa’s home just a few weeks later.  A tornado tore through Spartanburg. Lisa got the call that she would need to open a shelter within an hour. She dropped everything.

“I know the people who were at the shelter got an understanding of the compassion we have, and the passion we have for helping,” she said.

Lisa spends time visiting with a furry shelter resident.

In all, the Palmetto SC Region provided more than 900 meals and snacks to people in need. Weeks later, Lisa continues to work with families, helping them through their recovery. She is one of the thousands of volunteers who make up 90% of the Red Cross workforce. She is one of the heroes who has paused their life to help others through their worst days.

For her, it’s about helping. It’s about alleviating human suffering.

“Tomorrow, I would go wherever they needed me to go. I learned so much, and it just enriches your life,” Lisa said.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a volunteer, go to

Friday, October 27, 2017

Stability During Unpredictability: Palmetto SC Responds to Severe Weather

Mother Nature is unpredictable.  Dark skies can pass over a community without as much as a rain drop. Other days, those clouds can open a Pandora’s Box of weather.  Throughout the upstate on Monday, we all saw the latter.  A tornado ripped through a community.  Heavy rains threatened to flood homes.  Power was out for thousands.

Almost immediately, Red Cross Disaster workers from the Palmetto SC Region jumped into action.  They were ready to go.  They were excited to bring stability to unpredictability.  Together with government partners, volunteers opened (and staffed) a shelter.  Nearly two dozen people spent the night.  They had a dry, safe place to spend the night.

(A Palmetto SC Region volunteer helps a man impacted by Monday's weather)

Red Cross Disaster Workers sat down with dozens of people in that shelter and guided them through the recovery process.  Volunteers unloaded trailers full of supplies to distribute – including clean-up kits, packages of water, meals, snacks, etc.  They even helped one woman receive new eyeglasses.  Another woman needed help getting her prescription medications. She has them now.

51 volunteers distributed 800 meals and snacks.  They handed out 100 clean-up kits and bulk items. They helped more than 60 people impacted by the weather.  Those numbers are increasing by the day.

(Two volunteers wave goodbye as they head out to help communities in need on Wednesday)

Red Cross volunteers did all of that. Not only because of their passion.  But because of you.

The fact is 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in our humanitarian services and programs.  We mean that. Your donations make our work possible.

The Red Cross is an organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering.  Disaster workers are there to make the worst days of peoples’ lives a little bit better.  Roughly 90% of the Red Cross is volunteer-based.  These are personal heroes who paused their personal lives to jump in to action. 

(A Red Crosser checks one of the trailers parked outside of the Spartanburg shelter)

The work of the Red Cross in the upstate is not finished yet. If you would like to help with our efforts to help our neighbors, please go to

Even the smallest donation can bring the biggest smile to the face of someone who needs help. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Red Cross Emergency App: Preparedness in Your Hand

With the chance of severe weather throughout South Carolina on Monday, now is a good time to download the Red Cross Emergency App.

It’s easy to do so.  You can either download it from the Apple or Android stores, or you can text "GETEMERGENCY" to 90999.  The app is free to download and free to use.

Once downloaded, there are so many tools at your disposal.  You can set real-time weather alerts for your area, by either typing in your city, zip code or letting the app have access to your location.  You can set up for alerts for severe weather watches/warnings, flash floods tornadoes, earthquakes… the list goes on and on.  There are also preparedness lists for all disasters, telling you what you should do before, during and after the storm.

In the event that shelters are opened, the app will also update to show you where the shelters are.  You can also send a message to your loved ones letting them know you’re safe.  This feature also allows you to share your current location.

This is all about preparedness at your fingertips. Be sure to download the app today to be weather-aware to have expert advice and disaster help readily available. You can also go to to find an assortment of other apps we have to help you stay safe year-round.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Make a Splash this Summer with Water Safety Tips from the Red Cross

Summer is a time to make a splash! Taking a dip in the ocean, pool or lake is a fun way to cool off in the heat of the summer. But it is important to be safe too. Everyone should have basic water safety knowledge and skills to help them be safer and make good choices around the water

Unfortunately, tragic events where children and adults lose their lives to drowning occur all too often. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day.

As you head to the beach or pool this summer, the American Red Cross recommends you keep these safety factors in mind: 
  • ·         Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • ·         Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone.
  • ·         Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • ·         Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • ·         Maintain constant supervision.
  • ·         Make sure everyone in your family learns to swim well. Enroll in age-appropriate Red Cross water orientation and learn-to-swim courses.
  • ·         If you have a pool, secure it with appropriate barriers. Many children who drown in home pools were out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of one or both parents at the time.
  • ·         Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
  • ·         If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • ·         Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
  • ·         Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • ·         Enroll in Red Cross home pool safetywater safetyfirst aid and CPR/AED courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies.
  • ·         Protect your skin. Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and wear sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15.
  • ·         Drink plenty of water regularly, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them.

Put water safety in the palm of your hands—download the Red Cross Swim App. The Red Cross Swim App promotes water safety education and helps parents and caregivers of young people learning how to swim. The app has features specifically designed for children, including a variety of kid-friendly games, videos and quizzes. People can download the app for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in their app store or at

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Don’t Let Your Summer go up in Flames - Summer Grilling Safety Tips from the Red Cross

With the cold of winter finally retreating, it’s time to bring the activity outdoors, including cooking. May through August are the prime grilling months and those are also the peak months for grilling fires. The American Red Cross wants you to stay safe this summer.

While grills are a great way to cook a big family meal, they can also cause injury or even death if not used properly. In 2014, 16,600 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills, and these weren’t just adults. In fact, in 2016 1,600 children under five were treated in the ER, typically for contact burns rather than flame burns.*

Making grilling safety a priority for the whole family this summer with these tips from the Red Cross:  

  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
  • Never grill indoors – not in the house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
  • Make sure everyone, including children and pets, stays away from the grill.
  • Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire. 
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid after coals have been ignited. 
Burns can range from minor to life-threatening. To learn what to do if someone in your family suffers a burn or another medical emergency, download the Red Cross First Aid App. This free app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Get the app and be prepared for what life brings. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it’s never been easier to know first aid. Visit for more information. All of the Red Cross apps are available for smart phones and tablets and can be downloaded from the Apple or Google Play for Android app stores.

*Source: NFPA, Fire Analysis & Research Division,

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Get Ready for Hurricane Season; Tips from the Red Cross

As hurricane season begins this week, all of us in South Carolina are well aware of the destruction that comes with a tropical cyclone.

The American Red Cross has some tips to help you brush up on your preparedness so you’re ready in case another one hits. Crossing our fingers you don’t need them!

First, download the Red Cross Emergency App. In addition to hurricanes, it covers what to do before, during and after more than 30 disasters and emergency situations. Should you need to evacuate, the app shows all the open shelter locations in real-time. All Red Cross apps can be found in smartphone app stores by searching for American Red Cross or by going to

Get Ready Now

The Red Cross recommends that households:
  • Build an emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information. Many of these items are available through the Red Cross Store at
  • Talk with household members and create an evacuation plan. Practicing the plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event. 
  • Be informed. Learn about your community’s hurricane response plan and use the South Carolina Hurricane Guide to “Know Your Zone” for evacuations. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for pets.

If you have a disaster kit, make sure the food and water is still okay to consume and that copies of important documents are up to date. If you have an emergency plan for the household, talk about it again with family members so everyone knows what to do if an emergency occurs.

Top Hurricane Prep Tips

Here are 11 tips on what to do if a hurricane is headed your way:

  • ·         Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio (Available in the Red Cross Store) for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • ·         Check your disaster supplies. Replace or restock as needed.
  • ·         Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (e.g., bicycles, lawn furnit
  • ·         Close your windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood.
  • ·         Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting. Keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
  • ·         Turn off propane tank.
  • ·         Unplug small appliances.
  • ·         Fill your car’s gas tank.
  • ·         Create a hurricane evacuation plan with members of your household. Planning and practicing your evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.
  • ·         Find out about your community’s hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs and make plans for your pets to be cared for.
  • ·         Obey evacuation orders. Avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
Being prepared may not prevent a disaster but it will give you confidence to meet the challenge. And your Red Cross will be at your side.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Our Commitment Never Wavers - Red Cross honors those who serve during Military Appreciation Month

May is Military Appreciation Month, a time to honor those who defend our freedom, culminating with Memorial Day, when we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The American Red Cross is proud to serve those who serve, helping members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to, the challenges of military service.

The Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program dates back to the establishment of the American Red Cross by Clara Barton in May 1881. Not only did the “Angel of the Battlefield” risk her life tending to soldiers wounded in the Civil War, she bolstered their morale by writing letters for them to send to their families. Today, volunteers and staff with the Red Cross proudly carry on this tradition through the SAF program, which serves as a critical line of communication between the U.S Armed Forces and their families.

In South Carolina, the Red Cross serves more than 126,000 active duty members and their families, as well as more than 520,000 veterans, providing 24-hour support to members of the military, veterans and their families at home and around the world. Red Cross services are provided at no charge to families, including:
·         Emergency Communications - The Hero Care Center is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help connect family members with their loved ones who are deployed overseas.

·         Deployment Services - Whether your family is facing its first deployment or the next of many, the Red Cross has developed workshops, information and support services to help you with the practical and emotional challenges.

·         Services for Veterans - Red Cross services for veterans dates back to World War I and remains consistent with the spirit of our congressional charter. Today, the Red Cross is proud to maintain our commitment to the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

·         Financial Assistance - The Red Cross works in partnership with military aid societies to provide quality, reliable financial assistance to eligible applicants 24/7/365. Assistance can include funds for emergency travel, burial of a loved one, emergency food and shelter, etc.

·         Information Referral - Red Cross offers confidential services to all members of the military, veterans, and their families by connecting them with local, state and national resources through our network of chapters in communities across the United States and offices on military installations worldwide.

·         Hero Care App - Access vital emergency and non-emergency resources for military members, veterans and military families.

The Red Cross salutes the Armed Forces of the United States of America and all members serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard as well as all veterans and their families during Military Appreciation Month.

To learn more about how the Red Cross supports those who serve our country, or to become a volunteer and help military families, visit

Thursday, May 4, 2017

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Tips from the Red Cross to keep your family safe this summer

Thunderstorms and lightning can be deadly. The American Red Cross wants you to know what you should do to stay safe “When Thunder Roars”.

Thunderstorms and lightning occur more at this time of the year, but can happen year round. They happen more often in the afternoon and evening, but can strike at any time of the day or night.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), lightning is still one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States, causing about 51 fatalities a year. Most lightning victims survive but can suffer debilitating symptoms.

The Red Cross has important steps you can follow to stay safe during a thunderstorm:

  • ·         Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.
  • ·         If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • ·         Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts.
  • ·         As the storm approaches, take shelter in a building. If you are driving, pull off the roadway and park. Stay in the car with the windows closed and turn on the emergency flashers. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside of the vehicle.

If you are inside, you should:
  • ·         Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
  • ·         Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  • ·         Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job.
  • ·         Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering into your home.

If you are caught outside during a thunderstorm and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.

If someone is struck by lightning, check them for burns and other injuries. If the person has stopped breathing, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR. People can learn how to take care of someone in an emergency by taking First Aid and CPR/AED training online or in person. Go to for more information.