Thursday, December 27, 2018

For Second Year, Millions Turn to American Red Cross for Help after Record-Breaking Disasters

In a second consecutive year of record-breaking disasters, millions of people from coast to coast turned to the American Red Cross for shelter, food and comfort. Every step of the way, the Palmetto SC Region of the Red Cross was there to help.

This year, massive wildfires scorched more than 8.5 million acres. Dozens of local South Carolina Red Cross volunteers responded to those wildfires. What’s more, six major hurricanes impacted the United States in just three months, devastating communities across nine states, including right here in South Carolina.

A Red Cross volunteer hands out hot meals to a Conway, SC resident.
In just a few weeks’ time, the Palmetto SC Region of the Red Cross provided more than 24,000 overnight shelter stays with its partners, served more than 210,000 meals and snacks and distributed nearly 64,000 clean-up kits and other supplies to people impacted by Hurricane Florence.

“It has been a devastating year for so many people, including our neighbors in South Carolina,” said Louise Welch Williams, regional chief executive officer. “I have been so humbled by the compassion and care our volunteers have given to so many in need this year.”

LARGE DISASTER RESPONSES IN 2018 In the face of large crises this year, the Red Cross mobilized more than 14,000 disaster workers—90 percent volunteers—who:
  •        Served more than 8.2 million meals and snacks with partners
  •          Distributed more than 2.2 million relief items
  •          Provided more than 290,000 overnight shelter stays with partners
  •        Made more than 188,000 health and mental health contacts to provide support and care

A Red Crosser provides smiles and laughs to victims
of Hurricane Michael.
HOME FIRES MOST FREQUENT DISASTER Home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster, accounting for the vast majority of disasters that the Red Cross responds to in the U.S. This year, the Red Cross has provided recovery support for more than 73,000 households affected by home fires.

Our work continues today, as families face increased fire risks from heating equipment, decorations and cooking during the holidays and winter months. That’s why we’re working to keep people safe through our Home Fire Campaign. With generous support and local partners, Red Cross volunteers go door-to-door to install free smoke alarms and help families create home fire escape plans. 

In 2018, we:
·         Installed nearly 400,000 smoke alarms
·         Reached more than 219,000 youth through preparedness programs
·         Made more than 165,000 homes safer through home fire safety visits

In addition to this, the Red Cross was in communities every day collecting lifesaving blood. Last year, the Red Cross collected nearly 82,000 units of blood.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

History-Making Hurricane Season Ends; Red Cross Work Continues

After five months, a history-making hurricane season ends today. While the season may be ending, the American Red Cross continues to deliver relief and comfort to impacted communities.

Brionna, age 5, sits close with Linette Ransom
at the Mullins Recreation Center.
In the last five months, the Red Cross has served more than 3.4 million meals and snacks with its partners, distributed more than 642,700 relief items and provided more than 182,000 overnight shelter stays to people impacted by various hurricanes.

One of those storms impacted communities here in South Carolina. The Palmetto SC Region of the Red Cross was right there, helping our neighbors before, during and after the impact from Hurricane Florence. Together with its partners, the Palmetto SC Red Cross served more than 210,000 meals and snacks and provided more than 24,000 overnight shelter stays.

Throughout this hurricane season, 360 disaster workers from South Carolina deployed to eight hurricane responses, including Hurricane Florence. Many of them deployed multiple times.

A group of volunteers, assisting with the Red Cross
Hurricane Florence relief efforts, gather for a photo.

“The work from our disaster workers this hurricane season has been inspiring,” said Louise Welch Williams, regional chief executive officer. “Again and again these heroes jumped right into action to help our neighbors, both here in South Carolina and across the country. We are so thankful for them and their unwavering commitment to preventing and alleviating human suffering.”

In addition to responding to hurricanes, local Red Cross disaster workers also responded to wildfires in California and other devastating disasters. Currently, seven people are in California.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Severe Blood Shortage: Blood and Platelet Donors Urgently Needed

What: The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage and urges eligible blood and platelet donors to give now.  

Why: The Red Cross collected over 21,000 fewer blood and platelet donations during September and October than what hospitals needed. The shortfall in donations is largely a result of fewer groups signing up to host blood drives over the last two months. Additionally, hurricanes Florence and Michael forced thousands of blood and platelet donations to go uncollected due to widespread blood drive cancellations that further depleted the blood supply.

How can I help: 
1.     Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  
2.     Let your friends and family know there is a blood shortage and ask them to #GiveNow. Eligible donors of all blood types are needed to help ensure the Red Cross can meet the needs of patients every day and is prepared for emergencies that require significant volumes of donated blood. 
3.     Bring someone to donate with you.  
4.     Host a blood drive this winter to prevent a prolonged blood shortage.

When: Now. Your support can help ensure that blood products are there for trauma victims, premature babies, patients going through cancer treatment and others who rely on the generosity of volunteer donors.  

Jessicca Haveman knows the impact of blood donations,
so she gives as often as she can.
Who needs blood: Jessicca Haveman needed an emergency cesarean section to give birth to her daughter. Because her blood was not clotting normally, Jessicca had to receive three blood transfusions. Today, she is thankful for the blood products that were available in her time of need, and she donates to give back.

“I couldn’t imagine having to go to the hospital and be told my or my child’s life couldn’t be saved because there is no blood available,” said Jessicca.

Every day, volunteer blood and platelet donors across the country are needed to help save lives.

Don’t wait. Donate.  

Monday, November 12, 2018

South Carolina Red Cross Volunteers Deploy to California

Volunteers from the Palmetto SC Region of the American Red Cross have once again left their homes to help people in need. This time in California as wildfires rage out of control.

A wildfire evacuee watches the news while
staying in a Red Cross shelter.
So far, six volunteers from South Carolina have deployed to California. Three volunteers are helping with the Camp Fire. The other three volunteers are assisting with the fires in Ventura Country. While in California, the volunteers will be assigned to specific jobs, which include providing hot meals to those in need, coordinating the movement of needed supplies or providing disaster spiritual care to evacuees staying in shelters.

“I am in awe of our volunteers who continue to help our neighbors in need,” said Louise Welch Williams, regional chief executive officer. “Their passion for helping other is endless, and their dedication to the Red Cross is unmatched.”

Two volunteers are from the Lowcountry SC Chapter (Ladson and Summerville). One is from the Central SC Chapter (Columbia). One is from the Eastern SC Chapter (Conway). Two are from the Upstate SC Chapter (Abbeville).

This is in addition to the 12 volunteers who are in North Carolina and Florida assisting with the recovery efforts for Hurricanes Michael and Florence.

If you want to volunteer with the Red Cross, go to to fill out an application.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Red Cross Offers 10 Tips to Keep Trick or Treaters Safe This Halloween

Be sure to stay safe this Halloween
by using the 10 Red Cross tips below! 

In just one day, little witches, ghosts, pirates and super heroes will take to the streets for trick or treat fun, and the Palmetto SC Region of the American Red Cross has tips to help everyone stay safe while enjoying Halloween.

Here are the top ways for parents to keep the kids safe while getting ready for Trick or Treat.

·         Make sure trick-or-treaters can see and be seen.
o    Use face makeup instead of masks. Masks can make it hard to see.
o    Give kids a flashlight to light their way.
o    Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
o    Have everyone wear light-colored clothing.
  • Use flame-resistant costumes.
  • Plan the trick-or-treat route in advance – make sure adults know where their children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children door-to-door in neighborhoods.
  • It’s not only vampires and monsters people have to look out for. Be cautious around animals, especially dogs.
  • Walk, don’t run.
  • Only visit homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door – never go inside.
  • Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street.
o    If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic.
o    Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner.
o    Don’t cut across yards or use alleys.
o    Don’t cross between parked cars.
o    Use extra caution if driving. The youngsters are excited and may forget to look both ways before crossing.
·         Make sure a grown-up checks the goodies before eating.
    • Make sure to remove loose candy, open packages and choking hazards.
    • Discard any items with brand names that you are not familiar with.

And finally, for those planning to welcome trick-or-treaters to their homes, follow these safety steps:
·         Light the area well so young visitors can see.
·         Sweep leaves from your sidewalks and steps. Clear your porch or front yard of obstacles someone could trip over.

Download the free Red Cross First Aid App for instant access to expert advice in case your ghost, goblin or super hero has a mishap. Use the Emergency App for weather alerts and to let others know you are safe if severe weather occurs. Find these and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to

Monday, October 15, 2018

Palmetto SC Red Cross Volunteers Deploy to Florida, Georgia

As residents in Florida and Georgia just begin to recover after Hurricane Michael, the Palmetto SC Region of the American Red Cross is stepping in to help.

Shelter residents talk with a Red Cross volunteer
in the days after Hurricane Michael.
 As of Monday morning, 18 volunteers from South Carolina are heading to Florida or Georgia. The volunteers are deploying to help with various aspects of the Red Cross response. Some will be assisting with the sheltering effort, some will be working to coordinate the movement of needed supplies and others will be providing emotional support to those impacted by the historic storm. 

Six volunteers will be leaving from the Lowcountry chapter; four will be leaving from the Central chapter; four will be leaving from the Upstate chapter; four will be leaving from the Eastern chapter.

“When I see the images of the devastation from Hurricane Michael, my heart breaks for everyone impacted,” said Louise Welch Williams. “When Hurricane Florence impacted us, we received such generous, nationwide support from volunteers. While we are still helping people recover from Florence, our neighbors in Florida and Georgia need that same support.”

A Red Cross worker entertains 15-month-old
Cavaughn Trusty.
Over the weekend, more than 2,000 people stayed in as many as 27 Red Cross and community shelters across Florida, Georgia and Alabama. More than 1,000 Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground to support relief efforts. The Red Cross has already severed 125,500 meals and snacks. The organization has pre-positioned enough shelter supplies to support some 15,000 people.

Monday, October 8, 2018

From Resident to Red Cross Volunteer: A Conway Resident Gives Back

Story by: Barbara Weber, American Red Cross Volunteer

When Karin Krauss moved to Conway, South Carolina three years ago she had no idea she would one day be in the midst of a major American Red Cross disaster relief effort right in her home town.

After Krauss moved to Conway, she became friends with her neighbor, Karen Williams. Williams and her husband have been volunteering with the Red Cross for several years. They told Krauss how much they enjoyed the adventures they had traveling around the country providing food, supplies and comfort to people in dire circumstances due to disasters.

Karin Krauss, event-based volunteer, helps
unload meals from an emergency response vehicle.
So when Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, dumping over 10 trillion gallons of rain and flooding the town of Conway, Krauss decided it was time to get involved. She was inspired to join the Red Cross efforts in helping the local residents impacted by the devastating flooding, just as volunteers from across the country arrived to help.

“I thought of a lot of people and how lucky we were at the other end of Conway that we didn’t get any of the flooding. I wanted to really see how I could go help out some of these people who didn’t have what they needed,” said Krauss.

Turns out, her help was needed, too. Williams told Krauss that the Red Cross was inviting volunteers to join the team, so she signed up to become an event-based volunteer. To date, more than 450 Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country have been in South Carolina helping shelter, feed and comfort people affected.

“When it really struck close to home I thought this is the time for me to really jump into this, so it just made sense,” said Krauss.

Krauss hands out a free, hot meal to a resident in need
after Hurricane Florence. 
Krauss hit the ground running by supporting the Red Cross mobile feeding efforts in Horry County. She tirelessly loaded supplies on and off Emergency Response Vehicles, working with Williams and her husband to deliver hot meals, snacks and water to fire stations, community centers, and neighborhoods where people had been unable to get out for days due to the extreme flooding. So far the Red Cross and its partners have served nearly 200,000 meals and snacks in South Carolina.

“Karen and her husband are wonderful helpful people, and to be part of this with them has been a real joy,” said Krauss.

Krauss is now an official Red Cross volunteer and is planning on moving forward playing an active role as a local volunteer. She said she didn’t realize all that the Red Cross does in addition to the major disaster relief efforts and is excited to learn more about the different services the Red Cross offers.

If you are interested in helping others by volunteering with the Red Cross please visit to find out more and to sign up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

From Maria to Florence: "Please take us to the Red Cross"

Story by: Kate Walters, Cindy Huge and Andrea Carlson, American Red Cross

“When the guys from the National Guard came in a boat to rescue us, the first thing I wanted to know was the location of the nearest Red Cross shelter,” said Jose Perez.

Rosaura Rosaria, Jose’s wife, laughs nervously when she says hurricanes seem to follow them.

Kate, a Red Cross volunteer, helps translate
for the Perez family.
They were in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria devastated the village where Rosaria grew up. Their children were only one and seven then. When their home was destroyed, Rosaria and Perez took the girls to stay with her mother in a small village in the Rio Yunque National Forest. The Red Cross was there providing meals for the people of the small village after power to the island was cut off.

After surviving Hurricane Maria, Rosaria and her husband had been working hard to provide a stable life for their family after the destruction. Disappointed with the pace of recovery and reconstruction on the Caribbean island, they joined the almost 200,000 other Puerto Ricans who have chosen to immigrate stateside, making the big move away from their extended families and coming to South Carolina in search of a more comfortable environment.  

The family arrived on August 15, 2018 just in time for Rose to settle in as a 3rd grader at Daisy Elementary School in Horry County. An educator herself, Rosaria proudly carried a copy of her college transcripts and teaching certificate and checked in with the local school district in search of a teaching position utilizing her strong Spanish skills. Perez secured work on a landscaping team.  The family’s “new normal” was beginning to take shape when Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday, September 14th, shaking up their lives once again.

The family evacuated inland and spent six nights in a hotel as the hurricane blew through. That stay depleted their resources. The family had no choice but to return home, knowing that the rising river levels would undoubtedly crest and flood their home.

The Perez family smiles outside of a shelter
alongside Red Cross volunteers.
In the middle of the night, that fear became reality.

The family couldn’t escape. They desperately awaited the National Guard, which arrived by boat and carried the family to safety. Eight days after Florence made landfall, the family once again found shelter with the Red Cross.

In the darkness, Perez remembered that Red Cross volunteers had set up shelters and distributed food and other supplies in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He asked the men in the boat if there was a Red Cross shelter nearby where he could take his family. The National Guard immediately transported them to the Red Cross shelter at Loris Elementary School in Loris where Rosaria and Jose, their two daughters and a cousin were welcomed by volunteers.

“We were worried about staying in a shelter with the girls. It turns out that they really love it here. People bring them gifts and play with them all day. Things are actually stable here. They like the schedule,” said Rosaria.

Juliette, the youngest daughter is full of life. Her infectious smile is irresistible. Her bounding energy lights up the shelter and its residents.

She was forced to part with her favorite stuffed animal, Paca the horse, when they fled their home. At the shelter, she was given a new “Paca the horse” and has been content ever since. Paca has become the shelter mascot.

Juliette smiles with the new Paca, the horse.
“Since they arrived, this family has brought joy and vitality into our place of refuge. They’ve done much more for us than we could ever do for them,” Cindy Owsley, a Red Cross volunteer beamed.

Despite this young family having to rebuild now twice from natural disasters, they continue to make the best of each situation they are dealt. Knowing they have the Red Cross to lean on and get support from, helps make these situations a little easier. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Red Cross Clean-Up Kits Help Ease the Recovery Process

Story by: Cindy Huge, Kate Walters and Cuthbert Langley, American Red Cross 

Brian Lodge isn’t changing anything.

“I’ll take the good with the bad,” he says throughout a drawn-out sigh.

Brian Lodge shows the water line on his Mullins home.
Lodge’s home sits next to the Little Pee Dee River in Mullins.  He knew the river could flood. He knew water could eventually end up inside his home. Over these last few weeks, both of those things happened. In fact, the water line reached over his head.

The rains from Hurricane Florence caused the river to swell over its banks and into Lodge’s home. Now that the river has returned to a somewhat tranquil pace, Lodge has come back home to begin cleaning up, with help from the American Red Cross.

For several days, the Red Cross has been distributing clean-up kits throughout Lodge’s neighborhood and other impacted areas. So far, nearly 3,000 of those clean-up kits have been distributed to people, like Lodge, who need them.

Amidst debris, Lodge begins his recovery with help
from a Red Cross clean-up kit.
With his bucket of supplies in hand, Lodge starts looking through to see what’s inside. Sifting through, he finds a foldable broom, gloves, cleaning supplies; the forlorn look on his face was quickly replaced with a delighted smile when he found a stiff brush. He had been searching local stores for one, but they were sold-out. He also found a mask to protect him from debris and any mold that could be growing.

“You never understand the strength of groups like the Red Cross until you go through something like this,” he said.

Hurricane Florence affected many people in Lodge’s community. He is the band director at a local high school that became a Red Cross shelter. In fact, Lodge said many of his students were there, too.

Lodge puts together a foldable broom
he received from a clean-up kit.
“I’m sure many of my students and their families have been deeply affected by Hurricane Florence,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them next week.”

He will see them next week as normalcy continues to slowly return to Mullins. Schools will begin to reopen. But, the work is just beginning.

“Sometimes I just want to sit down, but I must keep on working,” Lodge said.

The Red Cross will continue to be there, helping to bring a renewed sense of normalcy to South Carolina.  The organization continues to stay in close contact with local emergency management to meet any needs that arise in the communities Florence hit.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Red Cross Volunteers Help Georgetown Evacuees Find Comfort and Connection

Story by Kate Walters, Cindy Huge and Andrea Carlson

As a Red Cross volunteer, service is always focused on the people in need.  That’s what motivates volunteers, Carlos Ortiz of Florida and Bob Farr of Michigan. One of their many duties is to help evacuees find solace in a shelter in Georgetown, South Carolina, as the town awaits the crest of the rising waters and the potential for more floods.

Carlos Ortiz and Bob Farr discuss shelter plans for the day.
Flooding is still a concern for residents in Georgetown until the rivers begin to recede. Relationships with government partners and county Emergency Operation Centers as well as expert data allows the Red Cross to stay up to date with the latest weather concerns and water levels.

Each day, dozens of volunteers compare and analyze the latest models and numbers to determine where shelters are needed, how long they are opened and what the needs are for that community.

The Red Cross then relies on volunteers like Carlos and Bob to help make each shelter feel comfortable like home. From making sure evacuees have activities and games to keep them busy in the common areas, hot food in the cafeteria, even making sure each person has a space that is just for them.  

“They may be sleeping on cots, but the cots have been strategically placed in the most quiet
and private places possible,” says Carlos.

Ortiz and Farr unload comfort kits for clients.
Carlos prefers to hang out at the shelter during his off hours, too, so that he can build a stronger bond with its residents. He says, his favorite time is spent inside the shelter is when meals are shared. It has given him time to allow friendships to develop and people are most relaxed.

“Sometimes a client just needs to be heard. Being available is an essential part of being a volunteer,” he says.

These extraordinary men consider it their privilege to serve the people of Georgetown. The people, in turn, are grateful for their compassion and kindness.

The Red Cross will continue to be here for the residents in Georgetown, providing everything we can, as long as it is needed. From shelters, food, clean-up supplies and support.

All of this is possible, thanks to the amazing support from donors around the world. Please click, test or call to donate to the Red Cross to help people affected by disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text the work REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Distribution of Supplies and Support: Red Cross Helps Mullins Residents

Story by: Andrea Carlson, American Red Cross

Highway 76 in Mullins doesn’t normally experience a rush hour, especially at 2 p.m. on a weekday. But Tuesday, the community came out in droves to receive much-needed supplies from the American Red Cross.

Volunteers work to load bleach and water
into a Mullins resident's car.
“I think this is awesome, just awesome,” said Mullins resident Wodie Ellis. “The Red Cross is awesome. You are really helping. People are coming out and getting things they need.”

Eight box trucks filled the parking lot, packed with emergency supplies like shovels, rakes, cleaning supplies, food, water and snacks. Volunteers worked for several hours under the hot South Carolina sun, making sure everyone received the items they needed to begin recovering from Florence.

“I will be out to help as long as I need to,” said Lisa Baker, a Mullins resident. “We were spared by Florence, so as soon as we had the opportunity to come help with the Red Cross, we were here.”

A Red Cross volunteer looks at stacks of
newly delivered clean-up kits.
In just over an hour, more than 250 emergency clean-up kits were distributed to the community and hundreds more were ready to be handed out. The Red Cross distributed nearly 1,000 kits in just two days.

“It’s been a hard few weeks, and it still isn’t over yet,” said Red Cross volunteer Terry Davis. “We are still at risk for flooding and many people in our community are still under water. .’

Nelson Davis, a longtime resident of Gresham, was just one of the many who lost significantly in Hurricane Florence’s wrath.  The storm filled Nelson’s home with rain and debris. Members of his family were forced to evacuate to a Red Cross shelter.

“We got hit pretty hard,” Nelson said. “We had a lot of water and couldn’t get in or out. The men stayed at the house as long as we could and the ladies went to a shelter.”

He appreciated the effort from everyone who was there to help. Even the local high school football team came out to fill vehicles with those much-needed supplies.

A Red Cross volunteer hands supplies to
a member of the Mullins High School football team.
“This is a great effort from everybody. Some of us don’t even have water or food. So, to be able to come get those items today, it’s a big deal,” says Nelson.

Even as the hot sun bounces off the black parking lot pavement, dozens of volunteers worked around the clock to provide supplies to people, like Nelson. One of the youngest volunteers is 13-year-old, Lex Baker.

“I love this,” he said. “I am so happy that we are helping. Kids my age can do so much for their communities. I am even coming back out with my Boy Scout group to volunteer for the Red Cross.”

Several sites have been identified where emergency supplies will be distributed and handed out to people who need it most in the coming days and weeks. The goal of the Red Cross is to make sure people have the support and materials they need to pick up the pieces and start to rebuild after Hurricane Florence.

A Family Affair: Setting up an American Red Cross Shelter Together

Story by: Cindy Huge, American Red Cross Volunteer

When the call came in to set up an immediate shelter the Bass family sprung into motion. 

They had been trained in sheltering, by their local chapter of the American Red Cross, but have never had the opportunity to set one up until Hurricane Florence arrived. Carolyn, her son, Eric, and daughter in law, Elizabeth, quickly assembled at Blenheim Middle School, in Conway, South Carolina and went straight to work. Elizabeth took out the manual and page by page followed the instructions, step-by-step on how to organize a shelter. This came as no surprise to her husband and mother in law since Elizabeth was a teacher and the “organizer” of the family.

With the help of family and his best friend, Eric began to set up the cots needed for the 200 evacuees since he knew people would be arriving soon and he wanted them to have a comfortable bed with a warm blanket.
Carolyn, Eric and Elizabeth Bass.
Photo by: Heather Kanipe

As clients began to arrive most of them were very wet from the rain and rising waters. Everyone was greeted with a smile, a hug and reassured that they would now be in a safe, dry place with warm food to eat.

The Bass family left nothing out while setting up their shelter and even identified a space for all the pets needing a place too. They made sure the animals were all well cared for, had easy access to the outdoors and were housed in a safe, warm and dry spot. The cats, dogs and even a bird all co-existed well in their personal cages placed around the room.

News came that a retirement home needed to be evacuated and the Bass family arranged for the residents to be all housed in their own area of the shelter along with their caretakers so that they would feel more comfortable.

“We loved being available to assist the elderly, they mean so very much to us in this community. Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth Bass with a furry shelter resident.
Photo by: Heather Kanipe
As the days progress, the Bass family remains at the shelter, even spending the night in the volunteer area, to reassure that each client feels safe and is well taken care of. Their love for one another is apparent and easily transmitted to everyone whom they encounter. They truly are the heart of the Red Cross.

Red Cross Volunteers Deliver Supplies to Where They’re Needed Most

Story by: Kate Walters and Walt Palmer, American Red Cross Volunteers

When Mike Uhlan of Stuart, Florida and Jerry Henderson of Fort Pierce Florida heard that a hurricane was headed toward the east coast, they began preparations for deployment. 

Uhlan had previously responded to six disasters with the American Red Cross including a month driving an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit the island. Henderson had never deployed to a disaster before but his wife deployed to Virginia as a volunteer with their local Red Cross chapter and he was inspired to follow her lead.

Mike Uhlan and Jerry Henderson package
hot meals for residents in Marlboro County.
Photo by: Kate Walters
While Uhlan was working full-time in the aerospace industry, he served as a volunteer for his local fire department. After he retired, it was a natural fit for him to join the efforts of the Red Cross as is often the case with many of our volunteers who have previous work or volunteer experience in emergency management fields.

Mike and Jerry joined forces on the day they arrived at their local chapter in Florida and partnered as ERV drivers to support recovery efforts in South Carolina.

Emergency Response Vehicles are specifically designed to deliver food and other supplies such as clean up kits directly to people when they need it most. There are two different types of emergency vehicles being used throughout the disaster; a Ford E450 Heavy Duty diesel vans converted after their service as ambulances or an adapted version of the Mercedes Sprint. ERVs are equipped to carry large quantities both in bulk and weight. They have large windows that provide convenient access for meal distribution.

Ulhan and Henderson, along with 7 other ERV teams converged at Hoffmeyer Road Baptist Church where the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Organization had taken on the daunting task of preparing meals to feed 7,000 people. Volunteers helped load more than 300 hot meals onto each vehicle which were then distributed to communities in and around Florence, SC.

RVs are lined up at Hoffmeyer Road Baptist Church
 to be loaded with hot meals. Photo by Walt Palmer
Three ERV teams traveled just over an hour to the Marlboro County Courthouse, in Bennettsville, twice that day to serve hot meals for lunch and dinner. They were met with very thankful residents, many of whom lost household power and the food in their refrigerators had spoiled.

“This flood has made life more difficult for people who are already experiencing a great need. The Red Cross delivers two hot meals every day with kindness and compassion, uplifting the spirits of our citizens,” said Dr. Carolyn A. Price, Chair of the Marlboro County Council.

When the lines of hungry people began to diminish, a local principal and several teachers told the pair about a neighborhood that was still behind a barrier of floodwaters. Without hesitation the two ERV drivers transported the food directly to the affected area, accompanied by the Benettsville Intermediate School staffers.  The community members identified areas of need and the ERV drivers responded. Grateful residents then waded through the waters to access the warm meals for their families. Over the course of about 2 hours they distributed 300 meals.

Charminique Ross takes hot lunch across 
the flood waters to her mother. Photo by Kate Walters
There are people who just don’t have the resources to be able to put up a large enough stockpile of food in case of a disaster. They’re trying to make ends meet every day. When a hurricane comes through they are often without employment for long stretches of time. They find themselves in a very difficult situation. That is when the Red Cross comes in to help ease their suffering.

 “We want to bring the people what they need, where they need it, when they need it.” Says Brad Keiserman, Red Cross Vice President of Operations and Logistics.

As the water continues to rise along the Pee Dee and Waccimaw Rivers, the Red Cross is preparing and responding to the needs of the people affected by higher water levels. As of this writing, Red Cross continues to deliver over 6,000 meals twice a day by way of Emergency Response Vehicles.

 For more on how to prepare, respond and recover during a flood event go to

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Red Cross Keeps Close Eye on Flooding as Residents Evacuate

Story by: Andrea Carlson, Cindy Huge and Kate Walters, American Red Cross

Two years ago, Shaindel Grant, a homeowner in the Rosewood Estates of Socastee, SC, watched the National Guard rescue her mother, Virgie, who is blind and uses a wheel chair, by canoe from the front porch. 

Tim Grant, 22, demonstrates the water level
in their home after Hurricane Matthew.
“It literally broke my heart to see that happen, and I don’t ever want to witness that again,” Shaindel said.

Her adult son, Tim, returned later by way of a paddle boat to collect the family pets. The contents of her home, the comforts that she had worked many years to accumulate, ended up in a pile in the front yard. Her life was literally diminished to a purple plastic box of photos. 

“It’s taken me 2 years to recoup from the last time and now we’re getting ready to do it all again” she says wearily.

This time around, she’ll be better prepared. She knows how it feels not be ready.

Shaindel and her son, Tim, stand on their porch
which will soon be under water.
“The biggest worry we have right now is water, water, water,” says Ed Cubanski, the Information Dissemination Lead with the American Red Cross. It is his job to identify the biggest issues still looming for the people in South Carolina.

“Over the next several days we are going to be closely monitoring the Pee Dee and the Waccamaw rivers, Ed said. "The water hasn’t crested there yet and levels could get quite a bit higher. We are going to get eyes from the air today to validate the models and data we are seeing and determine which communities are most at risk."

Flooding predictions became reality on Saturday, September 22, when various models indicated Florence’s wrath was far from over.

For residents like, Shaindel she has been monitoring on her own. Water has slowly been creeping up from the intracostal waterway down the street from her home. Not wanting to lose everything they have, she and her son began preparations five days ago. She has boarded their three beloved chihuahuas at The Horry County Animal Care Center where they were graciously taken in free of charge to flood victims. They removed all their furniture and household items except for the mattresses they sleep on.

The Grant family with a Red Cross 
volunteer in their empty home.
Another neighbor, Mike tries to control his feelings as his eyes well up with tears while he talks about the imminent flooding and the impact of previous storms and disasters. 

The arrival of a local church group touched him deeply. Twenty church members spontaneously showed up to offer help. They put up heavy duty black tarping on the outside of his home and placed 190 sandbags around the perimeter. 

“I am very thankful for their help”, said Mike. “I just can’t believe they worked so hard in the hot sun to help a fellow community member that they don’t even know. I appreciate the kindness they showed me.”

The stress of another flood continues to weigh heavily on this community, as well as with members of the Red Cross who continue to monitor and track the rising water. The delay of the rivers cresting has caused relief opportunities to slow down and wait, so they are prepped and ready when the water finally recedes.

The American Red Cross recommends that you refer to the following information to help you prepare for rising flood waters. 

Mike’s home is tarped ahead of the rising waters.