Everyday Heroes Save a Life at Ole Miss

North Mississippi Chapter Executive Director, K.C. Grist, presents Lifesaving award to Shannon Richardson and family during Ole Miss Game on September 11, 2021.

Although Rob Barber doesn’t remember collapsing to the floor while exercising at University of Mississippi’s Rec Center, he is immensely grateful to recreational center staff, Shannon Richardson and Gabby Sokol for using their Red Cross CPR training to save his life after he went into cardiac arrest on December 2.

Within seconds of Rob collapsing, Gabby and Shannon were performing chest compressions, calling emergency services and utilizing the on-site defibrillator in hopes of restarting his heart. Their actions resulted in Rob avoiding any neurological damage and allowed him to quickly receive needed medical attention. Even now, Rob has little recollection of the event but knows that without Gabby and Shannon he might not be alive today. “It is because of their actions that I am alive today” stated Rob about his experience, “needless to say, Shannon and Gabby are now on the top of my Christmas list every year”.  

When emergency personnel arrived and Rob was stabilized, he was quickly transported to a nearby hospital to undergo a stenting procedure to fix blockages. The ER medical director noted that Shannon and Gabby were the difference between life and death, and by taking immediate action they helped Rob defy the odds.

“Within a minute of Mr. Barber losing his pulse, we were able to start his heart beating again,” Gabby said. “I was nervous, but I absolutely knew what to do.” Gabby says that helping someone’s heart start to beat again is not something that wants to do again, she can’t begin to imagine what it must have felt like for Rob.

view from the Jumbotron at University of Mississippi

Honored with Red Cross Lifesaving Award

On September 11, 2021 – the first home game of the season, Shannon Richardson and Gabby Sokol were presented with a Red Cross Lifesaving Award for their heroic response to Rob Barber’s cardiac emergency. Both received the Certificate of Merit, awarded to an individual who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. *Gabby did not attend the event but received her award earlier in the week.

Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency. A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills session) and classroom courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.

If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit LifesavingAwards.org to nominate, recognize, or be inspired.

Never Forget: Red Cross Remembers 9/11, 20 Years Later

In this historic photograph, a Red Cross disaster volunteer puts drops in the burning eyes of a weary rescue worker in New York City. The heavy smoke caused eye and breathing problems for everyone close to the site of the World Trade Center collapse.

Twenty years ago, the United States faced one of the worst days in its history. As our country marks 20 years since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the American Red Cross remembers the victims of that horrific day, honors the brave responders and is working to rekindle the spirit of service the country saw then to help those in need today.

The Red Cross is grateful to those across the country who came forward with donations of time, blood and funds to support the victims and survivors of the attacks. Within minutes of Flight 11 crashing into the north tower of the World Trade Center, the Red Cross mobilized to provide immediate help. Our work continued for years after.

Details of the Red Cross response included:

  • Nearly $1.1 billion in generous donations were used to fund massive relief and recovery efforts and help more than 59,000 families affected by the terrorist attacks.
  • Hundreds of millions of dollars in financial assistance were provided to families that lost loved ones, those who were physically injured, first responders, residents of lower Manhattan who couldn’t return home and workers who lost their jobs.
  • More than 57,000 Red Crossers from across the country served more than 14 million meals and snacks, opened dozens of shelters for people who were left stranded, and connected some 374,000 times with people to provide emotional support and health services.
  • Hundreds of thousands of individuals lined up to give blood as people came forward to help in any way they could.
  • We worked with Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in over 65 countries to help families located overseas who lost a loved one in the terrorist attacks. The Red Cross provided support such as financial assistance and mental health.
  • Americans who were unsure where to find or give help turned to the Red Cross, which set up a call center to help people navigate uncertainty in the days and months after the attacks. Callers asked about how to locate missing loved ones, where to find financial assistance, and how to help those impacted by the tragedy.
  • At the Pentagon, the Red Cross set up its mobile disaster command center. We provided mental health services and food support for first responders and survivors.

The 20th anniversary of the attacks is a reminder that the unimaginable can occur — and that Americans need to do everything they can to protect their neighbors and be ready for crises of any size. Emergencies can happen at any time, and everyone can do their part to be prepared.

Part of doing that is ensuring an adequate blood supply is available year-round. Blood can take up to three days to be tested, processed and made available for patients – so it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps save lives in an emergency. Find out more here.

To help prepare your household, the Red Cross suggests planning ahead on how to deal with the types of disasters that are likely in your neighborhood, what to do if separated and how to stay informed. Next, build an emergency kit. Your kit should contain food, water and other basic supplies to last at least three days for each family member.

Also, don’t forget to include essential medications, copies of important documents and special items for children and pets. Including your pets in your emergency plans is essential. Remember, if you and your family need to evacuate, so does your pet. It’s important to plan in advance to know which pet-friendly hotels are in your area, and where your pets can stay in an emergency situation.

The final step to preparing your household is to be informed. Consider taking a First Aid for Severe Trauma™ or first aid and CPR course so you’ll know what to do until help arrives in the event of an emergency.

Remembering Hurricane Katrina: Preparing for Future Storms 

By: Shane Dorrill and Deanne Winslett

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, about 60 miles southeast of New Orleans as a strong Category 3 hurricane with sustained wind speeds of more than 125 miles per hour. Thousands of homes and businesses along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast were destroyed by high winds and a storm surge of more than 26 feet in some areas. 

Within hours, several levees surrounding New Orleans were breeched due to the amount of rain. By the afternoon, more than 20 percent of the city was underwater. Thousands of people became trapped in attics or on roofs as floodwaters poured into the city’s Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish. Within two days, 80 percent of the city was underwater. 

More than 1,800 deaths were attributed either directly or indirectly to the storm, and it remains one of the costliest hurricanes on record in the U.S. 

The response to Hurricane Katrina remains the largest single disaster relief effort ever undertaken by the American Red Cross. The Red Cross opened nearly 1,400 shelters in 27 states and the District of Columbia and served more than 68 million meals. More than 230,000 Red Cross volunteers responded to help more than four million people who received emergency assistance. 

Hurricane Katrina should serve as a reminder to Be Red Cross Ready for hurricanes this season. 

To protect life and property during a hurricane:

· Download the free Red Cross app, which offers step-by-step directions for making a family emergency plan, as well as other preloaded preparedness and critical emergency content 

· Have a NOAA Weather Radio to receive information from the National Weather Service

· Prepare an emergency preparedness kit 

· Bring in items, such as lawn furniture, that can be picked up by the wind 

· Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you don’t have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood. 

· Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep them closed as much as possible so food will last longer if the power goes out 

· Fill your car’s gas tank 

· Talk with family members and create an evacuation plan, including a plan for where you will meet up and how you will communicate if you are in multiple vehicles and get separated. Include your pets in your plan and keep a list of pet-friendly hotels, motels and shelters along your evacuation route. 

· Evacuate if advised to do so by authorities 

For more tips, visit the Red Cross Hurricane Safety website.

International Day of Friendship is July 30

Submitted by Meenakshi Prabhakar

Created by the UN (United Nations) to inspire peace between people all over the world. The Red Cross, through its network of volunteers, strongly stands by its mission to provide assistance to those in need all over the world. In honor of the International Day of Friendship, the Red Cross recognizes its Global Red Cross Network. This network is composed of three parts: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The Global Red Cross Network is the largest humanitarian network, with volunteers from every nation working together to help those who suffer, without discrimination, in response to disasters, health emergencies, chronic poverty, and even social programs. These volunteers help those in need, when they need it most, even outside of their own native countries, painting the true image of universal humanity and friendship. The key to friendship is compassion, and to be there for one another. Each part of the Global Red Cross Network works harmoniously to help those in need, demonstrating friendship across boundaries.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has one main purpose: to protect the lives of war victims and provide them assistance while respecting international humanitarian law. The ICRC is neutral and independent, therefore they take impartial action in times of conflict to care for the wounded and sick, civilians and prisoners. Some of their operations include organizing relief operations, reuniting separated families through communication, providing medical assistance and other humanitarian activities during armed conflicts.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is composed of over 100 million volunteers who help people in over 150 countries. The IFRC contains 191 national Red Cross or Red Crescent societies. They also work to alleviate suffering during times of peace all around the world. Such humanitarian efforts undertaken by volunteers of the IFRC include coordinating disaster relief efforts, assisting refugees, promoting disaster preparedness programs, health emergencies, and helping improve services to vulnerable communities.The IFRC network aids people of all social backgrounds and nationalities without discrimination, assisting during, after, and before disasters (including health emergencies). They work hard to meet the needs of vulnerable people and operate to prevent disasters. The IFRC is like a friend that stays true to help meet one’s needs at all times.

The National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies all work together and dedicate themselves to the fundamental principles of Humanity, Neutrality, Voluntary Service and Unity. The network between these independent National societies forms the foundation for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Volunteers of each national society are crucial in their own countries as their local expertise allows them to allocate aid wherever needed.

These three branches of the Global Red Cross Network demonstrate the give-and-take, caring, and compassionate elements of friendship while impacting their communities, and the world as a whole. We celebrate their friendships, the friendships of volunteers within communities and those transgressing the globe, and the friendships made through volunteering.

Volunteer Spotlight: Nicole Pepper

Getting to know Red Cross volunteer, Central West Alabama Chapter board member and Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chairperson, Nicole Pepper

We love our volunteers! They are the backbone of the Red Cross, serving in countless ways to alleviate human suffering – from serving with the communications team, supporting our military and veterans, teaching classes to prepare our communities for disasters and responding to disasters no matter what time of day. We are thankful for their selfless service because without volunteers we wouldn’t be able to provide lifesaving services to our communities or make a difference everyday.

Red Crosser, Nicole Pepper, treasures the relationships she has made since she started volunteering. “I’ve met mentors, made dear friends and had the opportunity to meet people who are changing the world, one community at a time. It’s hard to walk away from Red Cross moments without feeling inspired.”

We wanted to get to know the Nicole behind the red vest, so we reached out to ask her a few questions and to find out what makes her so spectacular. Here’s what she had to say…

🔹 Three things on your bucket list:

Go fly fishing in Montana, host a make-your-own-pizza party, and to make all homemade Christmas gifts one year.

🔹 If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Sweet potatoes – the closest one food can get to having all the nutrition you need. More importantly, it goes great with buffalo chicken dip, brown sugar, and just about everything else. 

🔹 What has been your favorite vacation?

Every local road trip I’ve ever taken. But if I had to pick a favorite it would be our spontaneous trip to Brooksville, Mississippi. It was a gorgeous, cool Saturday morning and I refused to stay inside, so I convinced my husband we should go to this Mennonite bakery in the middle of nowhere. To say it was worth it would be the understatement of the century, it was all so good we took several hundred pounds to-go and ate leftovers for weeks.

🔹 What is one of your biggest pet peeves?

When phones are more important than the people around you. Can’t say I haven’t done it, I think it’s completely unintentional, but that’s also kind of the worst part?

🔹 What do you love about your role in the Red Cross?

So hard to pick! Probably the relationships. I’ve met mentors, made dear friends, and gotten a chance to meet people who are changing the world one community at a time. It’s hard to walk away from Red Cross moments without feeling inspired, and it’s because of the people.

🔹 What is your favorite 90s song?

I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain. I don’t have HitClips anymore, but I do have a Spotify playlist called “Shania Twain Dance Party Vibes.”

🔹It’s the zombie apocalypse and you can only take one possession with you. What do you take? 

My hammock – it can double as a bed, blanket, tent, or even weapon (if you use the hooks). Plus, zombies or not, there’s nothing like a nap in the sunshine.

Our volunteers are simply AMAZING! Thank you for all that you do. So if you are reading this and you haven’t joined the team, what are you waiting for?? Visit redcross.org/volunteertoday and find your fit!

Celebrate the Fourth of July Safely

By Deanne Winslett

The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and many Americans will celebrate Independence Day with barbecues, fireworks, and other holiday fun. Preserve the fun by celebrating the holiday safely and being mindful of firework, grill, and water safety best practices.

Fireworks Safety

Confirm that fireworks are legal in your area before using your own. Keep them away from children and never throw or point them toward people, animals, vehicles, structures, or flammable materials. Keep water available nearby in case you need it. The person lighting the fireworks should wear eye protection and only light one firework at a time, Don’t attempt to relight “dud” fireworks. Store fireworks away from children and pets in a cool, dry place.

Grilling Safety

Grilling fires are responsible for an average of over 10,000 home fires yearly in the U.S., but they can be prevented! Reduce your risk for a home fire by always supervising a barbecue grill when using it and don’t add charcoal starter fluid after the coals have been ignited. Never grill indoors in the house, a camper, a tent, or any enclosed area. Keep people, including children and pets, away from the grill, and keep the grill away from the house and anything flammable. Use long-handled cooking tools designed for use with a grill.

Water Safety

The weather is warming up and many people may plan to celebrate the holiday on the water. Supervise children closely and constantly when in or near water. Children, inexperienced swimmers, and boaters should wear properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Learn swimming and water survival skills and stick to swimming in lifeguarded areas. Pools and spas should be fenced with adequate barriers.

For more tips on water safety visit: RedCross.org/watersafety

June 19 is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day

By Shane Dorrill

It’s estimated that more than 100,000 people in the U.S have sickle cell disease, making it the most common genetic blood disease. The disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes red blood cells, which are normally round, to become sickle or crescent shaped. The abnormally shaped cells have trouble passing through small blood vessels, which can cause severe pain and lead to tissue and organ damage, anemia and even strokes. Most individuals who have sickle cell disease are of African or Latino descent with 8-10% of African Americans having the sickle cell trait.

Blood transfusions provide a lifesaving treatment for sickle cell patients by increasing the number of normal red blood cells in the body. A single sickle cell patient may require multiple blood transfusions per year throughout their lifetime to treat complications from the disease.

To help supply the needed blood for these patients, the American Red Cross has launched the “Closing the Sickle Cell Gap” initiative, which is meant to empower the Black community to help provide compatible blood products for patients with sickle cell disease.

Currently, Black donors make up less than 4% of all Red Cross blood donors. This makes it difficult to ensure the right blood product is available at the right time for patients, especially those with sickle cell disease.

Earlier this year, the Red Cross expanded its testing of blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors to include the sickle cell trait. This allows the Red Cross to identify compatible blood donations faster for those who need them, while providing our Black donors with the insight of whether they carry the trait. Donors receive results to their blood screenings within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal.

To bring the “Closing the Sickle Cell Gap” initiative to life and make a meaningful difference for patients across the country, the Red Cross critically needs new and existing Black donors to give blood. Businesses and organizations within the Black community are also urged to host blood drives to help provide convenient locations for individuals to donate.

How Can You Help?

Schedule an appointment to give blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or by enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo Device.

Recruit organizations that have diverse employees or members to host blood drives and support blood donation.

Set up a virtual blood drive on sleevesup.redcrossblood.org and encourage others to donate.

Educate and engage the people you know about the importance of blood donations.

Learn more at: RedCrossBlood.org/SickleCell

KIND Award Recipient Ted Brechbill

The Alabama and Mississippi Region proudly announces its monthly recipient of the KIND Award: a volunteer that is K(knowledgeable) I(involved) N(notable) D(dedicated). For the month of May, our award winner is Ted Brechbill representing the North Mississippi Chapter.

Ted serves in multiple roles within Disaster Cycle Services. He is a member of the Disaster Action Team. He also works with Disaster Assessment, Disaster Emergency Services and serves as the Coordinator for Disaster Spiritual Care.  He has served with the Red Cross for five years.

Ted began volunteering with the Red Cross to give back to his community.  He proudly admits that the Red Cross was his service organization of choice!  Ted has served in numerous disaster responses and deployments. His most notable Red Cross experience was deploying to Puerto Rico.

When Ted is not wearing his many volunteer hats within the Red Cross, he enjoys  riding motorcycles and fishing.

He is retired from the United States Coast Guard where he served on a  helicopter rescue team, as a firefighter, and developed courses for  a corporate university.

KC Grist, Executive Director for the North Mississippi Chapter states: Ted is always on “ready” when we need him.  He responds to fire calls and is always ready to deploy as needed.  During the recent tornados in North Mississippi, Ted not only did his share of the Disaster Assessment but allowed me to accompany him. He taught indicators of what to look for while doing disaster assessment.  Most importantly, he stressed the importance of talking to people.  “They’ve been through a hard time, and they need us”, he said.  “Even if we are not able to provide direct services to them, they can know that we care.”  He even went back and did a repeat disaster assessment on a home that received damage but was not classified as “major.” He took me with him, and we met with the landlord, who was also the lady’s pastor.  He patiently explained why the damage did not meet FEMA standards for assistance from Red Cross.  He listened.  By the time we left, the pastor had a better understanding of not only why we couldn’t help, but the understanding that Ted cared about him, his property and his tenant.

On behalf of the Alabama and Mississippi Region, congratulations Ted for being selected as the May recipient of the KIND Award.  We appreciate your service and dedication to the Red Cross mission!

American Red Cross: For 140 years a benefit

By Leesha Faulkner

It’s hard to imagine the American Red Cross celebrates 140 years. And, in some measure, the Red Cross has been there every time you turn around – even here in Lee County.

A little background, first. Clara Barton was 59 years old in 1881 when she organized what would become the American Red Cross. She worked in U.S. government when the Civil War broke out. She realized, after much bandage rolling and support, that soldiers needed help on battlefields, so she went. That’s how she became the “Angel of the Battlefield.”

But it was a trip to Europe after the Civil War, where she learned of the Geneva, Switzerland-based Red Cross and its clarion for international agreements to protect the sick and wounded as a result of war. She became aware of the national societies that gave volunteer aid. She brought home the notion, and for 23 years served as the leader of the American Red Cross.

Mississippi received the benefits of her knowledge and expertise just two years after she created the agency. In April 1883, a deadly tornado struck rural Copiah County, killing many and wounding even more. A series of letters and telegraphs in storage among her papers at the Library of Congress demonstrate her ability to marshal people and resources to the region.

In 1917, about seven years after Barton’s death, Lee County organized its Red Cross chapter. And what a history!

We are familiar with the tornado of 1936. The day after that Palm Sunday in April, the American Red Cross rolled into Tupelo to set up a feeding station at the American Legion. They fed 4,000 people in a single day. Injured people who could not afford hospitalization, but required being sent to a hospital in Memphis or somewhere in Mississippi, didn’t have to worry. The Red Cross paid for those expenses. Those less injured received assistance at a Red Cross First Aid station staffed with four nurses, paid for by Red Cross donations.

Representatives of the state and national Red Cross offices negotiated with railroad companies to establish a “boxcar city” in town that would provide shelter for those without housing. Thirty disaster workers and a building adviser were on hand to assist with the rebuilding.

By November of that year, Lee County had the largest Red Cross enrollment of subscriptions – about 4,000 – for any Mississippi county. The Clarion Ledger chastised Hinds County folk for lagging behind. Hinds County had more people and had benefitted, especially when the Pearl River flooded, to lead the way. But, no, Lee County dug deep.

Three years later about 200 people from 24 counties in North and East Mississippi gathered at the Tupelo Country Club to honor those who had volunteered.

The Northeast Mississippi Chapter of the Red Cross continued its work. Not soon forgotten in more recent history, the response to a fire that took out four apartments in Tupelo in 1996 on Dec. 22, leaving families without anything. The local Red Cross assisted and the volunteer spirit – the Tupelo Spirit – kicked in.

In August 2005 when Katrina wreaked havoc on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Patty Tucker and her volunteers set up cots, meals, telephones, and internet at the BancorpSouth Arena. Three hundred people took solace there. The unit kept the shelter open until October.

In 2014, when a tornado raked through Tupelo, the local chapter helped with volunteer events, joining with the United Way in ensuring recovery efforts ran smoothly.

In 2015, the local Red Cross with approval from national awarded Sihya Smith its highest lifesaving award, acknowledgement of Smith using her skills as a lifeguard – another Red Cross program – to save a 60-year-old woman who had passed out in the pool at the Tupelo Aquatic Center.

Just as recently as two weeks ago, after tornadoes and thunderstorms had ripped through our area, the local chapter’s executive director K.C. Grist began assembling volunteers and going door-to-door to help assess damages and check on those who had remained in their homes.

So, Red Cross, happy anniversary. We in Tupelo are proud of your story. We appreciate the masks your volunteers donated to veterans, the lessons in how to protect ourselves from fire and storm, the first aid courses, and that your volunteers are always there to serve.

Leesha Faulkner is curator of the Oren Dunn City Museum. She may be reached at leesha.faulkner@tupeloms.gov.

EVERYDAY HEROES: Jeremy Westmoreland

Everyday Heroes is a new series featuring outstanding local American Red Cross volunteers who take giving back to their community to a whole new level. This month we’re highlighting Jeremy Westmoreland, founder and chair of the Young Professionals Board (YP Board).

Based in Huntsville, AL, Jeremy has been hard at work helping the Red Cross with disaster response, arranging feeding/sheltering agreements and leveraging both his and his organization’s expertise to appeal to a younger blood donor audience.

Portrait: Jeremy Westmoreland

Jeremy’s work with the Red Cross doesn’t end there though. Recently, through his joint efforts with the Service to the Armed Forces division (SAF), Jeremy was able to secure wish list items, including iPads and computers for the residents of the Tut Fann Veterans Home in Huntsville.

Dedicated to serving our troops, the SAF helps military members and their families by providing critical services and comforts from home to veterans in military hospitals around the world and by offering assistance to their family after their service ends.

Jeremy’s initiative and dedication to members of his community and our troops, make us proud to feature him as the first of many Everyday Heroes.

To find out how you can become an everyday hero and make a difference in your community, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday and find a role that suits you!

Written by: David Rauch / American Red Cross