The Southeast Arkansas chapter of the American Red Cross honored volunteers from 16 counties on Thursday at First Assembly of God Church in Pine Bluff.
Donna Booth-Johnson, state volunteer manager for the Red Cross, served as master of ceremonies for the event.
“We try to recognize volunteers because volunteers do the work,” Booth-Johnson said. “We have only two to three
paid staff in my office and only 23 in the entire state.”
Booth-Johnson estimates there are about 250 volunteers in Southeast Arkansas and approximately 1,475 in the state who have donated over thousands of hours to the Red Cross.
“We would never have the budget to cover that,” she said. “And we couldn’t hire anyone better, because these people do it because they want to do it.”
Jefferson County Judge Dutch King attended the ceremony and offered a brief congratulations to the recipients. Volunteers received awards for the numbers of hours donated. Pat Thurmon, a 25-year volunteer, received a special award for her donation of 6,301 hours. Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Tami Ford for office support and Bra Thomas for Disaster Response. The Spirit of Red Cross award went to Brad and April Thomas. Service Pins and Tabs were awarded for five, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years of service.
The 30-year award went to Bettye Johnson. A third-generation volunteer, Johnson shared fund memories of working side-by-side with her mother and grandmother. She said the two older woman inspired her to volunteer.
“I am always happy to do anything for the Red Cross because I think they would be proud of me,” Johnson said. “I started because of them.”
Walgreens and Walmart of El Dorado, Helena Regional Medical Center, the El Dorado School District and Quachita County Medical Center were among the businesses and organizations recognized for their contributions.
The Red Cross provides a wide array of services to the community and disaster victims, some more familiar than others, including training, certifications, connecting families with military personnel and providing volunteer school counselors, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to anyone having trouble coping after disaster hits.
Michele Metott-Works is the area disaster manager in charge of disaster response and preparedness.
Metott-Works says the agency stresses preparedness. The Red Cross provides materials and training to help people become disaster-ready and aware of fire prevention.
“There are so many single-family fires, especially in the winter months,” she said.
Booth-Johnson and Metott-Works agreed that the greatest need is for volunteers willing to respond to these fires. Responders help provide for immediate emergency needs such as food, shelter, clothing, special needs for senior adults, baby needs, or replacing medications in life-threatening situations.
“There are plenty of people who turn out to do shelters for tornadoes or feed, but not as many to respond when people have fires,” Booth-Johnson said. “If you are out there in your skivvies and your house has burned down, you are absolutely glad to see the Red Cross.”
Booth-Johnson, who sprinkled famous quotes throughout her presentation, ended with a quote from Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, it’s not going to get better. It’s not … it’s not … it’s not.”
To become a volunteer or to get a complete list of services offered through the Red Cross, contact the Pine Bluff office at 870-534-7312 or visit www.arkansasredcross.org.