Friday, December 11, 2015

Chapter Chairs: Then and Now - Northeast Tennessee

Chapter Chair (1947-1954) W.J. McAuliffe
In a July 1949 Times News article, the Kingsport Red Cross Chapter Chair, W. J. McAuliffe announced the Red Cross was ready to respond if a large disaster struck the community.  He stated, “until a few months ago, about all we could do about a disaster was hope and pray there would not be one.”

In collaboration with the Disaster Chairman, J.R. Thomas, Executive Secretary, Ella Dixon, and various other chapter leaders, McAuliffe said a plan with written commitments was now in place.  Their plan was to use cars with loud speakers to drive around directing refugees to safety.  There were commitments for “special railroad cars, taxicabs, moving vans, ambulances, wreckers, diesel shovels, bulldozers, boats, barges, searchlights, welding and cutting equipment and all types of first aid and rescue equipment.”

In 1949, the city was divided into 6 zones with trained personnel ready to respond in each zone. Plans were in place for communication between identified stations and a Red Cross headquarters, which would be set up at the Civic Auditorium or the main office building of Tennessee Eastman Corporation.  The article notes the Red Cross had no intention of “running the city in time of disaster”, but would provide citizen relief allowing the city workers to carry on their professional duties.

Numerous other Red Cross activities including first aid classes, volunteer services at the hospitals, and sewing programs would be offered.  One item noted was the newest board member, James H. Quillen, had headed the most recent Red Cross membership campaign.  The goal for the membership campaign was $10,895 and ended with pledges of $18,293.

In his life outside the Red Cross, W. J. McAuliffe was the editor of the Kingsport Times News.

 #1 James H. (Jimmy) Quillen served as U. S. House of Representatives member for TN District 1 from 1963-1997
 #2 from 1917 until 1951 the Red Cross Chapter conducted their own annual fundraising campaign.  In 1951 The Red Cross partnered with the Kingsport Community Chest to become the United Fund.  The United Fund later became the United Way.

Chapter Chair (2015) Clark Parker
After reading excerpts from the July 1949 newspaper article, Northeast Tennessee Red Cross Chapter Chair, Clark Parker responded, “You know, at the heart of the mission of the American Red Cross, not a great deal has changed in 66 years.  We still hope and pray to avoid a large disaster in Northeast Tennessee and we still have specific response plans in place in case one does occur.”

Radio and TV and even Facebook® and Twitter® have replaced cars with loud speakers.  Specially designed Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) now serve as mobile Red Cross headquarters on-site when needed.  With cell phones and tablet computers, communication is almost instantaneous, now.

“Our emergency response mission is really two-fold,” noted Parker. “We work to educate and equip Northeast Tennessee residents to help prevent localized disasters like home-fires but also to respond to bigger things like flooding and tornadoes.”  Parker said American Red Cross volunteers from our region are often deployed to disasters around the country including hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region and wildfires in the western U.S.

Baby-Sitting and even Pet First Aid classes have replaced sewing programs, but the American Red Cross continues to provide one of the most widely recognized first aid training programs in the world.   Also, the American Red Cross continues to provide services to our veterans and military personnel, whether they’re on active duty, returning from active duty or under Veterans Administration (VA) care in a local hospital.

With the passing of 66 years and the expansion from Kingsport to all of Northeast Tennessee - including Sullivan, Carter, Unicoi, Johnson, Washington, Greene, Hamblen, Claiborne, Hancock, Hawkins, and Grainger Counties - the fundraising goals have grown.  The 2015 fundraising goal for the Northeast Tennessee area was $586,000 - 92% of which went directly to provide services.

 Article credit: Jane Harris

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