Pigeon Forge, Tennessee – December 17, 2016
Bill Jacobus has got both brains and brawn, but he feels all you really need is heart to be a volunteer with the American Red Cross.
In his academic life, Bill was known around campus as Professor Jacobus. At the Pigeon Forge shelter, he’s simply known as Bill with the Beagle.
Bill and his four-year-old service dog are more than one week into their first assignment with the Red Cross responding to wildfires in East Tennessee. The Charlotte, North Carolina resident wanted to help his neighbors to the north. He quickly completed the online volunteer application and training at redcross.org and Bill and Max were on their way to the Smoky Mountains.
Bill met a survivor at the shelter who drove a carload of people in his van off the mountain to escape the blaze. He went back two more times and rescued about 30 people that day.
“He was an average guy who did a heroic thing,” Bill said. “He saw the crisis and responded.”
Red Cross volunteers are heroes too. More than 90 percent of the workforce are compassionate people, like Bill, who put their life on hold and answer the call to help.
“People feel helpless and hopelessness and the Red Cross gives them help and hope,” he said.
At the shelter Bill, does the heavy lifting. The retired bio chemistry and physiology instructor, who earned his PhD at Ohio State and taught at several universities including 20 years at Johns Hopkins, set up cots, blankets, tables and chairs. Max served as a greeter and made residents feel at ease with the wag of his tail.
“The kids just loved him,” Bill said. “That’s why I brought him. Max makes everyone feel a little better.”
Now that Bill’s retired from academics, he and Max have been on several adventures together traveling around the country to 32 states in 17 months living in tents.
The Red Cross is their latest adventure and they recently said good-bye and good luck to those they welcomed during their stay at the shelter. As residents move on to new homes for the holidays, Bill’s still busy washing and packing up cots and supplies.
Bill and his Beagle are ready to help the next time volunteers are needed.
“The Red Cross has been doing this for a long time,” he said. “I have the ability to help. It’s as simple as that.”