Saturday, December 17, 2016
Wears Valley Couple Makes Volunteering With the Red Cross Part of Their Routine
By Patricia Kemp/American Red Cross
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, December 16, 2016
A ritual morning walk through downtown Gatlinburg Nov. 28 was cut short for David and Rosemary Morgan, but it was a path that would lead the couple to find a purpose in their own backyard with the American Red Cross.
The air was thick with smoke that morning and cinders were falling from the sky.
“We went home, packed one bag, and got off the mountain,” David said.
The Wears Valley couple checked into a hotel near Knoxville where they watched news reports of the growing wildfire and hoped for the best. The next morning they called a neighbor who chose to stay put and told the Morgans their home was still standing.
In the days that followed, David and Rosemary grew restless as thousands of other Sevier County residents were displaced. They wanted to help the community they had grown to love.
The Morgans settled in the mountain town two years ago to enjoy retirement after raising four kids in South Carolina and working more than 30 years – she as a teacher and he as an industry plant worker.
“We’re not rich and we’re not poor, but we are blessed,” David said. “We’re too blessed to sit here and watch this. We got to get involved.”
David and Rosemary volunteered at a distribution center where they sorted clothes and other donated items, but didn’t feel they were making a personal connection. They walked into the Smokies Welcome & Discovery Center in Kodak where the Red Cross set up a temporary command post for the disaster response. They asked how to help.
Kristin Manuel, a volunteer services specialist from the Red Cross East Tennessee chapter, told the couple about the casework teams that help disaster victims navigate the recovery process – a role that would allow the Morgans to have that one-on-one interaction with people in crisis.
“It’s a success when we find volunteers like Rosemary and David who have a heart for this,” Manuel said.
Nearly 400 Red Cross workers from East Tennessee and far as Oregon have come to the Smoky Mountains to help. They’re trained to drive emergency response vehicles, manage shelters and provide health services and emotional support.
Many of those volunteers will return to their hometowns, but the Morgans will stay as part of the Red Cross in their community. Like their downtown walks, volunteering is an activity the Morgans are eager to become part of their life routine.
“You see the Red Cross in action – in (Hurricanes) Katrina, Hugo and Matthew,” said Rosemary. “The Red Cross is about helping people, people who really need help. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Want to volunteer? You can help people affected by disasters big and small. Go to redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS to get started.