Red Cross needs you!

Published 11:43 am Monday, October 22, 2018

WINTON – Although Hurricane Florence chose to unleash her fury in the southeastern part of North Carolina last month, the storm did cause a few headaches here locally that had nothing to do with wind or rain.

It appears that the storm shelters that did open briefly in Hertford County due to the hurricane were not staffed with managers as mandated by the American Red Cross.

Carolyn Self, Community Volunteer Leaders with the Greater Albemarle Area Chapter of the Red Cross, addressed that issue, along with a few others, when she met with the Hertford County Board of Commissioners at their recent meeting.

“We had major issues with the (storm) shelters this time. The problem was we didn’t have enough shelter managers,” Self said.

She explained that the early forecast models showed Hurricane Florence tracking northwestward upon making landfall in the Wilmington area, a course that would have a greater impact on Hertford County. However, the storm changed course, turning south after landfall.

“We saw the storm coming our way (with the early forecast) so a lot of our volunteers left the area,” Self remarked. “We can’t tie them down like we can a regular Red Cross employee.

“When the storm turned, everything went south, which left us in a bind,” she continued, adding that she has worked with Red Cross Disaster Services before, but she is not in charge of that part of the organization.

“What happened here locally, not having shelter managers, is something that should not have happened, but it did and for that I apologize,” Self added. “It’s a lesson we can learn from and put something in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Self stressed there are “zero” Red Cross volunteers currently in Hertford County.

“That’s a problem,” she said. “What I would like to do is work closely with the county and your Emergency Management Director. The first thing needed is six people I can train to serve as shelter managers. The importance of having a person from the county to serve as a shelter manager is that they understand the local area; they know the people; they have local contacts.

“And please take note that these shelters are open not only for your county citizens to seek refuge from a storm, but they’re also for those who may be evacuating from the coast,” Self added. “Having these shelters open and properly staffed with trained workers is very, very important.”

She asked the county officials to help her locate local volunteers.

“As you know, the Red Cross also responds to victims of house fires,” Self explained. “Right now all of our volunteers responding to house fires here come from Pasquotank County. That’s a good hour or more drive. My next goal is to find local volunteers here to help with that. They could train here. They would only respond to calls for assistance here, strictly in Hertford County.”

She added that all the training is free.

One other item that Self addressed at the meeting was the fact that local members are needed to serve on the Advisory Committee of the Greater Albemarle Area Chapter of the Red Cross. That Chapter covers seven counties.

“They meet for exactly one hour on the third Tuesday of every other month,” she noted. “We would love to have a representative from Hertford County to be a part of that committee. This person will be the voice of Hertford County for the Red Cross, and you don’t have to travel to the meetings because we meet by conference call.”

The Commissioners expressed their appreciation to what the Red Cross does for Hertford County, as well as expressing their concerns for the lack of local Red Cross volunteers.

“I’ve been on this board for 20 years and the Red Cross has always made themselves available to Hertford County in our times of need,” stated Commission Chairman Curtis Freeman. “It does concern me, however, about the lack of shelter managers as well as other volunteers. Having local volunteers will help.”

Commissioner John Horton asked about the current working relationship between Red Cross and Hertford County Emergency Management.

“We have a great relationship with your Emergency Manager, Chris Smith,” Self said. “He’s excellent. What we’re having problems with is finding local volunteers to help us when storms like Florence put us in possible danger and people need to go to a shelter.”

She stressed that the average age of Red Cross volunteers are 60-to-65.

“We’re not seeing younger adults getting involved,” Self proclaimed. “I don’t think they understand the importance of giving back to the community.”

Self said she celebrated her 70th birthday this year.

“I work harder now than I did when I had a regular full-time job,” she stressed. “If we can get some younger people involved that would be wonderful.”

Horton said it was critical to have shelter managers in place in times of disasters.

“I do believe that in the past five years we have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Red Cross to the extent of them coming in to staff the shelters and make sure all the amenities are in place at those shelters,” said Hertford County Manager Loria Williams. “Please be aware that the memorandum includes involving our DSS staff to help maintain shelters. The Red Cross is our partners in that aspect and they do a wonderful job.”

Williams added that the county can solicit local citizens to fill out applications to serve on the Red Cross Advisory Board and those individuals will be appointed by the county commissioners.

“We want to build a strong team of Red Cross volunteers here in Hertford County; please consider joining our team,” Self concluded.

Those wishing to volunteer can contact Self at 252-679-3239 (office), 252-333-2588 (cell) or by email at

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal