Veteran of Red Cross volunteerism heads to Houston for flood relief


Annie Bynum has witnessed the ruin left by numerous natural disasters over 17 years as a Red Cross relief worker.
Yet one thing that never changes is the look on the faces of people who have lost everything they own, and very often people they love.
“I’ve seen so much,” said Bynum, who on Wednesday flew to Houston to aid flood relief efforts there. “Any time I leave home, it doesn’t matter where the devastation or the tragedy is. It’s all the same.”
Her understanding of that despondency is what keeps her going every time a crisis occurs.
“I enjoy what I do in helping people,” she said. “It’s about getting out and doing what I can to put a smile on a person’s face who has lost practically everything they’ve worked for their entire lives, or even lost a family member.”
As of Wednesday, massive flooding in Texas and Oklahoma had resulted in 19 deaths and 10 people going missing. Rivers and streams spilling over their banks have damaged more than 4,000 properties and left 2,500 vehicles abandoned in the Houston area alone.
Bynum, a 68-year-old, retired Gastonia native, was still working at WIX Filters when she joined the Red Cross as a volunteer in 1998. She made her first trip as a relief worker to Puerto Rico that same year, after Hurricane Georges caused massive destruction there.
She’s since built a veritable resume of missions, traveling to eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Floyd in 1999; New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005; New York after Hurricane Sandy in 2012; and most recently Washington state after a massive mudslide there.
She’s been to countless flood and tornado disaster scenes in Oklahoma and Texas. And helping victims in New York City after 9-11 also sticks out in her mind.
“Absolutely devastating assignments,” she said.
Bynum has handled every aspect of disaster relief in her volunteer career. In Houston, she’ll be in charge of purchasing supplies for the Red Cross that can be distributed to people in need. She’ll also likely help with the logistics of managing a supply warehouse, helping to catalog truckloads of donated goods that come in from around the country.
Bynum’s two daughters and six grandchildren, who all live in the Charlotte area, have become accustomed to her leaving for long periods of time as a Red Cross volunteer. She was gone six months during Hurricane Katrina. She’ll likely be in Houston for several weeks.
“You’ve got to be at one of these assignments to see what it really is like, with the devastation, and the sadness and sorrow of the people,” she said.
Being a “people person,” and knowing that she’s helping others to bounce back, give her the strength to keep going.
“I enjoy the thought of doing something that’s making a difference for somebody else,” she said. “It’s good for the soul.”


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