A Natural Fit

Volunteer Spotlight: Jim Sheely – deployed for Hurricane Katrina Relief in 2005

When a person retires, a void is often left within that person’s life. Regular routine is no longer guaranteed and some people begin to find more time for things they didn’t have time for when they were working. For Jim Sheely, after retiring as an air traffic controller, he was interested in giving back to the community. That was when Jim found the Red Cross.

Sheely has worn many hats as a Red Cross volunteer. His first volunteer effort with the Red Cross was with Service to the Armed Forces then he added Disaster Services to his resume. “I was ex-military and I was coming out of a government job, so that [Service to the Armed Forces] was a natural fit,” Sheely recalls. Again, his military background helped him to feel more comfortable in this role with the Red Cross. Sheely joined a Disaster Action Team and worked nights and weekends when he was not helping with military services.

For a short period of time, Sheely was the Disaster Action Team lead. He since has moved into Logistics.. When asked what logistics entails he responded, “it depends on whatever is needed.” Sheely leads a team of seven volunteers at the Charlotte Metro chapter that answers the calls of the surrounding chapters and helps to supply equipment they might need for disaster relief.

Sheely’s introduction into the world of logistics happened around the time of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When Louisiana was almost at capacity for sheltered people, the state started looking for outside assistance. The mayor of Charlotte welcomed around 400 individuals into the old coliseum that was off Tyvola Road. That shelter was open for a month. One week after the shelter closed, Sheely was deployed to Louisiana.

In Louisiana, Sheely started out by working in procurement which involves tracking disaster requisitions for supplies and equipment. “[Procurement] is a little different on every job. At that time, procurement was involved in tracking the disaster requisitions that other groups and activities would send in. Requisitions were supplies or equipment. We got requisitions for everything from a rat catcher to a water pump.”

The first week and a half of Sheely’s deployment he was in Covington, Louisiana, across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans, doing procurement. After Sheely was reassigned to bulk distribution, he was moved to Laplace, LA, just north of New Orleans where the warehouse was located. “Each day we drove several large box trucks to a church parking lot in a lake front neighborhood. The parking lot and the neighborhood around us had been flooded to the top of their doors.” The bulk distribution items Sheely and his team gave out included everything from mops, buckets and bleach to meal packages and ice coolers. “It was like a cafeteria line. They would get a bucket first, then we would give them one of whatever supplies we had that day. And as many as they needed for their family.”

Sheely painted a picture of some of the destruction he witnessed in Louisiana. “Another volunteer from Charlotte and I drove down the Mississippi River to the end of the road, Venice, LA, where the worst of the flooding was. There was a house in the middle of the highway. There were boats piled up. Caskets on top of the ground where they had floated up from the mud.”

When asked about the lasting impression this deployment to Louisiana had left on him, Sheely recalls the checkout process that occurs after a deployment. “You go from desk to desk, turning in vehicle keys and hotel keys. One of those desks is mental health. I took a DSC_0399pass on that. I was anxious to get out and I didn’t think anything was wrong with me. But it hit me when I had to change planes in Cincinnati. The terminal was full, the holidays were approaching. I was struck by the number of people and the bright colored lights. The noise. And the smell, or rather the absence of smell. It reminded me how without realizing it, I had become accustomed to the smell of New Orleans and to the grayness of New Orleans. When we drove South along the Mississippi, everything was very flat but when you looked to the horizon it looked as though there was a fence everywhere but it was really the height of the flood waters and how they had covered everything they touched in silt. There were no birds or bugs in Louisiana. No nature noises. You realized what you had been missing and what you had become accustomed to.”

The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers who can help in a time of need. If you are interested in learning how you can get involved, visit redcross.org/volunteer.



Authored by McKenna Estes, intern with the Western North Carolina Region communications department.


World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day is an international day of recognition by humanitarian organizations of their dedicated volunteers who take time out of their everyday lives to provide comfort and relief services to those who are stricken by disasters around the world.

At the Red Cross, volunteers carry out 90% of the humanitarian work we are known for. What started with Clara Barton for the war effort in 1881 has been molded by years and years of relief efforts. From war related efforts, crowd support, flooding, home fire response, and other natural disasters, the Red Cross continues to carry on its efforts by the same fundamental principles:

  • Humanity: to prevent and alleviate human suffering;
  • Impartiality: to relieve the suffering of individuals without discriminating as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions;
  • Neutrality: to enjoy the confidence of all by not taking sides in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political racial religions or ideological nature;
  • Independence: to maintain autonomy from the government;
  • Voluntary Service: to provide relief without being prompted in any manner by desire for gain;
  • Unity: to maintain only one Red Cross in any one country;
  • Universality: to ensure that the movement is worldwide and that all societies have equal status and responsibilities


Humanitarian Day

Locally, our volunteers continue to go above and beyond what is asked of them. From storm damage related calls to more than 1,200 home fire responses, the Western Region of North Carolina is booming with volunteers who are eager and willing to help others. Most recently our disaster action teams assisted families that were displaced in an apartment fire in east Charlotte. Families that were affected were offered resources at a shelter for two weeks. Our dedicated volunteers kept the show running and offered Humanitarian Day 3everything from comfort, food and translation services to the families.

On World Humanitarian Day, we would like to recognize not just one volunteer but all our volunteers across the region. The credit for what we do each and every day goes to those who help coordinate actions behind the scenes, to those who help with office tasks, who meet and greet blood donors, who assist with telling our Red Cross stories, to those who deploy and are on the front lines, to those delivering lifesaving blood products, and to all others who give of their time and treasures in whatever way they can. A big thank you to all of you who have just begun your Red Crosser journey and to those of you who are continuing the journey. Without you, there would be no Red Cross.

The Red Cross is always in need of volunteers who are the heart and soul of the Red Cross mission. Whether you have 2 hours a day or 2 hours a month, there’s a place for you at the Red Cross. To learn more about opportunities in your area, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer.


Authored by McKenna Estes, intern with the Western North Carolina Region communications department.

Helping Make Homes Safer: A Volunteer’s Perspective

Every day, seven people die and 36 people suffer injury from home fires. Launched in 2014 by the American Red Cross, the Home Fire Campaign has saved 260 lives, installed nearly 942,000 fire alarms and more than 390,000 homes were made safer across the U.S. in hopes of decreasing these incidents 25% by 2020. Recently, I had the opportunity to be a part of this vital and pivotal campaign.

That day, I was excited to get out in the community and provide hands-on help, but there was a bit of apprehension as well. I have worked with the public many times before, but not in such an intimate setting. Even though they were expecting us, entering someone’s home as a stranger, I thought we would be seen as intrusive, rather than helpful. I was fully expecting to be met with a little hesitation or resistance.

Each volunteer was paired up with a member of the Asheville Fire Department. While they installed the fire alarms, we, the volunteers, were in charge of the paperwork and talking with the members of the household about creating an evacuation plan and providing other safety tips. My partner Joe and I were talking on the ride over to our first house and he mentioned that it was his first time participating in the campaign as well. This immediately put me at ease and completely changed my attitude—we would tackle this together!

As we pulled up to the house, we saw children outside riding bikes. We got out of the car and one of the little boys rode up to Joe and excitedly asked, “Are you a firefighter?!” Joe responded with a smile. While he was unloading the equipment, the little boy informed Joe that his friend’s dad was a firefighter. The two talked about all of the people they had in common.  When they finished, we began walking towards the front door and the little boy asked “are you going to MY house?” As it turned out, we were. Knocking on the door, we were warmly greeted by his mom and dad. They immediately knew who we were and why we were there (I guess the fire department shirt and Red Cross vest gave us away). They welcomed us into their home and helped identify all of the rooms that had or needed fire alarms. Joe got to work installing and I got to work filling out the paperwork.

As I sat at their kitchen table, I noticed that they were in the middle of cooking dinner and wondered if we were intruding, but as we talked about the campaign, their recent move and what restaurants they liked it felt as if I was talking with family friends. When Joe was finished installing the alarms and I had finished the paperwork and safety discussion, they gave us hugs in appreciation and thanked us for making their home safer.

On the short drive to the next house we talked about what a great first experience that was and how good it made us feel to be able to help provide something so simple, but so important.

The next house was occupied by a group of girls who were having alarms installed at the request of their landlord. Like the previous family, they were very welcoming, showed us around and answered all of our questions. It was a four bedroom house and all four bedrooms were lacking an alarm. After he was finished, Joe also fixed their carbon monoxide detector they had just purchased and installed, but the battery had not been plugged in all the way. While Joe went to fixing and testing it, they mentioned they had a gas stove, and if anything were to happen, the CO detector is the only thing that would warn them of a leak. They were very grateful and thanked us as we left.

Asheville Fire Dept. Firefighter Joe

On the way back to headquarters, Joe and I discussed what a great experience this was and how thankful we were to have had the opportunity to help others in our community.

The Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters every year and home fires are a vast majority. Volunteers carry out 90% of the Red Cross’ humanitarian work. I am overjoyed to be a part of that 90% and hope that this experience will inspire others to share their time and talents with the Red Cross.

This fall, the Red Cross is participating in Sound the Alarm, a nationwide initiative to install 100,000 free smoke alarms in 100 cities and towns across the nation, including Charlotte, Greensboro and High Point in our region. During a 3 week period, the Red Cross will install its one-millionth free smoke alarm since the home fire campaign started in 2014. If you would like to get involved this fall, please sign up at SoundtheAlarm.org/wnc. #EndHomeFires

If you can’t join us for this event, but would like to volunteer or learn more about opportunities available, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Authored by Katelyn Shiring, an intern with the Western North Carolina Region’s communications team.

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Holiday and Fireworks Safety Tips

This Fourth of July holiday, the American Red Cross has tips to follow to stay safer when enjoying the fireworks, traveling the highways, taking a trip to the beach, or chilling and grilling at home.


Millions of people will be on the highways over the Fourth of July weekend. The Red Cross offers these five things everyone should do to stay safe while traveling:

  • Buckle seat belts and observe speed limits.
  • Do not drink and drive.
  • Pay full attention to the road – don’t use a cell phone to text while behind the wheel.
  • Use caution in work zones.
  • Clean the vehicle’s lights and windows to help the driver see, especially at night. Turn the headlights on as dusk approaches, or during inclement weather.



The best way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals. Here are five safety steps if you choose to set fireworks off at home:

  • Never give fireworks to small children, and always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  • Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  • Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.



Every year people are injured while using charcoal or gas grills. Here are several steps to safely cook up treats for the backyard barbecue:

  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
  • Never grill indoors – not in the house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
  • Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
  • Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.



Swimming is the number one summer activity. It is super important to make aquatic safety a priority and the Red Cross is here to help you do just that:

  • Swim in designated areas only supervised by lifeguards.
  • Never swim alone! Always swim with a buddy, even at a public pool with a lifeguard.
  • Make sure young children or inexperienced swimmers wear approved life jackets, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • Do not leave a young child near water unsupervised, not even for a minute.
  • Enroll the family in Red Cross water safety course so everyone can learn to swim appropriately for their age.



Why should you train in First Aid/CPR? Because you could save a life one day. Here’s some of the basics of first aid training. Find out more by enrolling in a Red Cross First Aid/CPR class!

  • First Aid/CPR training can help you to react quickly in disaster situations or isolated emergency medical situations.
  • By providing this emergency response quickly and efficiently, you can give assistance to someone in desperate need, which assists the medical professionals when they arrive on the scene.
  • You could save your child’s life! First Aid/CPR training through the Red Cross helps you to be prepared for all situations. Not only can you receive training for Adult CPR, but Child CPR as well. As a parent, it’s important to be prepared.
  • The Red Cross offers multiple ways to gain knowledge on First Aid and CPR skills. In-person, online and blended learning options help make the training available to anyone and everyone with all different schedules.

Food, Shelter, Comfort and… Hope

As the retired Aviation Director for the Concord Regional Airport, Dick Lewis has not only delegated numerous tasks but also has extensive experience in communication and preparedness. An American Red Cross volunteer for three years this past June, Lewis has an impressive service record. “It was something I had thought about for a long time [volunteering] but I had never pulled the trigger.” While it may have taken him awhile to finally “pull the trigger,” there is no question, he hit the ground running.

“A board member came forward and asked me to be on the board of directors but I wasn’t convinced that was the fit for me.” Lewis stated. “That was when I made the decision to register as a volunteer and I started on a disaster action team.” He recalls his first on-call experience as a part of the team: “A tree had fallen on a gentleman’s house. It feels good to go out and help someone who is experiencing loss. Our goal is to stabilize and comfort the affected. And that’s what we did.”

For the most part, Lewis’ efforts have been focused in the local arena. “We call them disasters of one – local home fires, power outages, local flooding, and things like that.” But as all volunteers know, opportunity can call at any time to serve nationally.

Opportunity came knocking for Lewis this past spring when storms hit parts of the central southern U.S. Tornadoes ripped through parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi, decimating anything in their wake. Houses were ripped fromBull Shoals Lake foundations and swept downstream by heavy flooding. Many people were left without homes and food, while some searched frantically for loved ones. Lewis received his first out-of-state call, and without hesitation, he was on his way to his first national deployment to Missouri.

According to Lewis, there was only one way to describe the group as they traveled to the stricken area – “apprehensive.” He explained that the volunteers all had various expectations but each disaster is unique as are the victims. “It can be a challenge to actually implement what you learn in a class setting to a situation. It is all a learning experience and volunteers come from  different backgrounds and careers, bringing varied skills with them as a result.”

There were three districts established by the Red Cross in Missouri; St. Louis, Springfield and Cape Girardeau. “Emergency Response Vehicles from Springfield brought comfort kits and cleaning equipment to keep the mold down in West Plains,” Lewis recalls. While the disaster had not yet merited federal oversight, the state made the move to establish Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARC) across the area and the Red Cross helped put this plan in motion. Lewis helped to coordinate communication efforts to help make victims aware of MARC services. Those seeking help had ready access to everything from faith-based and government organizations to legal advice.


Lewis served an intake role as well by registering victims at the MARC and attentively listening to their stories. Lewis also made a point of frequenting a nearby warehouse to help pack supplies for relief services. He learned what the warehouse stocked for future reference and made some new friends as well. “It’s important to build one-on-one relationships with those you are working with and working to help. Communication is important in any disaster situation,” Lewis emphasizes.

When asked why he enjoys volunteering, Lewis has a simple answer. “When you are helping someone clean up after a disaster, and they look at you with this expression that says ‘you are doing this because you want to?’ It’s a good feeling going out into the world IMG_0764and reminding people there are others out there who want to help and who care. I believe we supply four things; food, shelter, comfort and hope for those who need it.”

The Red Cross is always in need of volunteers like Dick Lewis, who are the heart and soul of the Red Cross mission. Whether you have 2 hours a day or 2 hours a month, there’s a place for you at the Red Cross. To learn more about opportunities in your area, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer.



Dramatic video highlights importance of infant CPR

A dramatic video showing good Samaritans rescuing an infant and a toddler from an overturned vehicle trapped in a torrent of flood water Saturday has been making the media and social media rounds. After minutes of struggling, the good Samaritans were able to pry open the doors and get inside, and then dragged the children to safety and helped to resuscitate them. If this were you, would you have been able to assist? Children and adults have different needs when it comes to resuscitation.

  • Usually, an infant has a respiratory emergency first and then a cardiac emergency.
  • The first step is to check the scene for safety.
  • Then shout the baby’s name to get the infant’s attention, tap the bottom of his or her foot and shout again while checking for normal breathing. Check breathing for no more than 10 seconds.
  • If the infant doesn’t respond and is not breathing, send someone to call 9-1-1 and someone to get an AED and first aid kit. If you’re alone with the baby, give two minutes of CPR and then call 9-1-1 yourself.
  • Immediately start CPR and use the AED as soon as possible. Give 30 chest compressions (push hard and fast in the center of the chest about 1½ inches deep at 100-120 compressions per minute).
  • Give 2 rescue breaths. Open the airway and seal your mouth over the infant’s nose and mouth.
  • Continue giving sets of 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths until an AED is available, the infant shows signs of life, another bystander or EMS personnel takes over, or the scene becomes unsafe.

For more information, visit: http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr/perfoming-cpr/child-baby-cpr

Infant CPR

Summer Safety: Red Cross Issues Tips On How to Have a Safe Summer

Millions of people are looking forward to having fun and traveling this summer and the American Red Cross wants everyone to stay safe.


When traveling, it’s important to know the level of ability of the people in your group and the environment around you. Sprains and falls are some of the most common misfortunes travelers may face. Sprains are the most common injury for someone on a cruise, along with contusions and other superficial wounds. Going to the mountains? Falls are the biggest threat, many due to poor decision-making, lack of skill or not being properly prepared. Dehydration is also a danger. People planning a camping trip face the same dangers.


  • Stung by a jellyfish? Wash liberally with vinegar as soon as possible for at least 30 seconds. If vinegar isn’t available, make a thick mixture of baking soda and water.
  • Mosquitoes biting? Ideally the first step is to prevent mosquito bites. If not, use an over-the-counter product to reduce the itch and urge to scratch.
  • Sick stomach? Keep the person hydrated and take a medication made specifically for someone with tummy woes.
  • Too long in the sun? Get out of the sun, cool the area and use topical pain relief medication if needed.
  • Blisters? Leave it alone to protect the area. If the blister may cause further injury, puncture at the base, clean and protect with another barrier such as a bandage.
  • Allergic reaction? Remove the person from the allergen; give them oral antihistamines if needed. If the situation is life-threatening, consider the use of epinephrine.

AVOID VACATION MISHAPS Vacationers should pack appropriate clothing, insect repellant, sunscreen and first aid items. Include soap, tweezers, wound gel, personal medication and items such as fever reducers, fungal creams and pain relievers.

TAKE A CLASS Prepare for the unexpected with First Aid/CPR/AED training. Training can give people the skills and confidence to act in an emergency and to save a life. Red Cross offers a variety of online, blended (online content with in-class skills session) and instructor-led classroom training options. Register at redcross.org/takeaclass. A variety of First Aid kits and emergency supplies are available at redcrossstore.org.

DOWNLOAD APPS Download the Red Cross First Aid App for instant access on how to treat common emergencies as well as a hospital locator which is helpful for travelers. The Emergency App is a single ‘go-to’ source for weather alerts and safety tips for everything from a power outage, to a severe thunderstorm, to a hurricane. All Red Cross apps can be downloaded for free in app stores by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ or by going to redcross.org/apps.