“There is no better feeling”

What should have been a typical Friday night for the Elwood family quickly turned into a scary one when their Hickory home caught fire.

Volunteers from the Catawba Valley Chapter, American Red Cross, quickly arrived on scene and provided immediate support to the Elwoods.

“They didn’t know where to turn or have any idea what they needed to do,” said Mike Townsend, the Red Cross caseworker working with the Elwoods. “The three children were sent to a neighbor’s house, and the parents kept going back and forth making sure they were OK.”

Comfort kits, which have basic toiletries, to were givent to Amaro Elwood and his wife for the entire family. The children received stuffed animals. The Red Cross provided support for food, shelter and clothing for the family.

“While I was at the counter taking care of the hotel bill, the children walked up behind me with their Mickey Mouse in hand and hugged me,” Mike recalled. 

“We never realized everything the Red Cross does,” Amaro said. “You have no idea what your support and assistance means to us.”

Each of the Elwoods hugged Mike one last time before he left. Later, Amaro texted Mike, saying

 “You are all amazing. As soon as we are back on our feet we are looking forward to hopefully do some volunteering ourselves.”

“This to me is what it’s all about, and why we all do what we do to help people,” Mike said. “There is no better feeling or thanks that can be given than to see the appreciation and thankfulness from the families we serve.”

Kayla, Tristan and Braedon Elwood embrace their Red Cross Mickey Mouse toys while in the hotel after their home caught fire.

“The Red Cross took care of us”

Written by Red Cross volunteer Timothy Lind

Delores Thompson (right) and her mother, Sandra, lost their Charlotte-area home in a fire.

After a fire destroyed Delores Thompson’s home in Charlotte, she learned firsthand that the Red Cross is about more than national disasters and blood; it’s about restoring lives, one family at a time.

Delores had been watching the 2012 Olympics and preparing a meal in the kitchen for her son, Jeremy, when her dogs began scratching at the door to go outside. Delores’ mother, Sandra, was returning to her upstairs bedroom when she heard a noise that “sounded like those sparklers, pssssssrrrrrrr, pssssssrrrrrr, like little fireworks were going off.” 

When Sandra got to her bedroom, she found herself in a circle of fire.

Back in the kitchen, Delores didn’t think anything was  wrong.  “The alarm didn’t go off. My dogs’ barking is my alarm system.  I just thought they were scratching because they needed to go out.” 

Still, she had an inkling she should check on her mother. 

“When I went around the corner there was a big ball of smoke coming at me.”  She quickly got her family outside to safety.

You often hear about the dramatic power of fire. Delores said, “As soon as we closed the door the flames went up. Within 30 minutes, everything was destroyed.  We went from having – to not having.”

The fire engines arrived, and the police, and with them the question if the Thompsons had anywhere that they could stay.

That’s when a call to the Red Cross was made.

“I always thought the Red Cross was about blood and plasma, and about big disasters.  Well, it opened my eyes.  This was a disaster to us.  I thought it was remarkable the way the Red Cross took care of us.” 

The Red Cross arranged temporary shelter for the Thompson family and provided them with the food and clothing they needed. “They called the pharmacy and doctor’s office for us, and then checked back with us to make sure that we were able to get all of our medicines.”

When I visited the Thompsons in their temporary home, they were very welcoming and seem relaxed. While their damaged home is cleaned and rebuilt, they continue to have conversations with their insurance company. They’re eager to return home but there’s still much work to be done. 

Sleep doesn’t come easily or restfully for the Thompsons; they’ve been uprooted from home, and any unusual noises alarm them.  Best case, the family will be back in their home in two to three months. The dogs, who are staying with relatives for now, will be back together with the family then, too.

Despite their hardships and fears, the Thompsons’ spirits are in good shape. 

“Everyone brought so much love, so much care with them,” said Delores.

Thanks to the Red Cross, this community takes care of its own and good will prevails.   And hopefully, when the dogs are restless in the future, it’ll just be to tell anyone listening that they need to go out.

Retired Concord detective experiences home fire

Retired Concord Police Department investigator William Black and his wife, Pamela, and their granddaughter, Alexis, awoke around 2:30 a.m. Friday to the smoke alarms sounding.

The family ran outside, calling for their pets to join them.

When the Concord Fire Department arrived, several of the family’s pets were outside – a responder even administered pet first aid and revived one.  Unfortunately, the family lost two of their pets. 

Black told the CFD  he didn’t want to wake the volunteers from the Red Cross – though our volunteers support people who experience disaster no matter the day or time. 

The Red Cross provided the Black family assistance for food and clothing.  Our nurse, Harry Gedney, was able to assist with the medical needs, as William had recently undergone knee surgery.  

Volunteers gave comfort kits – which have basic toiletries – to each person, and Alexis received a stuffed animal. 

Dee Moon, a volunteer who responded to the call, said, “It was an honor to have been able to serve back to an individual who retired from serving our community.”

Video: The Traverso Family

Katrina Traverso brought her children up knowing what to do in case of an emergency.

On Friday, April 20, Katrina watched their home go up in flames and knew that they would probably lose everything.

However, the most important things in her life – Jonathan, 14, and Bella, 11 – were safe in her arms, thanks to Jonathan’s quick thinking. Jonathan saw smoke coming from another room, called 911 and got his sister out of the house to safety.

“I don’t even have a pair of pants to wear,” Katrina said. “But I don’t care. I have somewhere to live, I have my kids.”

The Red Cross immediately stepped in to get the Traversos assistance for food, shelter and clothing. Jonathan, a diabetic, had only three days’ worth of medication. Our Red Cross nurse, Muri, made arrangements to get more medicine and hand-delivered it to the hotel where the Traversos were staying.

And then the community stepped in. The homeowners assocation made arrangements for the family to rent a home in the same subdivision so the kids wouldn’t have to switch schools or make new friends. Neighbors helped sort through the burned home to find a few items that survived the fire.

Watch this family’s story – and then brush up on your fire safety.

From client to donor: Margretha pledges to be a Hero!

A few days ago, we shared with you Margretha Pinkney’s story.

Margretha Pinkney chats with Herman Sterling, the volunteer who worked with her in the days and weeks following the fire.


On Oct. 10, 2011, Margretha’s Huntersville, NC, home, was engulfed in flames, and her 9-year-old son, Nikko’las, did not survive the fire.

Since then, the Red Cross has been working with Margretha to help her find a place to stay, giving her assistance for food and clothing, and most importantly, providing her emotional support.

“The Red Cross didn’t make me feel like a victim,” she said. “I feel like a part of the family.”

In fact, Margretha feels so connected to the Red Cross that she has decided to be a hero for the Red Cross. That means she has pledged to raise money for people affected by home fires.

Most heroes pledge to raise $1,000. Margretha raised $1,000 in just 24 hours. “So let’s make my goal $,5000,” she said.

You can visit Margretha’s page here: Team Nikko Heroes Page

Want to be a hero? Find out more.

Margretha’s story

On Oct. 10, 2011, Margretha Pinkney said to her 10-year-old son, Nikko’Las, “I love you from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. You are my gift from God.”

Then she put him to bed, allowing him to watch his favorite show, WWE wrestling.

“The next thing I remember, I was in the hospital demanding to know where Nikko was, and my Granny-Boo looked at me and said, ‘Baby, there’s been a fire,’” Margretha recalled.

First responders helped fill in the details for her: There had been a carbon monoxide leak in the house, sparking a fire. Margretha’s neighbors pulled her out of the window to safety.

Nikko didn’t survive.

“Just like that, my life was gone,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, the Red Cross had already stepped in to help.”

Over the course of the next few days, Margretha met and spoke with several Red Cross volunteers, who arranged for assistance for food, shelter and clothing.

“They never treated me like a victim,” she said. “They treated me like I was part of their family. They let me cry when I wanted to cry, they let me talk when I wanted to talk.”

Herman Sterling did the casework for Margretha and chatted with her often.

“Losing a child is traumatic, and she really needed someone to step in to help her with some of these basic things,” Herman said. “And that’s why the Red Cross is here.”

Margretha is now in a new place, putting back together the pieces of her life.

As she flipped through a memory book Nikko’s classmates from EE Waddell Language Academy gave her, she said Nikko was a brilliant child – he spoke five languages, was an avid reader and had a contagious smile.

“There are still days that are challenging,” she said. “But I know I can always call on the Red Cross if I need support.”

Everyone has the chance to be a hero

Home fires.

They make up more than 90 percent of the disasters the Red Cross responds to.

They happen every day in our community.

They don’t care where you live, how much money you make or what you look like.

They are devastating, and they are happening right now.

The American Red Cross responds to home fires, showing up on the scene immediately to help the family by providing emergency assistance.

We’re able to be there for that family because our community has always been there for us – through volunteering their time or donating their money.

This month, we’re asking YOU to be a HERO for the Red Cross by pledging to raise or donate $1,000.

That $1,000 is enough money to provide emergency assistance for a family after they experience a home fire. It provides them comfort, because they know where they’ll sleep that night, where their next meal is coming from and how they’ll be able to get on the road to recovery.

Find out how you can be a hero or donate today: Be A Hero