Red Cross thanks volunteers at event

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – When tornadoes, floods and house fires left Northeast Mississippi residents in serious need last year, the American Red Cross was there. Thursday the Northeast Mississippi Chapter honored the hundreds of local partners and volunteers who responded when the call came.
“We’re celebrating the hero in all of you,” executive director Patty Tucker told those gathered at The Summit Center for the organization’s annual report.
Outgoing board members received thanks as new members, including 2012 president Jameson Rogers, officially assumed their duties before fellow supporters and volunteers.
The Red Cross has been active in Tupelo for 94 years, and in her report, Tucker explained how the organization continues to provide assistance to those who need it most.
Last year, the Northeast Chapter responded to 56 fires in Lee County and provided more than 3,000 mental health consultations to grief-stricken residents after the tornadoes in April. Residents in 14 of the 16 counties the chapter serves were affected by those storms.
Ruth Lacey of Pontotoc was one of the volunteers who made that work possible. She was honored as the 2011 Volunteer of the Year.
For 38 years, Lacey, a retired EMT, has helped the Red Cross with feeding, damage assessment and most every other facet of disaster response.
“I can go anywhere in this country and somebody will call and say ‘Come stay the night with me,’” said Lacey, speaking of the network of friends she’s made during her service. Volunteers like Lacey comprise 97 percent of the organization’s workforce.
The state’s new chief executive officer, Sandra Hodge, explained that the Red Cross is currently undergoing a restructuring, in part because it’s been operating in the red but also because it recognizes the need to synchronize its efforts and make best use of its personnel and resources.
“Don’t have fear,” said Hodge, reassuring supporters that the change isn’t a sign the Red Cross is floundering but rather part of its commitment to become a “stronger, more united organization.”
Contact Galen Holley at 678-1510 or galen.holley@journalinc.com