Kenneth Stutts: Attorney by weekday, Red Cross disaster volunteer by weekend
If there was anything that stayed with Kenneth Stutts from his youth to adulthood, it would be to help others.
Since 2011, the Rowan County native has been an attorney here and can be found strolling the halls of the Rowan County Courthouse.
But on weekends, he’s likely to be seen at a fire or other disaster emergency.
Stutts, 31, is a captain for the Disaster Action Team at the Hanford Dole chapter of the American Red Cross. As captain, he is responsible for a team that responds to a call after a fire or other such natural disaster.
He’d long been a regular blood donor and routinely schedules his appointments online via the organization’s website. One day, he scrolled through the site and landed on a paragraph about disasters.
He resumed work on a court case, but he couldn’t get out of his head the disaster program. Days passed and Stutts was still thinking about volunteering, so he decided to call the Red Cross. After talking with Monica Bruns, a disaster program specialist, he knew immediately it was something that would be a good fit.
Throughout his life, helping others had just been something Stutts had seen his grandparents and parents do.
Stutts’ grandparents were the ones who reached out to neighbors in need. His grandmother was a nurse at the VA, his mother still regularly volunteers at church and his father is a retired police officer.
Stutts graduated from South Rowan High School and went on to graduate from Boston University and Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2008. After Stutts worked in Chicago and Melbourne, Australia, he made his return to Rowan County in 2011 to practice law.
The process was relatively easy for Stutts, who met with Bruns to learn more about volunteering.
Bruns said Stutts was very anxious to get started and finished the orientation and training process fairly quickly. However, the training, which is mostly online, can take a few weeks or longer, depending on the person. Potential volunteers fill out an online application and a Red Cross staff member monitors and processes the application. All of the training is free.
The volunteer can choose what type of service they would like to participate. For instance, some volunteers prefer local deployment while others sign on to travel to disasters throughout North Carolina or out-of-state.
Volunteers receive Red Cross orientation and disaster service orientation as well as chapter specific orientation. Any volunteer who travels to other parts of the country to respond must also receive specialized training. Training includes CPR, First Aid, defensive driving and Psychological First Aid, which teaches responders how to understand what their clients are undergoing at such a stressful time.
Litton said it shows responders how to effectively support the clients they serve.
Volunteers can also receive training at another Red Cross chapter and then have specialized training by the Rowan County chapter.
Stutts is on call from 5 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. the following Friday, every three weeks.
“I really enjoyed working with the team and the opportunity this gave me to help people in the community where I was born and raised,” he said.
If there is a multi-family home and the organization is short-staffed, Red Cross personnel will call Stutts to respond to a call during the week.
“Being asked to help a client, making sure their essential needs are met,” Stutts said is why he signed on to volunteer.
During one of the first disaster calls Stutts was sent to was in the Scotch Irish area and the volunteers had some issues with transportation. Stutts could’ve been deterred after that experience, Bruns said, but he “did everything he could to ensure he got to the client.”
“He’s here because he wants to be here,” she said.
Community Chapter Executive Nancy Litton explained a volunteer can respond to a disaster call anywhere in the county.
Volunteers can on some occasions provide canteen response to emergency personnel.
When a disaster occurs, Stutts receives a text message from the Rowan County Communications Department with the type of disaster and the location. Stutts responds by telling the communications when his team should arrive and how many people will be there to assist. The team arrives at the Red Cross office to pack the disaster response vehicle with items they may need at the scene, which can sometimes include diapers for babies.
“Having the opportunity to help people instills a great deal of humility and makes me feel good to know that I’m fulfilling my community responsibility to help those in need,” Stutts said.
His team primarily consists of three others, but depending on the disaster he could need more help.
Stutts is the first point of contact for the client and the firefighter or other emergency personnel who is in charge of the disaster.
As captain for the disaster team, Stutts likes to rotate assignments for his team members so that each member will learn how to perform different functions of a disaster call.
“Disasters are always unique. Primarily here it’s fire, wind or tornado,” Litton said.
Once Stutts and his team has made sure the clients basic needs are met, Bruns then continues to assess their “recovery” or where the family is after the disaster.
“He’s a real god demonstration of the every day ‘walk of life’ volunteer,” Litton said.
The Hanford Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross is a Rowan County United Way member agency. The agency provides financial support for disaster response.
Throughout the past seven months, the Hanford Dole Chapter responded to 42 disaster operations and assisted 86 individuals.
For more information go to the Hanford Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org/nc/salisbury and search under volunteer or call the branch office at 704-633-3854.