New Red Cross volunteer heads to SC for disaster assistance

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 17, 2014

SALISBURY — Vickie Yates’ phone rang at midnight Friday.
Eight hours later, she was packed and departing for a 10-day stay in South Carolina, providing disaster relief to hundreds of people who lost power during the recent winter storm.
This is Yates’ first assignment with the Elizabeth Hanford Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross. The 45-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 11 recently became a full-time volunteer for the Red Cross and Grateful Heart Community Service in Granite Quarry.
For the next week and a half, she is stationed at Berkeley High School in Moncks Corner, between Columbia and Charleston. The Red Cross is using the high school as an emergency shelter.
“It’s exciting but heartbreaking at the same time to see how many people are going through this,” Yates said. “But it makes you feel good that your are uplifting their spirits and helping them get through it.”
Yates traveled with two volunteers from the Cabarrus County Red Cross chapter, Sam Murr and Dale Sweet, to South Carolina. While Red Cross hurricane assignments are three weeks long, winter storm deployments usually last a shorter time, said Nancy Litton, community chapter executive for the Cabarrus and Rowan Red Cross offices.
“Any time there are events like this winter storm, communities that may have a bit more impact than they anticipated may have to call on resources around them to help with manpower,” Litton said.
Yates and her fellow responders are providing basic disaster assistance, including providing food, shelter and casework, Litton said.
They also will try to do damage assessment, including houses without power and those that were damaged by falling trees, she said.
“Cabarrus and Rowan are working as a team,” Litton said.
After doing everything from waiting tables to working in human resources, Yates said she decided to spend her time volunteering. She went through extensive training with the Red Cross.
“I didn’t realize how many disasters there are and how many people need help,” she said.
She used to assume that when disaster struck, the community could handle it. But now she knows that many need help.
In the high school-turned-emergency shelter, Yates works to make more than 20 people as comfortable as possible, offering showers, a hot meal and cots.
“We try to ease the stress for them,” she said.
She encouraged people to consider making a donation to the Red Cross. Volunteers are staying at nearby hotels and working 12-hour days in shelters.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.