(When disaster strikes, American Red Cross volunteers help in a variety of ways, making use of their skills and knowledge. One volunteer, Carl Manning of the Greater Kansas City Chapter, is a retired journalist who uses his skills as a Public Affairs volunteer to help tell the Red Cross story. On a recent deployment to the Louisiana floods, he came up with this Relief in Action story.)
By Carl Manning
American Red Cross
Henry Braxton was among the first to assist the American Red Cross when he and his neighbors were caught in the path of rising water in the Natchez, Louisiana, area. Every day for nearly a week, he did whatever he could do to lend a hand, from helping to distribute cleanup kits to showing volunteers flood-damaged areas.
“The Bible says put my hometown first and put myself last, and I think God will bless me for that,” Henry said one recent evening at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Natchez, where the Red Cross offered hot meals, cleanup supplies, emotional support and casework assistance.
He was among dozens who attended, but he wasn’t there to seek help. Rather, he assisted people carrying cleanup supplies and other items to their vehicles.
Inside the church, Henry reached into his pocket and pulled out a Red Cross challenge coin that he received for his efforts—a coin that few receive and even fewer have ever seen. When he displayed the coin, it was obvious to Red Cross volunteers that Henry was a person who had been singled out for recognition.
“It was a high honor and brought tears to my eyes. I was just doing the best I could to help the people needing help,” he said.
Henry, a big man with rippling muscles and an infectious smile, said his late mother raised him to be kind to others and to go to church. To honor her, Henry said his philosophy is simple: “Any way I can help out, I will.”
As he talked, it was clear that Henry deserved more than the thanks of a grateful Red Cross. Henry said he hadn’t signed up with the Red Cross for help, and with that, he was introduced to Jeremiah Norrell, a Red Cross caseworker from the Sacramento, California area. Henry explained how he had lost his refrigerator, stove and furniture to rising water, which soaked his floors. Yet he hadn’t asked for anything.
Henry indeed qualified for Red Cross immediate assistance, as he and Jeremiah together checked a map to see that his home was in a flooded area. He was eligible for supplemental Red Cross assistance and in position to be referred to various partner agencies for things such as clothing and furniture.
As he left, Henry stopped and hugged volunteers who helped him get assistance. When he walked out the door, he turned around, waved and smiled before disappearing into the night.