Volunteers are not ‘just’ volunteers

Published 3:31 pm Monday, September 19, 2016

Claudia and Pedro Millan, owners of Mi Amor’s Pizzeria Restaurant in Chocowinity, invited first responders to a free lunch from noon to 4 p.m. on Sept. 11 in honor of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, which also included volunteers of the American Red Cross. So many times volunteers get left out because we are only volunteers.

Mi Amor’s Pizzeria Resturant is a family-run business, with their two daughters, who are all very friendly and so appreciative of all first responders and volunteers. It seemed they just couldn’t do enough for all of us. There are not many people like them around anymore.

In 1992, I started working in disaster at the Red Cross through my church. Although I lived in Washington County, I remained part of the Elizabeth City Chapter until the late ’90s when I was asked by Ann Keys, emergency management, to help with the Red Cross office in Washington County, as they were about to lose the chapter, so I said yes. Other than the help from the board I was able to pull together, I ran the whole chapter on a voluntary basis by myself to keep it from closing back in the late ’90s when they were about to lose the chapter. This is when I got involved with more services. I did services with the military, blood services and whatever came up, I did it. I learned a lot on this venture and Ann was my mentor in so many ways, and she still is today!! Ann Keys helped us get an office for free from the county. She was also able to get me some volunteers to help me out sometimes. I ran it for several years doing all of the services the best I could with a board and a lot of help from my dear friend, Ann Keys. Without her help it would have been impossible. I did it for several years until I got so stressed, I just couldn’t do it anymore. My husband said I had to give it up. It was just too much, and it was taking a toll on me.

I then went back to the Elizabeth City Chapter and helped them for many years. I also helped in the Flood of 1992 (Floyd) for 2 ½ weeks in Greenville; now that was a challenge. I will never forget that. It was one of those things if you didn’t see it, you wouldn’t have believed it. You had to go everywhere by helicopter. I had to leave my car on the side of the road and be picked up by the Air Force helicopter. I was the flown to the hospital and then flown by East Care to the school where I was to manage the shelter. I was also flown by the Forest Service helicopter to view the area to see what it looked like. It was unbelievable. Then, when they brought in another shelter manager to relieve me and sent me to another mission, I was sent on the Forest Service helicopter once again. It was a long time until a Highway Patrol trooper heard me talking about my car that he told me he would take me to get my car when the water had gone down some. He said he would make sure no one gave me a problem. It was an experience I will never forget.

I say all of this to say when we go through things like this, people may thank us at the time, but they soon forget. So many think we are getting paid to do this, but we’re not. We do it because we want to. We like helping people. There are very few people like the Millans who take time to honor people who are paid or not paid for doing things to help others, and sometimes we are also putting our lives on the line. During Floyd, I was threatened, but a National Guard officer happened to be standing close by. This was so nice of the Millan family to honor the emergency responders and volunteers in this way. They didn’t have to, but they wanted to. So many people take emergency workers and volunteers for granted, and they recognize them. They will never know how much that meant to my husband and me. So many times volunteers get left out because of the fact we are that — just volunteers. We are so thankful for people like the Millan family who do appreciate what we do, whether paid or volunteers. That says a lot for their business, and I hope you will go out and support their business. I highly recommend their food, good friendly service and excellent prices! Please remember Claudia in prayer, as she is having surgery Tuesday.

Mae Carr
Volunteer for American Red Cross
Disaster Services, Blood Services