On an August Sunday, Lillian Brack’s life changed in a flash — a flash of flame and smoke that poured from her Whitesville home.
“I was at work and got a call that my house was on fire,” she remembers. “I just couldn’t believe it. I left right then and there, and it was just me and God all the way back to the house.”
Brack soon learned that her family, her husband, son and grandson, were spared from danger, answering a prayer she asked several times on the drive back, but found her home completely in ruin.
“I really couldn’t believe it until I saw it for myself,” she said. “We lost everything. It destroyed the whole home and all its contents.”
The event was traumatic, she says; an electrical accident.
It was also an eye-opener.
Brack remembers much of that fateful day, she said, but above all, a surprise encounter and call-to-help by an organization she previously knew little about.
“While on the scene, firemen were talking to us and there was concern about whether we had a place to stay; because we didn’t have anything,” Brack said. “And I was thinking, ‘Where can I stay?’”
“Very shortly, someone from the American Red Cross arrived and said they’d be able to provide emergency shelter,” she said. “I was in awe. I had never had any dealings with the Red Cross. I was not familiar with all they did for people.”
Thanks to efforts of the Red Cross, Brack and her family had a roof over their heads before the day’s end.
“We are so very grateful. It meant so much for them to do what they did,” she said. “They put us up for a few days, gave us emergency food, clothing, hygiene products and everything we needed.”
Brack’s is a story told thousands of times over each year, by people throughout the country.
Likewise, many victims are surprised to learn there is a place to turn to following disaster.
“What most people don’t realize is: there is an entire side of Red Cross dedicated to Emergency Services,” said Donna Lee, Assistant Manager of Emergency Services for the Bulloch Chapter of the American Red Cross.
“Under that umbrella you have service to the armed forces, international humanitarian services and disaster services.”
In addition to collecting blood donations to rescue accident victims and sustain cancer patients, the Red Cross assists military families experiencing tragedy and provides resources for victims of disaster both locally and abroad.
“Mostly what we do across this country is address single-family house fires — local, in-our-neighborhood house fires,” Lee said. “We are the only person or organization that (victims) see immediately because we are dispatched with the fire departments.”
“We provide that immediate humanitarian service,” she said. “We are able to say that we can put a roof over your head, food in your belly and clothes on your back right now, whereas most agencies, while they certainly help, are not providing a response at 2 a.m., in the middle of the night, or Sunday morning. Disasters do not happen just 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.”
Last fiscal year, the American Red Cross spent $24,004 for direct relief in Bulloch County alone. This year, just a few months in, the organization has spent more than $3,700 in Bulloch, Lee said.
It is an effort that doesn’t go unappreciated by Brack.
“This made me want to become a volunteer for Red Cross,” she said. “I really am interested to do whatever I can to give back. It is the best organization around. It really is. Other organizations can help you, but not like the Red Cross.”
Brack, who is living with her daughter now, has sought out volunteer opportunities with Red Cross and says she tells everyone she can about the organization.
The additional help is welcome for the Red Cross, which is supported solely by volunteer efforts/donations and United Way allocations, according to Lee.
“A lot of people think we are a governmental entity, but we’re not,” she said.
The United Way of Southeast Georgia’s is currently conducting its 2012-13 fundraising campaign. The campaign kicked off in September.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.