By MaryJane Mudd, American Red Cross Public Affairs
Bobbie Ann Anderson first caught Ron Anderson’s eye when she sang in the church choir he was directing.
“She was a beauty then and she’s a beauty now,” he smiles as the couple from Nacogdoches, married since 1998, sit near a laptop and flipchart in the American Red Cross Disaster Response Operation (DRO) Center in Beaumont. Bobbie Ann and Ronald are there to volunteer by assisting with shelter management and distribution of food and water to those in need. She smiles and nudges him for a moment, hoping he’ll stop with the compliments and get down to what’s important: Volunteering.
Bobbie Ann’s first contact with the American Red Cross came with Hurricane Katrina, when she walked into a Nacogdoches shelter and asked what she could do. “They asked me to go to the reception center and ride buses with flood victims to various Red Cross shelters. I was overwhelmed by their incredible need and how grateful they were for our help. They were tired, dirty and had none of their things. They didn’t have their medications or their eyeglasses. They were so afraid.”
She escorted 11 more buses of Katrina victims that day—all weary to the core, all relieved to receive assistance. This experience moved Bobbie Ann so greatly she knew she wanted to remain a Red Cross volunteer. Since then, she has participated in multiple Disaster Assistance Team (DAT) calls for the Nacogdoches community, primarily aiding families impacted by devastating home fires. She has served as a disaster response instructor, represented the Red Cross on the local Emergency Management Center and was deployed to Hurricane Sandy to help establish shelters in the area. For these efforts and many more, in 2015 Bobbie Ann received the Clara Barton Honor Award, recognizing meritorious service in volunteer leadership positions held over a period of years.”
“It’s the highest Red Cross award a volunteer can receive!” boasts Ronald as Bobbie Ann’s face reddens. She responds by reminding him of his own contributions, which began two years ago after he retired from Stephen F. Austin University after 44 years as Director of Choral Activities and the Director of the School of Music.
“It was a way to spend time with my wife,” he says with a smile. Before long he was as passionate about volunteering as Bobbie Ann, joining her on DAT calls, mass care work like food distribution after storms and fundraising. In 2015 Ron chaired the first Tee It Up Red Golf Tournament, raising $10,000 through the generosity of 36 hole sponsors and individual donors. He also founded the Lumberjack Red Cross Club at Stephen F. Austin as a way to encourage college students to pursue the Red Cross mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering.
Thinking about the Club, Ron says “There is a whole new generation to teach about what the Red Cross does. Anywhere they go in their lives and at every stage of their lives, a Red Cross chapter will be nearby so they can help others.”
Bobbie Ann looks at her watch with the realization that she needs to get back to her DRO assignment of assessing shelter needs and availability. Ron will soon go on a route to deliver clean-up kits and water to flood victims. Even so, he insists he’s here to be with his bride of 18 years.
“Like I said, it’s a great way to spend time with my wife,” he comments. Bobbie Ann smiles and responds, “To be honest, it’s nice to have him as my deployment roommie.” With that they’re back to work—giving their all to help those in need.
Volunteers are needed to carry out a variety of services in areas impacted by recent storms, including mass care like distributing water and food. Training is available for all who are interested. If you would like to help the community, please contact the Red Cross Hotline at 1-866-526-8300 or apply at redcross.org/support/volunteer.