Ottawa County supporters stay engaged despite the pandemic
By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer
October 21, 2020- The women of Ottawa County Club Red have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the American Red Cross to carry out its humanitarian activities.
Just as importantly, this “sisterhood with a cause” advocates for the many lines of service of the Red Cross mission.
It started with one woman. Cindy Amerine came home from a “life-changing experience” as a volunteer in a Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina. She was determined to do whatever she could for the organization. She reached out to her friends to organize Club Red and inspired a whole team of Red Cross ambassadors.
For 13 years, beginning in 2008, the 100 women or so — mostly residents of eastern Ottawa County or “friends of friends”— have staged an annual fundraiser. “Sherry and Chocolates,” which featured a tour of lovely homes on Catawba Island, became the annual membership drive and prelude to each of 11 fun-filled galas. Every one sold out as the Club Red event was the area’s hottest ticket of the summer.
In 2019, the group switched it up and organized a golf scramble and auction. This year, because of the pandemic, they had to resort to a letter-writing campaign for a “non-scramble,” which was still a success.
“These are women who know how to network,” said Beth Leggett, former Ottawa County Red Cross director. “When we have a need, they use their circles of influence on behalf of the Red Cross.”
“We live in an area with a very active community spirit, a very active sense of giving back,” said Club Red member Carol Schemmer. “It comes out of a need to serve. It’s what we do.”
It’s not hard to get people to donate time, talents or money to their cause. “Everyone around here knows the good work of the Red Cross. And if they don’t, we tell em!,” she said with a grin in her voice.
At the same time, the women enjoy the growing fellowship. Deb Biro, the group’s current chair, admits that current COVID limits on gatherings have cut into the group’s many activities. But, “We’re trying the best we can to keep engaged and recruit,” she said.
Members have taken Red Cross disaster preparedness and response training, taught citizen CPR, collected supplies and packed “care boxes” for armed forces posts overseas, and served as a “speakers bureau” to spread the word about Red Cross activities. Deb points out that club members still help conduct blood drives.
Because many are “snow birds” or have homes elsewhere, they carry their enthusiasm with them. “These women are far-reaching,” Beth said. They “use their influence to promote Red Cross there as well.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Red Cross and its many humanitarian activities, visit redcross.org. You’re sure to find a mission to get excited about, whether it’s as a volunteer (local or national; in person or virtually), a financial supporter, a blood donor or a Club Red-style influencer.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer