WORTH CO., GA (WALB) - Right now, American Red Cross volunteers are at work in Oklahoma staffing shelters and serving meals and helping tornado survivors put their lives back together.
We all know the Red Cross is there during those big disasters. But the emergency to which they respond most is a house fire, and they desperately need volunteers to help.
Seven months ago, a Worth County yard was the site of a 3,200 square foot house. The Jones family hammered every nail during construction.
"Yeah, it was our dream house. We built the house ourself," said Sandra Jones, who lived there with husband Gene and their son and daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.
Other family members often stayed there too. But all that changed one October Saturday.
"We saw our garage engulfed in flames, and I just started running and hollering for my son and my grandson," said Sandra.
Everybody was okay, but this fire destroyed everything the Joneses worked so hard for. "I just fell to the ground because there's nothing you can do. You just see your whole life going up in flames, and there's nothing you can do," said Jones.
"They had lost everything. They were grateful to see us," said American Red Cross volunteer Nature Malone, who was one of the first people to show up to help the Joneses.
"I help those families, try to give them temporary comfort in a time of crisis," said Malone. Every time a family suffers a damaging home fire in 24 South Georgia counties, a volunteer from the Flint River Chapter of the Red Cross is there with comfort kits.
"It basically includes a tooth brush, toothpaste. We have deodorant." They even bring along toys for the kids. "A Mickey Mouse doll works miracles." The Red Cross will put up a family in a hotel for up to three nights, help fire victims get medication and glasses and other vital items, and provide pre-paid vouchers.
"It helps them to get food, clothing, storage, shoes," said Malone. The Red Cross also helps the family develop a recovery plan.
"They gave us a start. If it hadn't been for them, we didn't have a penny to our name," Jones said. It's been a long road for the Jones family. But they're back under one roof. "That's basically what I wanted was for all of us to be together, and we are," Jones said.
They put a double wide on their property, and right now they're adding a back porch with these old floorboards, the only thing they salvaged from their house.
"It's tight quarters compared to what we had, but we're making do," Gene Jones said. Nature Malone says helping people like the Joneses is rewarding. "It helps my spirit that I can comfort them at that time."
The Red Cross desperately needs volunteers like Nature, and she encourages you to become one. "It only takes time. It doesn't take money, and it takes a big heart to help those in the community. You never know when you might need the American Red Cross."
The Jones family never thought they would need the Red Cross, but they have a message for the organization, their friends, neighbors, and church family who helped them through their time of need. "I don't think 'thank you' would ever be enough, but I do. I thank them because without them, there's no way we'd be where we are right now," said Mrs. Jones.
There are multiple ways you can volunteer for the Red Cross. The Flint River Chapter will have an orientation meeting for new volunteers May 30th.