When disaster strikes, Red Cross lends a hand

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sharmon Killough said she never knew how the American Red Cross could help a family recover from a house fire.

On Oct. 9, she found out firsthand when an electrical short in an outside outlet completely destroyed the doublewide mobile home in Libertyville. Killough was out of town on vacation, and her daughter, Emily, a 19-year-old college student, had left to go to work about 12:30 p.m.

Around 4 p.m., she got the call that her home was gone.

“It’s almost like a death,” Killough said of the fire. “Being a single parent, it’s all that I have. I worked so hard to get to where I was after my divorce. To get up and go to work and to come home in the afternoon and know that it was my home…Now, I have to start fresh.”

Which is where the Covington County Chapter of the American Red Cross comes in, said Merrill Davis, executive director. When families suffer from disaster – be it house fire or hurricane – Red Cross is there to help provide emergency assistance and disaster relief.

It is also one of the 17 local agencies that will benefit from this year’s Covington County United Fund drive. Only two weeks remain to raise this year’s goal of $115,000.

The annual appropriation from the CCUF is 12 percent of the local chapter’s operating budget.

“So far this year, we’ve responded to 20-plus disasters – the majority of which were house fires,” Davis said. “We’ve spent between $20,000 to $30,000 to assist local families, and United Fund helps us do that. So, to say that it’s important to donate to the United Fund, it really is.

“It’s local dollars helping local people,” he said.

In the Killough family’s situation, those “local dollars” were given to help replace clothing and everyday household and toiletry items. The two are now staying with family.

“We were lucky,” she said. “I didn’t know about Red Cross. My best friend was the one who called for us. We had insurance, so we can replace things. But, the Red Cross was there when I didn’t know what to do. They helped us tremendously. You don’t know how important a toothbrush is until you need one. I couldn’t have asked for anyone with more compassion than the people at the Red Cross. They have been a Godsend.”

United Fund donations are tax-deductible and can be mailed to Covington County United Fund Inc., P.O. Box 1791, Andalusia AL 36420, or by calling 334-428-2101.

The home of Sharmon and Emily Killough was completely destroyed by fire earlier this month. They received assistance from the Red Cross. | Courtesy photo