American Red Cross honors volunteers



Ralph Lawson, disaster program manager for Virginia Blue Ridge region, speaks during
Tuesday’s volunteer recognition program.

The American Red Cross, Virginia Blue Ridge Chapter, recognized volunteers for their community service on Tuesday, April 18 in Collinsville at Quality Inn – Dutch Inn.

According to a news release, Ralph Lawson, disaster program manager for Virginia Blue Ridge region, praised volunteers for their commitment to the American Red Cross and their communities. He recognized two volunteers who died recently but left powerful legacies of giving.

“It was two years ago, sitting in this big room that we gave away a 60-year service pin to Bea Gusler,” Lawson said. “At 96 years (old), she went to meet her maker on May 24, 2016. It’s awesome that someone dedicated their long life to the American Red Cross.”

Lawson added that Noel Honeyman of Patrick Springs was just working a blood drive earlier in the month.

“He’s (Honeyman) going to be missed by the Patrick County crew,” Lawson said. “The lives you all have touched as volunteers is amazing. Each and every person in this room makes such a difference in this organization. We’re going to miss them terribly.”

Good Neighbor Awards were presented to the Penny House in Patrick County, Martinsville Fire Department and the Henry County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Lawson said the Penny House, run by Larry and Margaret Vernon, has been there time again for clients who need a little extra time to get back on their feet after a disaster like a house fire.

“Generally, what the American Red Cross does is help folks with their immediate needs—we get them through the first few days,” Lawson said. “We’ve had a family helped who lost a young son in a fire, another couple who received serious burns in a fire, and we had one family whose mobile home burned while they were at the hospital. Thank God for the Penny House that took them in and allowed them to stay there.”

Martinsville Fire and EMS Department, represented by Assistant Chief Dan Howell, and the Henry County Marshal’s Office, represented by Fire Marshal Lisa Garrett, were recognized for providing much support to the free smoke alarm installation program.

From June 1, 2015 to April 16, 2017, in Martinsville, 1,911 free smoke alarms were installed, 50 batteries replaced, and preparedness information with escape plan materials were provided to 521 homes. During this time, 1,488 doors were knocked on during canvassing events in the city.

In Henry County, 474 free smoke alarms were installed, 17 batteries replaced, and preparedness information with escape plan materials were provided to 159 homes.

“Within our territory, and we cover 10 jurisdictions, we’ve had 11 deaths in the past 12 months from house fires,” Lawson said. “Of those homes, 95 percent didn’t have a single working smoke alarm in their home. This is a mission of the American Red Cross, and we can’t do this without our partners.”

Anna Sparks received the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership. Sparks has been a volunteer for the past 27 years, serving in various roles within the organization.

Volunteers who received one- and two-year service pins included Kay Dedrick, Teddy Martin, David Rives, Latala Hodges, W.C. Fowlkes, Robert Gillespie, Pearl Minter and Barbara Riggin. Volunteers who received five-year pins were Tony Dix and Thelma Rotenberry. Janice Lawson received a 15-year pin and Clovice Cooper received a 25-year service pin for their volunteer service.

Michelle McCormick, executive director for the Virginia Blue Ridge chapter, likened the organization to a human body.

“Volunteers are like the heart,” she said. “You can’t have a functioning body if the heart’s not beating, and without our volunteers, American Red Cross wouldn’t have the resources necessary to function effectively in our community.”

The Virginia Blue Ridge Region of the American Red Cross serves Martinsville, Danville, Lynchburg, and Henry, Patrick, and Pittsylvania counties. To find out more, visit