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Lee Wittmann, BJ Close, Steve Marks and Cindy Turbyfill are members of the Blue Ridge chapter of the American Red Cross.

Originally published: 2013-10-23 12:44:11
Last modified: 2013-10-23 12:44:56

Help for home

Caroline Harris / (

Lee Wittmann wants you to volunteer with the Red Cross. Two major projects, selecting a location for a disaster shelter in Banner Elk and recruiting Disaster Action Team volunteers are now underway. Wittmann manages emergency care services for the Blue Ridge Chapter of the Red Cross in Avery County.

“There’s a definite need for volunteers,” Wittmann said. 

Volunteers make up about 95 percent of the Red Cross workforce. In Avery County, volunteers respond in the aftermath of house fires and natural disasters.

Avery County Government employee Cindy Turbyfill said she volunteered to help out the people of Avery County.

“This is my home. My family has been here for generations. I have a lot of family here. I just wanted to try to help the local people and do whatever I could to help. At the time that I started, there were a few in Avery County but there weren’t a lot of people that were real active,” Turbyfill said.

“Becoming a volunteer entails a one-day, six-hour orientation, learning routines on how to register people into an emergency shelter, food management, sleeping arrangements, addressing health issues and mental health issues,” Wittmann said. Volunteers must become a member of the Red Cross and pass a background check.

Volunteer and registered nurse BJ Close has volunteered with the Red Cross for seven years.

“Definitely the most rewarding thing has been responding locally here to people that have either had fires or the people that were displaced with the landslide on Highway 19E. It was a whole new ballgame when we responded to Hurricane Sandy. People were just so happy to see us. Going out and actually responding to the people is the most rewarding thing,” Close said.

To read the complete story, please pick up a copy of your hometown newspaper, The Avery Journal-Times, available at almost 100 locations in Newland, Banner Elk, Crossnore, Spruce Pine and Roan Mountain, Tenn. To subscribe to The Avery Journal-Times, please call (828) 733-0401 or click to