Campbell is local bridge between Red Cross, city and county officials

Published 10:03 am Friday, January 8, 2016

When Warren County Emergency Management officials needed help to feed volunteers from Hinds County working to protect the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Depot, they called the Red Cross for assistance.

John Brown, the Red Cross regional partner manager for Mississippi, said in times of disaster, the Red Cross works in several areas, such as looking for shelter for people displaced by the flood and recovery after, and assisting with providing meals for volunteer workers.

“One of our primary roles after a disaster is recovery, and anything these guys can do to help mitigate the damage is appreciated,” he said of the volunteers.

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And when they come into an area, Red Cross officials work with local volunteers like Vicksburg resident Brad Campbell.

Campbell is the local contact for the Red Cross; a volunteer who acts as the liaison between the Red Cross and the community and local officials. An employee in the information technology department at Lady Luck Casino, he has been a Red Cross volunteer since before Hurricane Katrina.

“I worked at the shelter at the Church of Christ, and later at the (Vicksburg) Convention Center (after the storm) in food service,” he said. “I was there for 30 days.”

He said Sylvia Gurtowski, the manager of the Vicksburg City Pool and a Red Cross volunteer, recruited him to join.

Gurtowski, he said, called him to help at the Church of Christ shelter, which was forced to move to the convention center because of a power outage.

“Sylvia called me and told me, ‘You’ve got to get down there (the convention center),’” he said. “I asked her, ‘What will I do?’ She said, ‘You’ll find a way.’”

Campbell later operated the Church of Christ shelter for Hurricane Rita, which hit Louisiana 30 days after Katrina.

As the Red Cross’ local contact, Campbell said, “I pretty much do whatever they (Red Cross) need me to do,” he said. “If that means helping a client after a fire find a shelter, I’ll help with that. We have a trailer and office staged here in Vicksburg for use if needed.”

Part of his volunteer responsibilities involve staying in touch with local officials during disasters and keeping the Red Cross officials in Jackson up to date on what is occurring in the area.

When EMA Director John Elfer called him about feeding the volunteers, “I called Jackson and we were able to make it happen,” he said.

Brown said volunteers like Campbell perform an important and vital service for the organization.

“The local contacts are very important for us,” Brown said. “They know the public officials and they know the area and the situation. They know what’s needed and where. When we deliver supplies or food they make sure we get it to the right place where it’s needed.”

Besides serving as the local contact, Campbell also teaches Red Cross disaster classes in the area.

“I enjoy helping people,” he said. “I enjoyed helping after Katrina. I got to know the evacuees and it made me feel good to help them.”

He recalled one evacuee he came to know during her stay in Vicksburg.

“I remember her name was Rose and she worked at the Walmart in Chalmette (La.), which was destroyed by Katrina,” he said. “One day I went to the Walmart here and parked by the garden department. I walked in the garden department and there she was at the register. She stayed here after Katrina until a year ago. I was able to help her and then she was able to help me.

“I’ve experienced a lot of good things as a volunteer.”


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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