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Red Cross emergency services director leaving

By Sonny Long
Dec. 16, 2013 at 6:16 a.m.
Updated Dec. 17, 2013 at 6:17 a.m.

Linda May, the Red Cross disaster coordinator, stands in the hallway of the American Red Crossroads Chapter building in Victoria. May's last day in the office is Friday.

THANKS, LINDA!

A come-and-go reception honoring Linda May will be from 4-6 p.m. Thursday at the Red Cross office, 1501 E. Red River St.

Linda May admits she has shed a tear or two during her tenure as the emergency services director for the Crossroads Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Dealing mostly with families who have lost their homes and belongings after a house fire, May feels compassion for the victims.

"I cry right along with them," she said. "I put myself in their place. I know it's going to be tough. I'm a tender heart."

May's time as a Red Cross employee comes to an end this month as the local office undergoes restructuring.

"The American Red Cross is studying ways to better utilize all its assets and still meet the needs of the communities it serves," said Cameron Ballantyne, regional communications officer for the American Red Cross of the Texas Gulf Coast in Houston.

The Victoria office will continue to be staffed. There will be no change in service to Victoria and the surrounding communities. Ballantyne did not disclose what the restructuring includes.

May's last day in the office will be Friday.

May said she will miss the relationships the most.

"I will miss the fellowship," she said. "Not only with the volunteers but with people I meet every day. I've made a lot of good friends along the way."

May said she often hears back with phone calls, cards or personal visits from families the Red Cross has assisted.

Long-time volunteer Marguerite Griffin has seen May deal with families firsthand.

"She's a comfort to them," Griffin said. "I've seen her give them hugs when they were crying. They smile when she says everything is going to work out. She's there for them, and she's there for the Red Cross. I can tell you that."

John Johnston, a volunteer and former member of the local chapter's board of directors, reinforced Griffin's observation.

"Linda has been a rock," he said. "I could always pick up the phone and call Linda and say 'We've got this developing,' or 'we have this need.' And she'd round up her volunteers, and they would be there.

"It was very comforting to know that I could make that one call and count on it."

May and neighbor Marilyn Kabela began volunteering with the Red Cross after Hurricane Claudette in 2003.

When Hurricane Katrina was about to hit in 2005, May "came in to help and never left," she said.

She was hired as a full-time employee later that year.

May has a special place in her heart for Red Cross volunteers.

"If it wasn't for the volunteers, I wouldn't have ever made it this long," she said. "If you don't have dependable, good volunteers, you can't make it without it. We have them in every county we serve.

"They are not just volunteers; they are family. I can't say thank you enough. I love them."

A 1973 graduate of Stroman High School, May is a member of the Lone Tree Volunteer Fire Department and trained as an emergency medical technician.

"I want to thank all the fire departments, too," she said. "They always made sure we were safe at the scene. And the emergency management personnel have all been a pleasure to work with."

The Crossroads Chapter of the American Red Cross was established in 1917. It serves Victoria, Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson and Lavaca counties.

May, 58, estimates she has responded to about 500 fires during her time with Red Cross.

"I take great pride in remembering every family. I can remember the kids, hugging them," she said.

"Working for the Red Cross has made me a lot more knowledgeable about protecting my own home, too.

"You don't realize how much you have until you lose everything. It makes me appreciate it."

May said she caught herself fighting back tears more than once since the restructuring decision.

"I've cried about it a little bit," she said. "I know whoever they bring in will do as good a job as we've done.

"Do I love it? Yes. Am I going to miss it? Yes, but I am still going to be part of it."

May plans to spend time with her nine grandchildren and at some point will likely volunteer again with the Red Cross.

"It makes you feel good in your heart."

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