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Tottens honored by American Red Cross

The American Red Cross of Georgia recently honored volunteers across the state – including a local Pike family. Teri and Jim Totten of Williamson was presented with the Disaster Response Award for their service during recent catastrophic events, including the tornados that hit Newnan in March. Teri worked in the Emergency Operation Center and Jim did damage assessment. The award is presented to a two-plus year volunteer who demonstrates exceptional initiative in identifying and/or meeting the Disaster Cycle Service Response mission. The recipient helps maintain Red Cross readiness by skillfully recruiting, motivating and coordinating a sufficient number of employees, volunteers and groups reflective of the community as disaster responders, and demonstrates cultural awareness, sensitivity and creativity in reaching diverse audiences. Teri started volunteering with the Red Cross in 2003 and Jim started volunteering in 2008. Although they both work in different areas, their passion is for helping families and individuals in need. Together and separately they have stepped up to help after tornados, floods, hurricanes and fires – including deploying to their home state of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy hit. When disaster strikes, Teri is often found working in an Emergency Operation Center with Emergency Management Agency directors from that area. ’My EMAs in 20 counties are my family,’ she said. ‘I also love doing damage assessment. I never thought I would but on my first deployment in Indiana, they put me out in the field to see what it’s like. What you see is so devastating but the people who are affected are wonderful and so grateful for everything and all the help the American Red Cross gives them.’ Teri also helps when local Pike County families are affected by fire. Jim has done shelter management for seven years in Macon – often when evacuations are ordered due to hurricanes. His passion is for managing the shelter and finding the right volunteers to cover the right jobs. ’I enjoy getting to know people and their backgrounds and finding the best way for them to serve at the shelter,’ he said. The Tottens were instrumental in providing care for those affected by the 2011 tornado that hit Lamar County and other areas hard but it was a little different for them. ’I did drive through damage assessments when Barnesville got hit. It’s one thing to be deployed to another area or state but it’s definitely harder to be in your own backyard seeing the damage and the people you know,’ she said. Since the roads were impassable, she loaded her pickup truck with supplies and distributed them to people in need after the storm. Their compassion and generosity and willingness to step up and volunteer has been passed down in their family, including to their son Jim Totten who serves as director of the Pike County Emergency Management Agency and even their granddaughter Breigh Totten who was determined to help after tornados hit Newnan in March. ’Breigh got in touch with the schools in the area and collected a whole truck full of donations and found ways to get the items to the people who needed them most,’ said Teri. More volunteers are always needed to carry out the Red Cross mission. Anyone interested in becoming a Red Cross Volunteer can visit redcross.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.

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