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Cross does. She was doing disaster relief when she was chosen to also be a member of the emergency operations center through the Red Cross. And she's a government liaison with the organization, too. After six weeks of training, Gibson- Preston was a full-fledged member of a Red Cross disaster team. She hit the ground running when hurricanes slammed the United States last year. Her disaster team headed out to South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. "It was pretty crazy this last hurri- cane season," Gibson-Preston said. "It was go, go, go." "I drove the ERV all the way to South Carolina, my first time driving it. Immediately the governor of South Carolina wanted us to set up a shelter for drivers stranded along the high- way. I was not able to even check into a hotel or anyplace. That first night, I stayed up approximately 23 hours." She finally got the chance to lie down about 3 the next morning. But while she was helping set up a shelter, she didn't realize how tired she was because her adrenaline was pumping so hard. "I always think of the children," Gib- son-Preston said. "I don't want the children to have to sleep somewhere where they're not comfortable or safe. It was my pleasure to set up a shelter. "You have to put your own needs aside. You're not there for luxury or anything like that. You're there to help people. When volunteerism is truly in your heart, that's what you do." Part of setting up a shelter was making sure cots were brought in for people to sleep on and also making sure food was being brought in to feed them. This particular shelter was in a local church. • Two days later, Gibson-Pre- ston was on her way to Savan- nah, Ga., to help the hurricane victims there. Her job was dis- tributing snacks, rakes, shovels and all types of cleaning equip- ment. "We built different cleaning kits," she said. "There were a lot of them distributed every day. We went out to the different communi- ties in the surrounding areas of Savannah to distribute the items. "Sometimes we went to churches, sometimes to schools, sometimes we just pulled up on the side of the road and got out the loud speaker. One thing that was interesting was I found that the communities really helped each other. There would be people that would show up who had neighbors who were incapable of getting out and asked for supplies to take to them. It was beautiful to see people come together to help each other." Gibson-Preston was in Georgia for five days. Some days she was able to get a little rest, other days she had to be up as early as possible to get the ERV ready to go out and help people. "It really wasn't about the rest," she said. "We put in long hours, but nobody complained. I met so many people from across the country. I also met some other volunteers from North Carolina. It was nice to see someone from home." One thing that stands out to Gib- son-Preston about Georgia was going into a homeless camp. "We happened to be driving past them," she said. "We were able to stop and feed them. And they were so happy to see us. The hugs and prayers that I got when I arrived, because I'm a God-fearing woman, touched my soul. "I would cry, cry, cry. I tried not to, but I'm compassionate and I can't hide it. I hope I'm never in that situation, but my heart goes out to anyone who has to deal with it." Another incident that Gibson-Pre- ston will never forget also happened in Savannah. "There was a gentleman who stated that he had just overcome a fire — him and his family — and they had lost everything," she said. "They rebuilt, then the hurricane came and he lost everything again. He still smiled and was thanking God that him and his family were still alive." • After Georgia, Gibson-Preston head- ed down to Florida for five days. "When we got to Florida, some places were a little iffy as far as going off road," she said. "I wouldn't call them dangerous situations where I was in fear of my life, but it wasn't as though I was going into a fully built community. There was lots of debris, and it was raining on top of that. But it was all worth it, and I'd do it again — and I will do it again." While in Florida, Gibson-Preston took the ERV to several towns, includ- ing Orlando, Naples, Fort Meyers dur- ing the five days she was there. Her task was giving out food and supplies. Sometimes other agencies helping with the relief effort would supply the food that Gibson-Preston took out on the ERV. "People would come who sometimes wouldn't have had a meal that day," she said. "And here comes the Red Cross over the loudspeaker. They know about the Red Cross." Gibson-Preston said Florida was one of the more devastated areas she'd been to. "The devastation was incredible," she said. "It was more surreal to me when we drove past the amusement parks like Disney World. You see the devastation there. That touched me. "And people who didn't have much to begin with lost everything. Your heart just goes out to them. But they managed to smile, so I smiled, too." Gibson-Preston said sometimes she'd just pull the ERV off to the side of the road if they were near a church, and people would come and pray with the Red Cross volunteers while they were giving out supplies. She heard some heart-wrenching stories in Florida. "They'd say 'My mother can't get out of her home.' 'I tried to relocate, but I couldn't afford to.' 'I couldn't afford to evacuate, so I had to deal with this.' 'I lost everything,'" Gibson-Preston said. While in Florida, Gibson-Preston and her disaster team slept in the shelter with the hurricane victims. "Most of the hotels were full," she said. "Homes were destroyed, and I'm not there to get a great hotel. I'm there to help people. So sleeping in the shelter comes with the job. But it was the most rewarding experience, I would have to say." Seeing all the devastation in three different states and seeing the pain it caused so many people can get to a volunteer. "To deal with it all, honestly, I pray," Gibson-Preston said. "That's how I find peace." Plus, seeing all the food that was donated to the hurricane victims made her feel good. "These people were so happy to get things we take for granted," Gibson- Preston said. "When you don't have it, it means the world to you. It's an absolute treasure. I'll never take things for granted again, I will not." • When first notified that she would be going to South Carolina to help hurricane victims, Gibson-Preston was ready. "With my current job, I'm used to fast turnaround," she said. "When they called a told me I was going, I was already ready. I had my bag packed. I was watching the news. I knew I could be called anytime. When you get that call, you're ready." The experience changed her and motivated her even more to continue volunteering with the Red Cross and try to help people as much as she can. "If I'm able to help, I will," Gibson- Preston said. "I'd rather be a blessing than a hindrance. "When I came back, my husband could tell that I was changed. I've always been a compassionate person and a volunteer. But the Red Cross and the disaster relief team really changed me. Some of the volunteers were pushing 80, 85 years old, and they were hopping up and down off the ERV just to help people. If they can do it, and I'm 39, I can do it, too." Gibson-Preston plans on taking her husband, Marquis, along with her as a Red Cross volunteer. She would encourage others to also volunteer. "I would say if you're a compassion- ate person and want to help someone, put yourself in the situation where this could happen to you or a family member. Wouldn't you want someone to lend a hand? I truly feel like this is my calling. Why can't this be your call- ing?" Gibson-Preston's children are proud of her for what she's doing. "My children, Elijah, 8, and Avarose, 5, tell their teachers about me," she said. "It's the greatest thing ever. They tell me, 'Mommy, you're a hero.'" Continued from page 4 Friday, February 23, 2018 Goldsboro News-Argus — 5C REHABILITATION SPECIALISTS Whether a patient is going to be a long or short term resident, they have access to our Rehabilitation Services to maintain or improve their independence and functional abilities as well as quality of life. SERVICES INCLUDE: OUR MISSION STATEMENT We are committed to providing the highest quality of care & service assuring human dignity & quality of life for our residents, their families and our employees. Kind, Compassionate Care 7 Days A Week WILLOW CREEK N U R S I N G & R E H A B I L I TAT I O N C E N T E R 2401 Wayne Memorial Drive, Goldsboro, NC Contact Chauncey Mathis, Admissions Director at 919-750-6861 for a Tour 40DCT0218T© COME TOUR OUR 36 BED REHAB UNIT OFFERING PRIVATE ROOMS AND AN UPDATED LOOK! • Medicare/Medicaid Certified • Registered, Licensed, Certified Staff • 24 Hour Skilled Nursing Services • Private & Semi-private Accommodations • Rehabilitation Programs (Physical, Occupational & Speech Therapy) • Restorative Nursing • Registered Dietician • Selective Menus • Wound Care • Full-time Social Service & Activity Staff • Podiatry Services • Eye Care Services • Dental Services • Psychiatric Services • Hospice Services • Respite Care • On-site Beauty Shop 5thAnnual Gala Friends of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base The Maxwell Regional Agricultural and Convention Center 6:00pm /$100 per person Thursday April 12, 2018 General Mark D. Kelly Commander, 12th Air Force Keynote Speaker For more information, please visit or contact the Wayne County Chamber (919) 734-2241 dŚĞ&ƌŝĞŶĚƐŽĨ^ĞLJŵŽƵƌ:ŽŚŶƐŽŶ&ŝƐĂ ϱϬϭ;ĐͿϲŽƌŐĂŶŝnjĂƟŽŶĨŽƌŵĞĚƚŽƉƌŽŵŽƚĞ ƚŚĞĐŽŶƟŶƵĞĚǀŝƚĂůŝƚLJĂŶĚƐƵƐƚĂŝŶĂďŝůŝƚLJ ŽĨ^ĞLJŵŽƵƌ:ŽŚŶƐŽŶ&͘ A hero in disaster

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