Debbie Scarbrough of Lenoir City was recognized for her volunteering efforts during a recent American Red Cross luncheon when she was awarded the Anderson County Red Cross Humanitarian Award.
Scarbrough has assisted countless disaster-strucken communities over the past 15-plus years, from Greenback's series of tornadoes and hurricane aftermaths in Florida to the Nashville flood in 2010.
"The fact that someone thought that I fulfilled the role in that nature just - it was just a little bit overwhelming because you never go into a disaster thinking about getting thanks," Scarbrough said. "You go in to do what you need to do and to help, but to get recognized is just ... I'm at a lost for words. It's a little bit overwhelming to think that someone thought enough about youthat you actually fulfilled the mission of the Red Cross, and they recognize that."
Scarbrough was nominated for the award by Red Cross board member and former co-worker Karen Wilken.
"I think she represents the best of the Red Cross and the volunteers that are willing to be deployed and go anywhere on very short notice," Wilkins said. "She has done this for years and has been very quiet and modest about it. I had to practically drag it out of her. ... Then the Red Cross annual humanitarian luncheon came up about six months later. There was a category of award for a disaster volunteer, and so I immediately thought of Debbie."
Scarbrough began volunteering as a school clinic volunteer about 15 years ago and over the years began building up her involvement with the Red Cross. In 2005 she started serving "continuously" as a disaster first responder, she said.
"We help set up kitchens and shelters and get things set up in a disaster," Scarbrough said, adding she volunteers on a standby basis.
"We have already got people sitting with bags packed and ready to get on a plane to go set up shelters, so we are prepared days ahead when they are starting to predict storms," she said.
Scarbrough has served in various capacities as an authorized driver of emergency response vehicles and as a member of the organization's disaster action team.
"It's almost like you get this surge of energy," Scarbrough said. "It's a lot of hard work. You deploy for three weeks at a time, and you don't know what kind of conditions you'll be walking into. My favorite thing is boots on the ground. ... You do client case work, and you go out into the field. You're able to go out there and help them, and you don't really think about the fact that you're putting in that kind of time."
Noting that the Red Cross had personally touched her family, Scarbrough said she decided to volunteer because of the organization's humanitarian philosophy.
"You are able to help somebody when they're faced with a disaster, and knowing that, if we are ever faced with a disaster they will be there to help you as well," she said. "It's just a fabulous organization."
Scarbrough said she feels the skills she has learned as a Red Cross volunteer are with her every day as coordinator of Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge's Hospitality Houses, which provides free, temporary lodging for cancer patients and their family members who must travel to Oak Ridge for treatment.
"You get to know these folks and what their personal disaster is and work with them the entire time that they are here," Scarbrough said. "... You cry with them, talk with them, become friends with them. You keep up with them when they leave. You know when they are in remission, and you know when they have other issues that crop up. A lot of what I was trained to do through the (Red Cross) ... helps me a great deal in being able to provide that type of environment for our guests that are patients here."
Kelly Owens Goodman, co-worker and Methodist Medical coordinator of marketing and public relations, agreed with Wilken that Scarbrough fits the humanitarian award.
"Debbie is a fantastic person," Goodman said. "Really, she just has a great heart for what she does. She is great with volunteering in the community. You can see that reflective in how she handles the patients she works with in very high stress situations. She has a great way of calming them and putting them at ease and letting them know they have a great support here at Methodist."
Though volunteering with the Red Cross is dear to her heart, Scarbrough said she will be cutting back her involvement with the organization over the coming months.
"I have since started working full time again, but I still stay active with them, and I am working with them now so that there are certain times you can respond initially for a week to go and set up," she said.