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Extending a helping hand

Thursday, January 3, 2008

(Photo)
Donna Quick
In 1981, a 35-year-old woman tried in vain to revive her uncle as he lay unconscious on the floor. The woman had no formal training in CPR and had only watched this life-saving technique on TV and videos. Unfortunately, on this day it was simply too late to save the life of Oxford resident, J.T. McCandlis. The man's niece, Sharran Quick, would never forget this day or the questioning guilt she would carry with her for 21 years.

"I always thought, if I'd known just a little bit more I could have saved him," Quick said.

This experience would eventually lead her down a path most people will never choose.

Quick was born and raised in the Viola area, but for 30-years she lived in Texas and traveled to places such as Turkey and South Korea, conducting training sessions for the company she worked for, General Dynamics.

"When I first moved to Texas, I went to work on the assembly line for General Dynamics (which later became Lockheed Martin) building F1-11s," Quick said. "I was one of many that got laid off, but was hired back when they started building F16s. When I go into something I say, 'Hey, I've learned this job now show me another one.' I don't want to get bored. So, I was able to work my way up to a trainer and got to do a lot of traveling."

Although Quick moved back to the area for a short time in 1979, it wasn't until 1996 that she finally came home to stay.

"My mother, Rennie Burns, had alzheimers," Quick said. "I was able to take an early retirement and came back to care for her. In 2000, my mother went to a nursing home and I was left with a lot of time on my hands. I was just lost.

"Not too long after 9/11, in January of 2002, I saw a notice for a Red Cross CPR class in Mountain Home and decided to take it. That class led to more classes in first aid and I finally understood what the doctor had told me many years ago, that I couldn't have done anything more to save my uncle," Quick said. "I kept taking more classes given by the Red Cross. I just liked learning things."

This love of learning and the memory of her uncle's death led Quick to that first CPR class and opened the door to her second career as a Red Cross volunteer.

"I took my family service class on a Wednesday night and on Thursday, they (the Red Cross) called me and asked me to go to New York City," Quick said. "I spent 21 days in New York talking to so many people whose lives had been changed by 9/11. All of New York was effected. It was just amazing the stories I heard."

While in New York, Quick was one of a 30-member team who interviewed people and found the right organization to meet their need -- the Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army or another benevolent group.

Quick said she spoke with hundreds of people in New York but one young woman's experience made a lasting impression on her.

"A young lady came in and sat down at my desk," Quick said. "She started out by saying, 'I don't know why I'm here.' That was a red flag. She said she had tried four times to come in to talk to someone, but couldn't make it past the door. Eventually, she told me that her apartment looked down on the barges they were filling with the debris from the Twin Towers. Day after day she saw this. If she walked by a window she saw them. If she went outside she saw them. She was anguished thinking about what was being loaded onto the barges. I was able to help her with some things. A week later this young woman came back in and asked for me. She told me how things were going and said she had a gift she wanted to give me. We couldn't accept gifts, but she was able to get this one cleared. It was a necklace she had made with beads stamped with World War II on them. That necklace means a lot to me."

After her New York deployment, Quick was asked to go to Arizona to help with shelters set up due to wildfires. Quick had only been home from Arizona a short time when she left once again, this time traveling to Guam after a typhoon wrecked havoc on the small island.

"There was a lot of damage due to the typhoon in July," Quick said. "But in December when I made my second trip there, a super typhoon had hit the island and the damage was unbelievable."

Quick said when the plane landed in Guam the Red Cross team found the island with no power, no gasoline and no drinkable water.

"They met us at the airport with flashlights," Quick said. "Everything was in total darkness. They rigged up some generators to run the lights for the plane to land, but everywhere else it was just blackness. The only light was from flashlights or the gasoline tanks on fire and the only water came from bottles. All the vegetation was gone from the trees and all the above ground crops were gone too. They had all been pulled up by the typhoon. The Red Cross helped over 30,000 families in 30 days."

Quick said that although it was hard to be away from family at Christmas, a special memory was made when she was invited to spend a traditional Chamarro Christmas with a family on the island.

"Chamarro is the original Polynesian tribe of the island," she said. "They put up a big awning and lots of people showed up. They all brought different dishes and we ate, drank and enjoyed each other's company. They stopped at midnight to go to a church service then came back for more celebration. It was fun."

Quick has accepted 55 deployments during the five years she has been a Red Cross volunteer. Of these 55, the ones that touched her the most were the ones she spent in Louisiana before and after Hurricane Katrina.

"I was the third one on the ground for Katrina," Quick said. "I arrived in Baton Rouge on Saturday before Katrina hit on Sunday night. Everyone was headed out as we were headed in."

Quick's volunteer specialty is with records and receipts, keeping track of where the money is spent to help those in need. This job had her traveling through the streets of New Orleans soon after Katrina hit.

"I was driving through New Orleans when nobody was driving through New Orleans," she said. "There was nobody on the streets. Nothing. No people. No cats. No dogs. It was like a movie -- complete desolation."

In total, Quick made four separate 21-day deployments relating to Katrina, with the last one in Washington, D.C., to help finish the paperwork showing how the Red Cross spent the money donated for this effort.

"From August before Katrina hit until the next August I was home a total of 70 days," Quick said.

When people ask her why she volunteers with the American Red Cross she tells them it's something she just has to do. "The best way I can explain it is when someone in the neighborhood needs some help and church members get together to help them, you get a good feeling way down deep inside. It's a full feeling, a good feeling. Now, I can go out with the Red Cross and I get that feeling millions of times. I can do something good to help someone," Quick said.

Quick is now taking a break from her volunteer efforts, choosing instead to stay at home to babysit her new little great-niece. A job she says she is enjoying very much.

In the meantime, Quick still has her hand in local volunteer events. An effort special to her is a fundraising project to raise money for 8-year-old Kacie Sallee to travel to China for a treatment that may help the legally blind child to see. Kacie's grandmother, Diane Walker, who also lives at Gepp, and Quick are working together to get the ball rolling on this special project.

For now, Quick says, she's got enough going on in her life. "I'm not done volunteering," she said, "but I've made this commitment to my niece and to Kacie's family, so I guess I'll just stay home for a while."

For information about volunteering with the American Red Cross or donating to Kacie's special fund, contact Quick at 870-458-3004 or e-mail to qheadache@centurytel.net.



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