By Dawn Miller, Red Cross Volunteer
You can tell by looking at Tom and Cathy Harrison that they are not only best friends, but soul mates and they have that same kind of devotion to the volunteer work that they do at the Red Cross.
“My wife got me started in community service and working with the Red Cross,” Tom explained. “We have been doing things together and volunteering is a natural fit for us. She is fun to work and play with.”
Tom and Cathy volunteer in many ways at the Red Cross. They both drive for the Lakeland Chapter Transportation Services once a week. During Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma, they became trained in disaster work and went down to Florida to help on their first national assignment. They are also on call locally week every five to six weeks from 6pm to 6am Monday to Friday and 24/7 on the weekend. They help out with special events and provide volunteers for three to four blood drives a year.
“The Red Cross gives us ways to give back for the beautiful life we have been given. When you see a crisis on TV and say, ‘wish I could help’, the Red Cross gives us the training and opportunity to really help people,” Cathy said and added. “We are just ordinary people but through the Red Cross we can help make things better for people in our community. Helping by collecting blood, by serving cookies to donors, driving people to doctor appointment, or giving a fire victim a hug and a warm quilt can really make a difference in people’s lives.”
She went on to point out that giving back is important, “We make time for the Red Cross because we have had a great life and have been very blessed.”
Before retiring, Tom spent 24 years is the Army and was honorably discharged as First Sergeant while Cathy worked at Georgia Pacific. The two have two children, including Paul who lives with his wife, Kris, and their three children in Suamico, WI and Scott who lives in Chicago, IL.
While growing up, both Cathy and Tom learned the importance of giving back to the community. While at Georgia Pacific, Cathy made sure to do just that since she helped organize blood drives at the company for over 30 years.
“My mom was a blood drive volunteer coordinator so I knew how to organize a drive at work, I asked management if we could try it and they agreed but only if the volunteers took vacation time to work at the blood drive,” Cathy said. “Georgia Pacific provided great cookies and nice refreshments for the drives plus a great area to have the drive. We drew about 100 units at each drive.”.
Since they are both retired they also have time to have fun outside of volunteering. They love to dance including country and ballroom. Cathy even went skydiving on her 47th birthday and they also belong to a Corvette Club.
“We love to travel, any where, any time. We can be packed for an adventure in no time at all,” Cathy said. “This past summer we joined eight other Corvettes on a 4000-mile cruise out to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. It was a great 14 days and we were still talking to each other when we got home, remember a corvette is a very small car.”
It is clear that this couple truly loves one another, as seen by everything that they do together, especially all the volunteer work that they do.
“We have been married 45 years. We have stayed best friends because we started out as friends first and then realized we loved each other,” Cathy said. “He is the most supportive and carrying person I know. He makes being married to him easy and fun and I would do it again tomorrow.”