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The Red Cross Experience

For several years I had the pleasure of working with Brian Writeson at Haddon Craftsman Book Bindery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

When the company shut down in 1996, I lost contact with him. In the early part of 2010, I was watching the evening television news. The news crew began interviewing Scranton's primary Red Cross director, Mr Brian Writeson. I soon contacted Brian and asked to become an active member of the Red Cross. A personal injury interfered and I was hospitalized for several months after an auto accident.

In September of 2011 the massive hurricane Irene swept up the Eastern United States coast saturating the land and filling the rivers. A few days later, rain filled tropical storm Lee made landfall in Mississippi and rolled eastward.

These two storm's tracks met just days apart over the Susquehanna River Valley of Pennsylvania and Southern New York. Almost all of Lee's rain drained into the brimfull Susquehanna River valley causing the worst flood in recorded history.

I wanted to help in some way. I called the Scranton headquarters and was asked to volunteer at the Wyoming Valley HQ located on Sherman Drive in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. I walked in, introduced myself, and began handing out supplies to hundreds of cars daily. About eleven days later I told BobHabor I wanted to know more about Red Cross operations. Bob was instrumental in setting up the entire Red Cross relief effort in Pennsylvania. He told me that later that day (September 21st) he would be transporting the Wayne County area director to the Hazleton, PA HQ and I was welcome to join them.

When we arrived in Hazleton, I was amazed at the massiveness of the relief effort in progress. Before I walked through the parking lot, I saw car license plates from almost every state. Bob was introducing us to people from across America.

Trucks were being loaded and departing in every direction.

Bob later told us his part in the ground floor of this effort. I am amazed how much this man has done for many thousands of people who do not know his name. Mr. Robert Habor.

At some time during our visit, Bob became aware I was not registered as an official volunteer and he asked me to do so at this time which I did with great pride.

Questions on the application brought immediate attention from the headquarters nurse Rutta Hopkins. She had to ask me to take time off to treat my cold and flu symptoms. That led me to type this story today(Friday, Sept 23) exactly on year after my brain surgery by Doctor Holla at Community Medical Center in Scranton, Pa and two days before my 62nd birthday.

One question repeats to me: Did I contribute enough? How could I have done better?

I later personalized a copy of my book ("Beyond My Wildest Dreams") to Jutta Hopkins with these words:

"God has blessed America with the Red Cross. I now am aware the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are AMERICA AT ITS BEST."

I could not tell you how many times I heard the victims of this natural event say to me and others THANK GOD FOR THE RED CROSS. The first few days most of the people with tears in their eyes would shake our hands or give us hugs, saying I have lost everything.You must experience that to understand their grief.

On September 19, Will and I filled a van with Coleman Coolers and Ice donated by Wegmans Stores and drove through areas of Plains, PA. Red Cross emergency vehicles were giving hot meals to the victims and contractors working to rebuild these homes.

Standing in front of his house was a man I had known and worked with several years earlier (Frank). His home was just a shell; all the interior walls just the studs where the walls had been. That's how completely these homes must be rebuilt. This story has just begun for these people.

Written by John Paul Harris Jr.




For many years I worked at the Haddon Craftsman book bindery in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The last five of those years we had an employee; his name is Bryan Writeson and his was from Jessup.

Bryan is like me; he loves hunting and fishing - and the game of golf. Bryan sometimes asks me to go hunting but we often play golf with Ron Shaka and Mike Duffy.,

Haddon Craftman closes its Scranton doors in 1996 and we all lose contact with each other. A sad day for me.

Hurricane Irene then swamps the Susquehanna River Valley. I'm at home with the television on. The reporter then interviews the then Scranton Red Cross leader Mr. Bryan Writeson.

Early the next morning I'm at the Jefferson Avenue Red Cross Center to talk with my old hunting and fishing partner. Before I leave his office, we asks if I would drive to the Wilkes-Barre Red Cross HQ for the rest of the day.

I arrived there about 11:30am and asked what I could do to help. Mr. Bob Habor points to a group of volunteers in from of the back lot garage. Cars are starting to pile up and the drivers are being given bags of food and home cleaning supplies. Most of the drivers leaving have tears in their eyes.

Many get out and hug different volunteers saying "thank god for the Red Cross" or "God Bless the Red Cross because I lost everything."

Eleven days and thousands of drivers later, the line of cars continue and the praises are the same; this is embedded in my soul.

January 2015 I am still volunteering at the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre offices I never feel better than I do when I am wearing my Red Cross red vest. The red Cross helps people when they need help the most.

Jack Harris


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