Margaret McCord has never had much difficulty finding people to help the local American Red Cross with blood drives, community fundraisers and disaster relief efforts.
Augusta volunteers say there’s a reason why.
For nearly 30 years, the Augusta Red Cross office manager has devoted her life to the nonprofit organization’s mission of “preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
When another employee had a sick child and no vacation time left, McCord gave up some of her own to help the coworker, said Jennifer Pennington, executive director of the American Red Cross of Augusta.
Pennington said that act of selflessness is just the beginnning, adding McCord’s “friendship does not stop at the office.”
The 56-year-old Hephzibah resident has been known to visit Red Cross volunteers when they’re sick; take them to doctors’ appointments and the airport when their car is in the shop; and offer them kind words or financial assistance when they’re expecting a baby or going through a personal crisis, such as the loss of a child.
“The volunteers at our front desk are there to support the Red Cross, but I think that Margaret is a huge part of why they come back week after week,” Pennington said. “She is incredibly understanding, patient, and thoughtful.”
Volunteers say what makes McCord unique is that she pays attention to the person and their needs, more than the project at hand.
If one of the 11-county organization’s 100 volunteers needs some encouragement or a little more time to learn a task, she’s there to help, said Patti Leopard, who has worked under McCord for five years as a front desk volunteer.
“Her kind and welcoming nature have made us feel like we’re part of a family,” Leopard said. “She keeps everyone aware of what’s going on and makes each volunteer feel valued through answering their questions and allowing them the opportunity to take on additional responsibilities and new jobs.”
Leopard called McCord the “go-to person” at the Augusta Red Cross, saying that through her service in the community, she has developed valuable connections with other agencies, particularly those who provide aid and funding to military service members who are pulled from deployment in the event of an emergency.
“She does not turn anyone away without first searching for every solution possible,” Leopard said. “She’ll do anything to help.”
McCord was hired by Augusta Red Cross in April 1985 as a receptionist after the local labor department put her in touch with past director Carolyn Maund.
After 15 years in the position, she worked various jobs in the agency’s health and safety, armed forces services and disaster relief departments before being promoted to office manager three years ago.
She said she loves that her job is never routine.
“I can go with the flow and just try to think about how I would want to be treated,” said McCord, who has three stepsons, one grandson, two dogs and a husband, Johnny, of seven years. “That’s what it’s all about: helping people.”
McCord’s generosity extends beyond the Red Cross; it’s prevalent within the community, said Yvette Harris, who has attended New Holt Baptist Church in Harlem with McCord for 18 years.
She said McCord often arrives at church each Sunday at 9 a.m. (more than an hour before worship) for prayer and stays until past 1:30 p.m. to serve on the church’s finance committee. During the service, she sings in the choir for the 200-member congregation.
“She is very quiet and does not speak a lot, but you can’t miss her,” Harris said of McCord, also the choir’s secretary. “She is very active in the work she does for the church.”
Harris, who sings in the choir with McCord, says she leads by example. One year the church asked the choir to increase the number of songs they sang. Some were hesitant about the increase, but McCord encouraged the group to embrace the challenge, Harris said.
“I have never heard her raise her voice,” said Harris, who was added to the Red Cross Board of Directors this year under McCord’s recommendation.
Volunteers echoed Harris’ remarks, saying McCord feels more can be achieved through listening than speaking.
“She’s kind of the mom of the office,” said Paul Filpus-Luyckx, Red Cross logistics volunteer, whose responsibilities include keeping inventory of Red Cross resources, such as food, water, trailers and shelter space. “She knows everybody, their backstory and expresses an interest of how they are doing and what she can do to help them achieve their goals, both inside and outside the office.
Filpus-Luyckx’s grandchild was admitted into the Florida Hospital for Children three days after birth last year. Each time McCord sees him, she asks how the baby is doing.
Filpus-Luyckx said without McCord, Augusta Red Cross would be faced with a task similar to “reinventing the wheel.”
“It’s the little things she does that keeps us going,” he said.
In the month following February’s ice storm, Filpus-Luyckx said there was a delay in getting copy paper to print the administrative forms needed to take inventory of supplies and evacuees in shelters, and keep the recovery effort moving. He said McCord immediately stopped what she was doing, went to Staples and helped carry in the paper.
Filpus-Luyckx said it is small contributions like those that help him understand why a volunteer five years removed from the organization told him he would love McCord before he came to the Red Cross in April 2013.
“At that point,” he said. “I knew I was going to meet someone special.”