At American Red Cross of Augusta meetings, at disaster sites or anywhere she is found, Carolyn Maund always has a few extra hugs to give.
"It's clearly her trademark," United Way of the CSRA President Jo Endres Maypole said about Mrs. Maund, who retires as executive director of the American Red Cross of Augusta on March 31 after 20 years.
Mrs. Maund came to understand how vital that compassionate touch was early in her career with the Red Cross.
Two decades ago, the local chapter of the Red Cross had little disaster training. Her predecessor, Mary Lou Reynolds, told Mrs. Maund that someone from Atlanta would be down to train her on disaster response.
With only three months under her belt she still no disaster training, Mrs. Maund received a phone call one day at about 5 a.m.. A fire had ripped through an apartment complex, leaving several families homeless.
Amid the chaos, a child was missing. She asked the apartment manager whether there were any vacant apartments. She found the child afraid and huddled in a corner of one of the vacant units. She gave him a hug.
"You can do what needs to be done when people are hurting," she said.
Disaster training has come a long way for the organization in 20 years. Volunteers responded to disasters such as Hurricane Hugo, Hurricane Andrew and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. One of the biggest tests for the community came with the floods of 1990.
"This was the biggest disaster Augusta had known since the early 1900s," she said.
Volunteers came from all over the area. A group of bikers showed up and offered their assistance.
"There were 20 men on motorcycles who could go where cars couldn't," she said. "Nobody called them."
Now the agency trains hundreds of volunteers in 11 counties, including Richmond, Columbia, McDuffie, Burke and Glascock. The agency has a volunteer on duty 24 hours a day to take disaster phone calls.
"This community has stepped to the plate each time there has been a major disaster," she said.
In 20 years, the demand for services including disaster relief, HIV/AIDS training and first aid, has dramatically increased.
In the same time, the staff has doubled and the budget has tripled.
Not only are there adult volunteers in the program, but a youth board now reaches into the elementary schools. The high school youth board has been ranked among the nation's best.
Although she is looking forward to retiring and spending time with her husband, Tim, her three sons and her eight grandchildren, Mrs. Maund will miss all of those people with whom she has worked over the years.
"We have a long-term staff, and a board that has stayed in place. Once they enter, they have to die or move out of town (to leave the board). We have the largest board in the state," she said.
Some don't understand the commitment of the staffers and volunteers to the Red Cross, but it's clear to others.
"Carolyn sets the standard for recruiting good volunteers. I always thought she had a secret weapon - that was her hugs," Dr. Maypole said.
Birnie Florie, a longtime volunteer and board member, will fill Mrs. Maund's position.
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.