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Good preparation helps Sharpe face crises head on

By Judy Currin

Sharon Sharpe is ready when disaster strikes.
  

She understands the importance of having a survival kit and a plan in place for whatever may come, thanks to her training as a disaster relief volunteer with the Pitt County Chapter of the American Red Cross. 
  
sharpe1_1
Sharpe


A lifetime as the second oldest of seven siblings hasn’t hurt either. 
  

Sharpe, a 17-year staff member with ECU Physicians’ Department of Billing and Reimbursement, applies her Red Cross Ready approach wherever the need arises, whether it is right here in the Greenville area or thousands of miles away.

She was on hand June 25 for the Greenville Gives Back rally held at the Town Common. With a cheerful demeanor, she chatted with attendees, handed out Red Cross literature and clapped for the performers on stage.  Fellow disaster relief volunteer Mike Evans was also present.          

“When volunteers are needed for a local event, you can always count on Sharon being there,” he said.

The event featured a benefit concert, raffle and martial arts demonstration to raise money for recent storm and tornado victims. Proceeds will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Project of Eastern North Carolina.

Sharpe had the opportunity to offer disaster relief on the national level after Hurricane Rita made landfall on the Texas coast in Sept. 2005. At the relief staging center at the Ford Arena in Beaumont, Texas, Sharpe found herself among thousands of volunteers mobilized to support the largest disaster relief effort in the history of the Red Cross.

“Rita arrived less than a month after Hurricane Katrina had already battered the Gulf Coast,” Sharpe said. She said the devastation there was similar to the damage in eastern North Carolina following flooding after Hurricane Floyd.

“It was just on a much larger scale,” she said.

Sharpe spent her three-week stay in Texas at a relief center in the town of Newton. Along with other volunteers she spent most days taking applications from survivors for Red-Cross funded debit cards redeemable at Walmart for purchasing basic necessities.
Newton was littered with trees and many of the modest homes were mildewed from standing water.

“Those poor folks had virtually nothing and were so very grateful for the assistance,” Sharpe said.

Upon her return to Greenville, Sharpe continued serving the Red Cross as a member of the local chapter’s on-call disaster relief team. She said some local disasters such as house fires were more difficult than the Texas experience. “Because I knew some of those folks,” Sharpe said. “That’s hard.”

While her survival kit remains packed and ready, Sharpe found out a few years ago that when it came to her own health, she was not so well-prepared. Her blood pressure was high.

Determined to find the cause, Sharpe attended community nutrition and heart healthy classes and started reading labels on the foods she was purchasing. “ I just wasn’t paying enough attention to the choices I was making with my diet,” she said.

Sharpe improved her readiness to maintain a healthy lifestyle by enrolling in the Food Literacy Partners training program offered through The Brody School of Medicine. The program teaches participants how to make healthier food choices. While the program is free, graduates are encouraged to give back 20 hours of community service educating others.

Now Sharpe volunteers at local health fairs and conducts Farmer’s Market Nutrition Education Program demonstrations on Saturday mornings, helping others make healthy choices.

Sharp believes fresh food is the best food. She and long-time friend, Mary Williams, maintain a garden just north of the river. They spend most weekends tending and harvesting fresh vegetables and leafy greens.

“Learning to eat healthy has changed my life in so many ways, “Sharpe said. “I like being out in the community meeting new people and sharing information that may turn someone’s life around. How rewarding is that!”

Life prepared Sharpe well for a lifetime of preparedness. She grew up in a large family as the second oldest of seven girls. She felt a responsibility to bring order out of chaos, learning to be ready to deal with whatever crisis might arise among her siblings.

“With that many girls in the house there was always some kind of drama going on,” she said.
                   

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The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters: supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood: teaches lifesaving skills: provides international humanitarian aid: and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization- not a government agency- and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit www.redcross.org.