Jim Jackson an inspiration to all

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By Glenda Plunkett
American Red Cross 

Rochester, MN, September 7, 2007; Volunteer Jim Jackson is a familiar face at Mid-Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross. He has been with the chapter for twenty years and has served on dozens of national disasters.

He started when he was 57 and the Red Cross came into the plant, A. E. Staleys of Decatur, IL.  Red Cross provided training for an in-house disaster plan. “I took all of my training right there over the next two weeks and decided this is for me,” said Jackson.

  Practically a staple on national disasters, Jackson has served in many dimensions. He has been in logistics, served as an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver, run the cafeteria for staff, warehousing, damage assessment, and courier service to name a few.

“Jim is never without a smile and a kind word for whoever he meets. He is a true inspiration to all,” said Executive Director Dennis Eller, Mid-Illinois Chapter.

“It makes me feel really good to be able help someone. I always listen when someone is upset. Then I give them a big hug and say, ‘Well, tomorrow is gonna’ be a better day,’” said Jackson.

He told a tale of a national disaster in Virginia when he called to be an ERV driver. He took a wrong turn and wound up driving up a narrow gravel road that led to an old shack.

On the front porch sat an elderly woman. Jackson approached her and asked if she had eaten today. She said she had no electricity and that her phone lines were down. She said she hadn’t heard or seen her children in days and she figured that it was time the Lord took her home. So she had decided to wait until the Lord came and got her on her front porch.

Jackson responded with a smile, “The Lord told me He was busy today so He sent me instead. Here’s your supper.”

His tales are familiar to many around him. Jackson said, “I love people. I have never met a stranger. And I love to help.”

Another of Jackson’s tall tales goes like this, “I was down in Katrina country in Louisiana when I started having trouble with my ERV. I knew I would have to call back to headquarters and tell them to come get me but I had no idea what the town’s name was. I also had no idea how to pronounce it since it was probably in French or Cajun. So I pulled into a parking lot and asked this young man to come to the ERV. I told him to tell me real slow where I am. He looked up and then at me and said really slowly, ‘B-U-R-G-E-R  K-I-N-G’ .”

When asked where he had been, he simply replied, “I have been all over the United States, with hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, floods on the Eastern seaboard, mudslides in California, and tornadoes throughout the Midwest. I served at 9-11 feeding those who worked at Ground Zero and in Katrina too. I have even helped with the refugees from Kosovo and hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. I love people and when they need help…I’ll go!”

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