Local Red Cross volunteer heads to FL to help after tragedy

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is there to help - not just with belongings and a roof over your head - but with support for your spiritual needs.

One Red Cross volunteer from Savannah is answering the call to help those affected by the horrific Florida school shooting.

Sam Watkins got last minute hugs and words of encouragement before taking off from Savannah to head to Parkland, FL, to help offer spiritual care to families of victims in the school shooting.

"How we make today just a little bit better than yesterday, and tomorrow better than yesterday. To provide some ways to work through the unthinkable to put one foot in front of the other and move forward," Watkins said.

Watkins has made trips like this before for the Red Cross. The last time was two years ago to Orlando, FL, after the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

"What goes through my mind is the thoughts from the last one, and I relive those. I make sure that I give my wife, my children, my grandchildren a big hug," he said.

Spiritual care is a lesser known service that the American Red Cross provides; volunteers on the ground with a religious background, or psychiatric professionals.

"The Red Cross has done this for years. It's just not something that we talk about as we do our disaster services. It is something we do in a supportive role when there is such a tragedy," said Esther Sheppard, American Red Cross, Southeast Georgia.

Watkins says this is a journey no one wants to take but he feels he needs to - to offer spiritual support, to listen, or simply provide a shoulder to cry on.

"I see their faces or hear their voices and I know, in some small way, I made their lives better. That's worth a million dollars," he said.

Watkins will be working in coordination with a family assistance center in Parkland which is set up with other mental health and spiritual volunteers to provide comfort and support.

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