Mary and Gary share their experience as Red Cross Volunteers during Hurricane Sally


Gary and Mary Mattingly, two Red Cross volunteers. Photo submitted

After Hurricane Sally tore across the Gulf Coast, volunteers from the American Red Cross had boots on the ground as soon as possible to aid those affected by the storm. We spoke with Gary and Mary Mattingly, a husband and wife volunteer team, to hear their story.

Want to make a difference with the American Red Cross? Click here to give blood, make a donation or fill a virtual or “boots on the ground” volunteer position.

Making a Difference on the Gulf Coast

Mary handing out supplies from the back of the American Red Cross truck that the pair drove across Alabama. Photo submitted

Hailing from Alabaster, Alabama, Gary and Mary Mattingly recently became interested in volunteering with the American Red Cross as drivers, delivering lifesaving blood and blood products from blood donation sites to local hospitals. Shortly after qualifying, the pair got a call from their supervisor regarding Hurricane Sally.

Gary: “Our supervisor called up with a proposition. The American Red Cross needed teams to drive the Emergency Response Vehicles, but putting together teams proved challenging due to COVID-19. However, Mary and I were both qualified AND married. We took some time to think about it and decided we wanted to deploy. The next day, we drove to Mobile.”

As drivers of the Emergency Response Vehicle, Mary and Gary’s job was simple: to provide the damaged communities on the Gulf Coast with much-needed supplies like tarps, shovels, rakes, self-heating meals, water, hygiene kits, cleaning supplies and more.

Mary: “Over the next 11 days, Gary and I drove over 1,360 miles to different areas and small towns throughout lower Alabama. Day after day, we loaded up on supplies and drove to new areas. We’d team up with other volunteer organizations as well. One day, the Salvation Army fed hot meals to 2,000 people, who then drove across the street to receive further supplies from our truck.”

American Red Cross Heroes

Birmingham, American Red Cross
Michele Grady of the American Red Cross handing out meals at a distribution point for families affected by Hurricane Laura. Photo via Scott Dalton for the American Red Cross

One morning as Gary and Mary drove the Emergency Response Vehicle to the day’s objective, they came upon an accident on the highway. Apparently, a Jeep Grand Cherokee was swerving before slipping off the road and flipping three times. Immediately, Gary stopped the truck while Mary called 911.

Gary: “The car was about a foot shorter than it should have been. Since it looked like the car was in danger of catching on fire, I cut the airbag and helped pull the man out of the car. Luckily, two nurses showed up to help aid him until the Sheriff’s Department arrived.”

Want to make a difference with the American Red Cross? Click here to give blood, make a donation or fill a virtual or “boots on the ground” volunteer position.

A Miracle on the Last Day

Each day, Gary and Mary drove through the hardest hit communities delivering supplies and food while witnessing the damage left behind by Hurricane Sally. Photo submitted

On their last day of deployment, Gary and Mary were sent to a small—but busy— town near Fairhope. After unloading all of their supplies, the duo returned to Mobile to restock. By the time they got back to the small town, it was almost 4PM, but the line of people needing supplies was still long. Gary and Mary began handing out supplies again, including fifty-six 40-bottle cases of water, tarps, cleaning supplies, you name it.

Mary: “The very last car in line pulled up, and we were almost out of supplies. We told them all we had left was water and bleach, and they told us that was perfect—it was what they needed. It was truly a miracle.”

A Worthwhile Experience

Red Cross volunteers brought multiple Emergency Response Vehicles and trucks full of emergency supplies to assist residents cleaning out yards and homes damaged by the winds and flooding of Hurricane Sally. Photo via Jaka Vinsek for the American Red Cross

After 11 days and 1,360+ miles, Gary and Mary’s deployment was up. As of September 24, Gary and Mary were part of 430 trained American Red Cross Volunteers aiding Hurricane Sally victims.

Gary: “In summary, we’re going to do this again if we’re asked to. The entire experience was eye-opening. Seeing the American Red Cross, FEMA, the Salvation Army, local Fire Departments and more coming together to serve a community in need was a miracle.”

And as for the American Red Cross? No matter where, no matter what the disaster, you can count on volunteers from the American Red Cross to be there, offering a helping hand.

Mary: “American Red Cross Volunteers are some of the most dedicated people we’ve ever met. Although this was our first deployment, we met some volunteers who had been doing this for ten, twenty, even thirty years. Their dedication to the organization and to helping those in need is inspiring. “

Become an American Red Cross Volunteer

Red Cross Volunteers distribute clean-up kits to help residents of Pensacola and the surrounding areas. Photo via Jaka Vinsek for the American Red Cross

Interested in discovering volunteer opportunities with the American Red Cross? It’s no understatement to say that volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization. Whether you’re donating blood, making a financial donation or making a gift of your time, there are many ways to change lives through the American Red Cross.

Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities with the American Red Cross.

Have you volunteered with the American Red Cross? Tag us @bhamnow and share your experience!

  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.