FORT SILL, OK (TNN) - Many people are probably not aware that Fort Sill is home to the Red Cross’s flagship call center. Nearly 100 employees take around a thousand calls a day from service members or family in need of assistance.
The Hero Care Center was recognized Wednesday morning for their work during the recent partial government shutdown.
Call representatives, like Rosie Billings, take dozens of urgent phone calls every day.
“It’s really fun when people ask, “What do you do?”, and I get to explain to them that I get to help bring military home to be with their families during emergencies,” said Senior Specialist at the Hero Care Center, Rosie Billings.
“Whenever a Coast Guardsman is in need of having family support in time of crisis, they call the American Red Cross and those calls typically come here to Fort Sill,” said Cari Thomas, Rear Admiral, USCG (ret.) Executive Director of Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.
But, during the recent partial government shutdown American Red Cross employees were called upon to help with a different kind of emergency.
“It represented the first time in our country’s history that a uniformed branch of the military wasn’t getting paid,” said Justin Schmitt, Assistant Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, USAA.
“It was a very stressful time for members of the Coast Guard,” said Thomas.
The U.S. Coast Guard is funded by the Department of Homeland Security. During the partial government shutdown 50,000 Coast Guard personnel were not being paid. That’s when the USSA stepped in and donated 15-million dollars. It was the largest one-time financial contribution in the organization’s history.
“Fortunately, we were able to develop a plan with the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and the American Red Cross and the people that work in this building everyday to serve those Coast Guard men and women zero-interest loans so they didn’t have financial crisis as a result of not getting a paycheck,” said Schmitt.
The Hero Care Center played an essential role in helping distribute the 8.4 million dollars that was provided to nearly 6,200 Coast Guard employees.
“Any organization that supports our men and women in uniform the way the Hero Care Center does is inspiration. It gets me up in the morning, everyday," said Koby Langley, Senior Vice President, American Red Cross. "So, I’m way out in Washington, D.C. and I get to think about Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and it puts a smile on my face.”
“We’re just extremely grateful to come here today to thank them face-to-face for what they do," said Schmitt. "They don’t seek any attention or recognition but really they are heroes because they serve the military community every single day with needs that surface in the military community and we’re grateful for them.”
“It was incredibly meaningful," said Billings. "It was unfair for them to not get paid. So, for us to be able to help them out with that situation, it was incredibly meaningful.”