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New director knows Red Cross benefit firsthand

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Mace Robinson was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was shot while riding a motorcycle in Newark, New Jersey.

“We heard the gunshot and took off. We hit the interstate and I’m trailing blood, but I didn’t know it,” Robinson said. “This guy pulls up beside me and points and then I realized I’d been shot.”

During surgery to remove bullet fragments from his abdomen, Robinson was given a lifesaving blood transfusion. Now more than two decades later, the 43-year-old man is serving as executive director for the American Red Cross’ Northeastern North Carolina Chapter. Based in Greenville, the chapter oversees 20 counties including Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe.

“A lot of people consider Greenville as the hub of the region, but Wilson County brings in the lion’s share of blood for blood drives in eastern North Carolina,” Robinson said. “And looking at the impact those blood donations has is amazing.”

The American Red Cross has an app for donors to find blood drives and track where their donations are sent to help patients. Wilson averages four blood drives a week and Robinson said giving blood is a great way to make a tangible difference in others’ lives.

“Giving blood doesn’t cost you anything,” he said. “People are funny about needles, but if that little poke helps you save someone’s life, it is worth being a little uncomfortable for a few minutes.”

While blood drives are a well-known aspect to the American Red Cross’ mission, Robinson said serving military personnel and helping residents through disasters is equally critical. Since July, 23 home fires affecting 71 individuals have happened in Wilson with Red Cross volunteers responding at all hours of the day to provide clothing, toys and temporary housing.

Robinson’s role as executive director is to be the face of the organization across the region and network with other agencies that can provide resources for those in need. The Wayne County native was hired a year ago as the senior volunteer recruitment specialist after serving for 23 years in the U.S. Army.

“I’m retired military personnel, so I could go home and sit on my couch, but that is not giving back to the community,” he said.

The father of two isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and pitch in to help others, such as installing smoke alarms recently as part of the Sound the Alarm campaign with the Red Cross or serving with Team Rubicon in the wake of Hurricane Florence. He said he’s proud to continue helping hurricane victims through his new role.

“People don’t realize that the long-term recovery from Hurricane Florence is still going on and Hurricane Dorian was a major thing for North Carolina, not just the Bahamas,” he said. “People think of Wilson and just getting some rain, but Ocracoke was destroyed and we have teams there now.”

In addition to providing physical support, the Red Cross has trained mental health workers helping folks survive the recovery process after weathering the storm. Visit tinyurl.com/yx2fdxwf to learn more about the American Red Cross and about opportunities to help.

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