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American Red Cross volunteers… Those of us who do it, love it'

By By Sharon White/The Meridian Star
March 19, 2001
After experiencing three wars as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy, Les Lauderdale thought he had seen all the devastation he could stand. Then he retired and became a Red Cross volunteer, and found out he was wrong.
Les retired as a master chief in 1974, completing his last tour of duty at Naval Air Station Meridian. His wife, Lee "Lucy" Lauderdale had volunteered with community service agencies such as the Red Cross and the Navy League for many years. Les had spent 30 years seeing people through times of crisis, but his involvement was limited when it came to helping civilians and working with volunteers.
Lee's job with the Red Cross is to provide family service in emergency situations and help locate additional assistance in the recovery phase of a disaster. She is currently working with several of the 96 home and business owners in Lauderdale County who sustained damage in a Dec. 16 tornado that struck the Russell and Dalewood communities.
Les' first job was to help with flood relief in September 1975 in Homa, La., where he set up a makeshift kitchen and saw that everyone who needed a meal got one.
The couple had been back home in Meridian for only three weeks when another flood struck in Louisiana, this time in Monroe. Les hit the road again and was away for about a month.
It was the beginning of a new way of life.
For Les as well, volunteerism is exciting and rewarding.
By 1983, the Red Cross had enlisted the Lauderdales to join the national staff in California. The couple picked up their family and Les took on the tasks that came with the job of chief of damage repair and assessment until 1988. The couple returned to Meridian that year, but continued their mission as Red Cross workers.
Since then, they have worked more than 100 disasters.
Although Les recently returned from a job in Columbus where tornadoes destroyed hundreds of homes, he usually spends most of his time as a field consultant working from his house in Meridian.
Since October 1998, he has used information sent in from the field to advise the assessment and repair teams where to start.
Sharon White is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at