Red Cross honors Grady commission leader

Erik Yabor/Times-EnterpriseCopeland, center, is presented the Good Neighbor Award by representatives from the American Red Cross.

CAIRO — Representatives from the American Red Cross appeared before the Grady County Board of Commissioners to present a special award to commission Chair LaFaye Copeland.

Guillermo Cornavaca, disaster program manager with the Red Cross, recognized Copeland with a Good Neighbor Award for her efforts in March following an EF2 tornado that touched down in Cairo.

Cornavaca said he was trying to figure out the situation on the ground when he first arrived in Cairo back in March when he encountered Copeland, who showed him the disaster area and explained what organizations were already issuing supplies to the community.

“Without her, it would have been harder for us to support the community,” Cornavaca said. “Because of her, she made it easier for us to identify the needs of the community and where to provide the supplies to support people.”

During the disaster Copeland was working around 22 hours each day alongside emergency management agency director Richard Phillips, and Cornavaca gave her the nickname “Super Woman.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” said Copeland, whose home was only a quarter mile away from the disaster area. “I couldn’t rest knowing those people didn’t have lights and water.”

Cornavaca said that hard work did not go unnoticed.

“It was just amazing to see somebody come out of the woodwork to come and show us what we needed to do,” Cornavaca said. “What better person to show you what needs to be done than somebody in your community?”

Copeland thanked Phillips and deputy EMA director Bill Schafer for giving her the opportunity to serve her county and city.

The commission chair said Phillips and Schafer were overwhelmed when Hurricane Michael passed through the area in October, and when the tornado struck in March she wanted to act to make sure that didn’t happen again.

“I just want to thank you all for thinking enough of me to do this,” she said.

Copeland said she didn’t work alone during the disaster, and pointed out the efforts of the other commissioners and the wider community.

“I really appreciate the whole community, whatever you did, coming together to help Grady County,” said Copeland, who added that she has nearly completed the process of becoming a Red Cross volunteer herself. “It wasn’t all about me. It’s all about trying to take care of your own.”