STARLIGHT — The several hundred in attendance at this year's Red Cross Humanitarian Gala at Huber's Plantation Hall had more in common than being neighbors in Southern Indiana.
They came to the event, sponsored by the Bales Foundation, as stewards of service to their communities, to support the organization that helps so many not just locally but across the globe. But five of those were bestowed with special honors, as this year's Red Cross Humanitarians.
Barbara Anderson, Carl and Mary Kagin Kramer, Darrell Voelker and Victoria Southern were chosen as representatives from Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties, for work they do each day to make their communities better.
They each come from different backgrounds and give in different ways — Carl and Mary Kagin Kramer, honored as a couple, have hundreds of years of experience between them in service through such organizations as the Red Cross, the Rotary Club of Jeffersonville and the Boy Scouts of America.
"This means a lot to us," Mary said. "We have been involved in the Red Cross and other community activities for so many years."
Through their years together, they support one another in their endeavors to give back. Mary recruited Carl into the Red Cross and Rotary, for example, while Carl in turn got his wife involved in Boy Scouts.
"It's also a way of sharing a common life together," Carl said, of their combined service. "There are common threads in our background that made it such a natural kind of thing to do."
Anderson, representing this year's Floyd County recipient, has worked for years with families and those experiencing homelessness and addiction, and has worked to fight for policy changes to help end social injustices. It started at home, in a family that taught her how to give. One of the first experiences she had was working at an orphanage.
"It was a neat experience and taught me about how a lot of families were in trouble," she said, adding that "volunteerism is at the core" of the groups and projects in which she's involved.
She thanked her family, Clark County CARES, all those in the audience who have ever donated to Haven House, the homeless shelter she runs in Jeffersonville.
"I couldn't be up here without people like you behind me," she said.
Voelker also grew up in service, looking up to his older brothers and sisters who give a lot of themselves to the community.
"Volunteering wasn't something I ever had to be told to do," he said. "We just did it.
"When we do something for ourselves, it dies with us. When we do for others, it lives forever."
Southern, a Jeffersonville High School student who won this year's youth humanitarian award, which was sponsored by Karl Truman Law, got involved with volunteering through her church, Eastside Christian, and through JROTC.
"It's amazing the impact you can make on people's lives whenever you're working through service," she said.
And as for being honored as a humanitarian, Southern said she was grateful to be able to "surround myself with people who have the same goals as me."
Jennifer Adrio, CEO of the American Red Cross, spoke of the heroism of such volunteer work — because so many give of their time, 91 cents of every dollar raised by Red Cross is able to go back into services for the communities that need them.
"Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Red Cross," she said. There are about 260 volunteers in Southern Indiana alone.
The event raised more than $10,000 in a matter of minutes during a Mission Moment; everyone who donated was asked to stand up and members of the Jeffersonville Fire Department brought them a token of appreciation. More funds were raised through table sponsorships, a silent auction and other donations.