From Retirement to Red Cross: Local Man Enriches Hurricane Relief Efforts


58 year-old David Neal is the son of a Marine, who raised him to be selfless and caring for his fellow man.

“My dad was a Marine,” Neal said. “He was truly a Marine – that was how I was raised. Self-explanatory.”

He implemented his family values to 31 years of service on emergency personnel in Putnam and Fayette Counties.  However, costly medical expenses with a knee replacement and black mold in his lungs forced Neal back on the work force after a short six months of retirement.  An opening at the Red Cross Raleigh County chapter was a perfect match for the former 911 director.

“Because with all my emergency management background, this position as a disaster program manager was a perfect fit,” Neal said.  “My daughter told me the job description was written for you.”

Three years in, Neal took his experience further down to Florida for a long 15 days to assist the Red Cross’s relief efforts for Hurricane victims of Irma and Maria. One of the many devastating stories he came across involved a Puerto Rican family’s loss that was too great to bear.

“As it turned out, they lost not only their home and everything they had,” Neal said. “They even had a family member pass away during that time. Because there were no (funeral) services available on the island, they had to bury their family member in the yard. (It) was heartbreaking. It was difficult.”

But for every storm, there is a rainbow. Neal says service with a smile is always the key to satisfaction in life.

“If you can find a way to at least make them smile, it helps,” Neal said. “It’s just something you have to put out there in order to help them.”

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