Tinsley continues to give even after retirement

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 27, 2004

Howard Tinsley is one of the busiest men in Dallas County.

With decades of experience behind him, the man lives to help others and his very life is proof of it.

In 1976, he took a position directing the Black Belt chapter of the American Red Cross, the only paid position in the organization.

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In 2000, he “retired.” Well, actually, he just stopped getting paid. While the Black Belt ARC has a new director, Jeanette Crusoe, Tinsley is a constant presence at the downtown office.

He’s been volunteering with the ARC since his retirement.

He really can’t help it, it’s in his blood.

“I like helping people overcome some of their difficulties,” Tinsley said.

His long history with the ARC started when he lived in Tuscaloosa and his wife volunteered with the organization.

“I saw the advantages of people helping people,” he said.

He joined the ARC in the military division of the group, aiding military families in communicating with their loved ones stationed overseas.

He trained in South Carolina and was eventually assigned to Craig Air Force Base.

When the base closed, he stayed on and has been a part of Selma’s scenery ever since. Tinsley has, since his retirement, served as CPR teacher, helped with disaster relief and organized blood drives all through the four county area the ARC serves from Selma. While all of his work is lifesaving, Tinsley takes pleasure in knowing that he’s helped save peoples lives by teaching CPR.

“I have trained several people that xxhave saved someone’s life,” he said.

During Hurricane Ivan, Tinsley was at the Red Cross office without pause, staying through the storm, answering phones, volunteering time at the EMA and making sure that Crusoe, who worked through the storm, got a few hours of much needed rest.

During the storm, the ARC operated five shelters in the county providing refuge for over 500 people.

During their stay, the ARC made sure all of them had food and water, even past the point of the storm’s passage as many people were left without power.

About 50 refugees even came into the area from Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

“Through that we fed them and comforted them and provided them with a safe place to stay,” Tinsley said.

Since the storm, Tinsley and other volunteers have been coordinating disaster aid from the office in Montgomery, making sure the damaged homes and 12 displaced families have some form of financial assistance.

“Our estimation was over 250 homes in Dallas County were destroyed,” he said.

Tinsley occupies his spare time with other volunteer activities.

He’s the administrator for Project SHARE, which helps elderly and disabled residents pay their utility bills.

He also volunteers with the Selma Art Guild, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Exchange Club and the Alabama District Exchange Clubs.

The humble volunteer stresses that without the help of others, he wouldn’t be able to get as involved as he does.

“Thanks to all the volunteers who have helped us these past eight days,” he said. “Without them we wouldn’t have been able to help with these things.”

To volunteer with the ARC, call 874-4641.