Spa owner starts domino effect for Red Cross donations |

Spa owner starts domino effect for Red Cross donations

Dawn McGrath knows what it’s like to lose everything in a disaster and have to start over again. And she says the Red Cross was there for her.

“I’m a big-time supporter of the Red Cross,” she said. “I was burned out in the Oakland fire, and they really helped me.”

McGrath, who moved here just two years ago from the Bay Area, decided to put that gratitude into action after Katrina. “Having been a disaster victim myself, when anything happens I feel like I have to do something.”

And something she did. Owner of the Serenity Zone Day Spa in Nevada City, McGrath gathered employees Natalie Ennis, Taryn Sether, Trish King, Jeffrey Williams and Pam Down and other volunteers for a “Massage and Facial Day” that lured Constitution Day Parade celebrants and regular customers to “parade and be pampered.”

“It was wonderful,” McGrath said of the event, held just a few days after Katrina struck. “People wrote their checks to the Red Cross.”

In addition, all the Spa workers donated their tips that day.

But McGrath hasn’t stopped there. She’s continuing the tradition by saving all her personal tips for three-month periods and then donating them to a local charity.

This month, she is choosing the Red Cross again. McGrath says she might present them at Thursday’s Red Cross’ celebration, “One Step Forward,” that will honor the contributions of some of the 1,500 individuals, organizations and businesses in Nevada County who have contributed time, money, and heart to disasters at home and across the nation.

The vivacious spa owner emphasized that she received a lot of help pulling her benefit together, crediting her employees as well as publicity from The Union and a banner from Sign Systems.

That banner made the rounds, according to Greg Ludlum, owner of Sign Systems. He first made the banner to promote his “drive-thru” donation center for the disaster fund. He and manager Ken Hull erected a tent in the company’s East Main Street parking lot and added a hanging bucket to make it easy for drivers to pull up and drop in their donations. Ludlum and Hull then manned the drive-thru center that raised over $3,000 from local commuters.

“We even had one lady who brought a bucket of money by,” Ludlum chuckled. Apparently the woman was going to cash in her household change, but decided she might as well donate it. “It turned out to have $320 in it,” Ludlum said.

This is the kind of community response and cohesiveness that Nevada County is famous for.

When Susan King, manager of the Western Nevada County Branch of the American Red Cross, was overloaded training more than 100 new volunteers and getting many of them to hurricane disaster sites, she realized there wasn’t time to organize the Red Cross’ annual float for the Constitution Day Parade.

Cue the Boy Scouts, who lived up to their “be prepared” motto once again. In the parade, a few Red Cross volunteers were surrounded by Scouts carrying a banner donated by BioTechnology Calendars, which made sure the Red Cross presence was still felt. King laughed at the image of the Scouts walking down Broad Street with the banner that said, “Western Nevada County American Red Cross ” We’re busy right now but we’re here in spirit.”

“Everyone understood,” King said, smiling.

Other local businesses understood, too. King said our local Red Cross Branch had to move into the parking lot to handle all the volunteers interested in serving in the Gulf Region. Kragen Auto Parts and Kmart both donated tents and B&C True Value Hardware donated chairs for the makeshift meeting room.

“So many businesses and volunteers came forth to help, not just at Katrina, but throughout the year,” King said. “It has been really amazing. Our ‘One Step Forward’ recognition event is our time to say thank you.”

The list could go on and on, and it’s impossible to mention everyone who gave of their time and money and creativity.

The Girl Scouts helped out at the Annual Red Cross yard sale.

A lemonade stand created by a trio of little girls in Lake Wildwood reaped $100 for the disaster fund.

Student Samantha Jackson sponsored a car wash for the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

And the Grass Valley Fire Department stood in the streets and at the Roamin’ Angels Car Show with their popular rubber boots and collected donations to assist the local branch.

In addition to more than 100 new volunteers, many seasoned Red Cross volunteers also stepped forward to help throughout the year. Betty Gernes stepped up to manage the front office, as it was inundated with donations and requests to volunteer. Darryll Haussler put his project management skills to use in the development of critical disaster plans for the Branch.

Eric Foote created video presentations for the ARC portion of NCTV’s Day of Giving telethon. Volunteer Jan Riesback took on the big job of setting up a huge yard sale at the Branch’s Hughes Street offices.

Two other volunteers, Lynda Groom and Bob Stanbury, also saved the day by volunteering to take charge of “Together, We Prepare,” the Red Cross’ annual display at The Union’s October Home Show where emergency workers from all over the county stand side by side to educate the public about making homes, property, and workplaces safer.

“We wanted our community to see that we were prepared to respond in spite of having to be involved in a larger disaster,” King said.

Groom, a five-year transplant from the Bay Area, wasn’t confident she could do it at first, but said she had a lot of help getting 20-plus volunteers for the two-day show who helped set up a makeshift meeting room.

“So many businesses and volunteers came forth to help, not just at Katrina, but throughout the year,” King said. “It has been really amazing. Our ‘One Step Forward’ recognition event is our time to say thank you.”

Stanbury, Lake Wildwood, was also an important partner in making “Together We Care” work. The retired engineer, who’s taking a leading role in several volunteer groups, helped organize the volunteers as well as the Fire Department, the California Highway Patrol, radio operators and representatives from Community Emergency Response Team.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” Stanbury said.

Enjoyment is a word you hear a lot from local Red Cross volunteers, 85 of whom were sent to Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Florida to try to help people put the pieces of their lives together.

According to King, “One Step Forward” hopes to let all the volunteers know just how much we enjoy”and deeply appreciate ” them.

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