New volunteer rolls through local Red Cross
24TH AVENUE NEIGHBOR Cheri Barry, left, executive director of the Key Chapter of the American Red Cross, and volunteer Barbara Richardson talk about landscaping ideas for the chapter's new wheelchair ramp on 24th Avenue. PHOTO BY STEVE GILLESPIE / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Oct. 13, 2002
The Key Chapter of the American Red Cross is now handicapped-accessible. It has also gained an eager volunteer.
Barbara Richardson, 63, has lived next door to the chapter for about seven years and she was the first person to try out the chapter's new wheelchair ramp.
Richardson said she has wanted to volunteer with the Red Cross for years. She said she's not sure she will be able to answer the telephone or do any writing, because her hands are weak.
But, she said she can use a computer by pressing the keys using the eraser of a pencil.
Cheri Barry, executive director of the Key Chapter, said Richardson is a precious person and a joy to have as a neighbor.
Home to Meridian
Richardson returned to her hometown of Meridian in 1995 after retiring from the Colgate-Palmolive Company in New York.
As children, she and her best friends, Minnie Phillips and Mary Smith, made a pact that they would all return to Meridian one day and live side-by-side.
Richardson likes to tell people she is the greatest stripper this side of Highway 95 North, mainly for the shock value. The "stripping" she refers to is taking the varnish off of wood.
Shortly after moving into her house on 24th Avenue, she was on a ladder, tediously stripping the varnish from wood borders along her ceiling with a toothbrush, when the doorbell rang.
The next morning, her right leg was stiff and things deteriorated from there. She saw several doctors, started using crutches, then a wheelchair on occasion. Since 1999, she has had to use a wheelchair all the time.
Still on the go
Richardson said she doesn't have many "down" days. She loves to cook as much as she can. Her son, Ralph Richardson Jr., and grandson, Shorron Kirksey, who live with her, help when she needs it.
Her hands are not what they used to be. She has lost some muscle control in them, so she doesn't strip anymore. She also said her doctors don't want her inhaling the fumes.
Her friend Minnie, who was a postal clerk in New York, died of cancer in February 1996. She was buried in Meridian.
She stays in contact with Mary, too, who has decided Maryland is her home for now.