Interviewed by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
As executive director of the North Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross, K.C. Grist helped lead recovery efforts in the region in the wake of devastating tornadoes this spring. We asked her this: In your work in Amory in the hours and days after the March 24 tornado, what did you witness that gave you hope that the spirit of kindness and community are still alive?
“When disaster strikes, north Mississippi shows up. Almost as soon as the winds die down, people start showing up with food, water, chain saws and tarps.
Ordinary people do extraordinary things. Kevin Caldwell opened his furniture factory in Amory on Friday night (March 24) shortly after the tornado and sheltered 100 people… and his family turned an unused portion of their factory into a full-scale distribution center for all the donated items that began coming into Amory almost immediately.
I am humbled by the dedication of volunteers who come from all over the country. Days after the tornado, I spent some time in the shelter set up in the Old Armory in Amory. I met about 10 volunteers who had come to help. They came from Massachusetts, Oregon, Illinois, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, North Dakota and Georgia. These people stopped what they were doing in their own lives and came to Amory, Mississippi, to help. I never cease to be amazed by this outpouring of support.”
A native of Tupelo, K.C. Grist is the executive director of the North Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross. She began working with Red Cross in January 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic. Grist graduated from Tupelo High School and the University of Mississippi and has spent more than 30 years working in the nonprofit sector. She has been married for 22 years to Joey Grist and they are the parents of two sons, J.T., 20, and Jimmie, 17.