By Valerie Reddell
The Tyler County Chamber of Commerce held its 71st annual banquet at the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation on Feb. 2, in the gym beautifully decorated with candlelight and dogwood blossoms.
Participants enjoyed a delicious meal catered by The Tree restaurant and honored volunteers and businesses who make Tyler County a wonderful place to call home.
John and Mary Stagg were honored with the chamber's lifetime achievement award for their dedicated service as full-time volunteers for the Red Cross.
In April 2008, John Staggs began volunteering with the Red Cross — just a few months before Hurricane Ike devastated East Texas. Since that time, the Staggs have deployed at least 20 times to families affected by disasters.
Deployments typically take them award from home for 14 days, but many times, John has spent a more or more in a disaster area.
When tornados struck Tuscaloosa, Ala. he spent seven weeks helping provide relief. He spent five weeks in the northeast after Hurricane Sandy.
In 2013, Staggs was named the lead volunteer for Tyler, Jasper and Newton counties. In the summer of 2017, another volunteer took charge of Newton and Jasper counties, but the Staggs continue to lead relief efforts in Tyler County.
The role of the Red Cross is to provide immediate emergency services following fires or other disaster that can impact one family, or the county and much of the state.
The Red Cross provides, on average, more than $18,000 a year in assistance.
John grew up on a large farm in Central Louisiana. He met his wife, the former Mary Annette Swindle, who was raised in Doucette and graduated from Kirby High School in Woodville.
Mary Stagg taught school for 35 years and has been an active volunteer. She served as a Sunday School teacher as well as a leader for Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. As a Red Cross volunteer, she is active in shelter operations and client casework.
John's career included operating a construction business, teaching high school and college, beekeeping and manufacturing specialty wood products.