MAXTON — During his years as an educator, Ray Oxendine combined his roles as disciplinarian and nurturer in managing the schools and students entrusted to him.
In retirement, little has changed.
The 74-year-old former Purnell Swett High School principal is still helping others — whether it’s mowing the lawn for a sick neighbor or volunteering with the American Red Cross of Scotland and Robeson counties.
It was that volunteer work that has given Oxendine some national exposure. He will appear on the cover of the 2012 American Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog.
The cover evolved from a chance encounter last year while Oxendine was in Wilson following Hurricane Irene.
A shelter there, manned by Oxendine and other volunteers, housed 150 people affected by the hurricane. Krispy Kreme sent over dozens of doughnuts boxes and a large package of doughnut holes, prompting a question from 5-year-old Margarita Chavez.
“That little girl came up and said, What is that?’” said Oxendine, who could not pass up such a teachable moment.
“I picked up a donut and said that donut has a hole in it and they didn’t throw the hole away, they kept it. I asked her if she’d ever heard the donut song.”
The child hadn’t. The former Maxton town commissioner sang the song right there.
Margarita was “spellbound,” Oxendine said
Oxendine did not know it at the time, but the exchange was seen by representatives from the American Red Cross office in Washington, D.C. They snapped a photograph of Oxendine and Margarita, which will appear on the catalog cover.
“For him to be on the front of this catalog that’s actually a giving catalog is just a perfect fit,” said Carol Ann Lentz, executive director of the American Red Cross of Scotland and Robeson counties.
Oxendine, who lives in Maxton, began working with the Red Cross in 2005 when the organization put out a call for volunteers to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“When they need somebody, they call me — if I’m available, I go,” the Pembroke native said. “One of the worst situations I experienced was when I went up to Bertie County when the tornado came through. About 12 people were killed in that county, and dealing with people who have lost family members was a tough situation.”
Since Katrina, Oxendine has deployed to disaster areas half a dozen times, and left this past Wednesday for a shelter for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“He believes in the mission, he is very focused on what needs to be done,” Lentz said. “I was very fortunate to work with him in a shelter several years back for tropical storm Hanna, and he’s just very unassuming. He’s there, he knows the job that needs to be done, and he gets it done.”
Oxendine never imagined that his work with the Red Cross would lead once again to his role as an example for others to follow.
“I had no idea that would ever happen,” he said. “If that can be a model for other people to get involved and help out when they get a chance to do so, that’s very good.”