Chapters honor Red Cross month
Published 2:55 pm Monday, March 27, 2006
By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Prepare, respond and recovery. Those are three of the things the American Red Cross was originally set up to do since its founding in 1881.
For more than 60 years, the month of March has been proclaimed American Red Cross Month. The American Red Cross began as an agency promoting its services to the communities it serves and raise funds to cover costs associated with those services.
Red Cross chapters across the nation were busy this year supporting response to the Asian tsunami and hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which brought in evacuees from surrounding states to cities in Escambia County - not to mention smaller local events.
Last year the Red Cross responded to nearly 73,000 local disasters. Most of them were home fires but also included tornadoes, wildfires, floods, mudslides and earthquakes, making 2005 one of the most demanding years in Red Cross history, Red Cross organizers said.
Rogene Martin, director of the East Escambia County chapter, said the agency responded to 25 single-family fires in 2005.
However, Martin said the Red Cross doesn't always have the answers.
Martin said there are a lot of different things that happen in addition to helping families before, during and after a disaster. Two programs the Red Cross administers are the emergency food pantry, which desperately needs a storage facility, and the Good Will Easter Seals program. About 40 families that took advantage of the program during the hurricanes, Martin said.
But all this help can't be done without volunteers, and Martin said the local chapter is struggling to keep full-time volunteers on board.
Volunteers are needed for all phases. On a regular basis, the East Escambia County Chapter has three volunteers that come into the office. During hurricane season the number of volunteers increases. But Martin said it would be much better if “we could keep people involved in some degree.”
Martin said she believes the small number of volunteers is a result of so many families with both parents working.
And without volunteers, fund-raising becomes difficult.
The money raised through funds purchases training books that are used to teach on-site classes including First Aid and CPR. Monies are also allotted through The United Fund - administered by United Way - to help with the purchase of the training books.
The Red Cross still has close ties with the armed forces. Through Armed Forces Emergency Services, Red Cross volunteers get relatives in contact with family members overseas.
They work in cooperation with area doctors, hospitals and funeral homes. All information has to be verified before sent overseas so erroneous information isn't sent out.
The East Escambia County Chapter also cooperates with surrounding chapters if they have a need.
To become a volunteer, contact the East Escambia County Red Cross Chapter at 251-867-3426, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. All volunteers will be trained and won't necessarily have to work in the office.