04/23/10 — Red Cross honors supporters at lunch

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Red Cross honors supporters at lunch

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 23, 2010 1:46 PM

The Red Cross might not appear to be anything like an Olympic event.

But Director Chuck Waller would have you think again.

Partially because of its ability to rise to challenges -- sometimes on a shoestring budget and sparse staff who are asked to take on Herculean tasks.

Thursday, for example -- not a disaster day by any means -- the Wayne County chapter was being represented all around the region.

"It's been said that you can't be two places at one time," he said during the annual Heroes Campaign celebration at the Red Cross office. While the recognition ceremony was going on, however, staff could also be found at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, at a health fair and at a blood drive at Waukesha.

"We're used to running in a hundred directions at a hundred miles an hour," he said. "Our folks and our volunteers run mighty hard."

The Red Cross, he pointed out, is the community.

And part of its role has been to be there for people in their darkest hours.

"Red Cross touches you in deep, deep, deep water -- when somebody you love has gone through a cardiac arrest, when somebody you love is bleeding to death, when the community is gone (because of) hurricanes, tornadoes," he said. "You touch people that will never ever be able to thank you."

In its largest arena, however, fundraising to keep the organization afloat, it has kept pace with any Olympian, Waller said.

"This is my eighth Heroes campaign, and I can say without hesitation the degree of difficulty tied to this has probably been greater than any that we have had," he said.

Each year since he took over the reins as director, there has been something to thwart the campaign to raise sufficient dollars, Waller said.

The tsunami hit right before the 2005 Red Cross campaign.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit on the heels of the 2006 campaign.

And of course, last year, it was the economy.

"Guess what?" he told this year's audience. "The economic issue's still here. A lot of folks that have supported us in the past could not at the same level."

Then, just as things seemed to hint at turning around, in January there was the earthquake in Haiti.

"Lots of money would come through these doors to go to Haiti -- and justifiably so, we are our brother's keeper, anywhere -- but when you couple those two things and the degree of difficulty on this, it has been off the charts," he said.

And yet, Waller said, there is a silver lining. There is always hope, which became the centerpiece of the latest Heroes campaign.

"We deliver hope," he said of the Red Cross.

Fortunately, the community came through and made it another year to celebrate, Waller said.

"I have never been as proud of a campaign as I am this year," he said. "When you consider everything that we have been up against, it has been an unbelievable effort -- 28 new donors, three new events to set the table for 2010-11, raising nearly $81,000. I cannot tell you how many lives that will touch in Red Cross dollars."

The exact amount raised was $80,870, with Wayne County Public Schools being credited for doing its part, said Samia Gardner, blood services director.

"The Pennies for a Purpose program, through WCPS, had a record-setting year and that's not even counting Haiti (relief), $11,500 came from school kids," she said. "And to take it a step further, $11,500 was raised to stay in Wayne County, over $4,000 was raised in the school system to go to Haiti. What a feat. We have never been in that ballpark."

Five schools raised $1,000 or more, earning the status of Hero, she said. Brogden Primary brought in $2,515, while Norwayne Middle contributed $2,400; Eastern Wayne Middle, $2,123; Grantham, $1,107; and Eastern Wayne High, $1,105.

An array of events were held by the schools to elicit funds, Ms. Garner said -- including bake sales, basketball games and a Warrior Idol contest at Eastern Wayne Middle -- as well as a districtwide water jug decorating contest.

Three schools were each presented a $100 prize for the decorating contest -- Brogden Primary, first place in the elementary division; Eastern Wayne Middle for the middle schools; and the sophomore class at Eastern Wayne High School in the high school category.

Several businesses and organizations were also presented with framed certficates for their contributions to this year's campaign, including Massengill, Best, Markham and Mitchell; Blue Knights Chapter NC IX; Claudia Meeks; Wes Waller; Glenn Chitty; and Jackson & Sons.

Dontay Barefoot, campaign chair, admitted that before he became involved with the Red Cross, he hadn't fully realized all that it did.

"The one thing that I have learned this year about the Red Cross volunteers is this," he said. "They have a deep desire and lots of it. They'll show up for any occasion. I found that to be true.

"But here's the real key. You ultimately have no idea what your end results and your labor will be. Only God knows who you will touch and where your endeavors will lead."