Local Red Cross looks back at busy 2010
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on December 31, 2010 1:46 PM
News-Argus/MICHAEL K. DAKOTA
Linda Jordan, left, is assisted by the Red Cross' Linda Ashworth. Jordan was donating blood Wednesday at Goldsboro Milling Co. which hosted the drive.
Accidents and natural disasters don't stop happening in a struggling economy, and in fiscal 2010, the Wayne County chapter of the American Red Cross continued its mission of saving lives and helping people in emergencies.
Whether it was providing water safety lessons to children, blankets to a family left in the cold after a house fire, collecting life-saving blood donations or teaching CPR, the local chapter maintained its long history of helping others.
The hours after a home fire are traumatic and turbulent for a family, but the Red Cross stands ready to help even in the small hours of the night, county chapter Executive Director Chuck Waller said.
"They really don't know what the next step is. They don't know where they're going to go, what they're going to do, and the Red Cross is on site to help them with those immediate need items," he said.
This year alone the agency assisted 202 people who were affected by house fires and other calamities, offering temporary lodging, food, clothing, eyeglasses, blankets and medications. The agency even offers "comfort kits" -- items like toothpaste, soap, shampoo and other personal care items that are usually lost in fires or inaccessible in disasters, Waller said.
Children receive stuffed animals to replace the ones lost, and the Red Cross makes sure all family members have a compassionate shoulder to lean on. The four-person Wayne County response team is all-volunteer, and responds to house fires whenever a fire department requests Red Cross assistance for a family.
"These are an amazing team of volunteers that will get out of bed at a moment's notice to help," Waller said.
Wayne County Red Cross volunteers don't stop at helping locally. Roberto Mendoza and Audrey King assisted with flood emergencies by delivering meals during the disaster response, and Wayne County residents donated thousands of dollars to the Red Cross to help with the Haiti earthquake response.
One of the most vital and largest operations the Red Cross directs is its blood collection service. The Wayne County chapter held a blood drive almost every other day in 2010, and collected 6,781 units of blood.
As each unit can save up to three lives, that means county blood donors might have helped more than 20,000 people this year. The chapter was even recognized at the Carolinas Blood Services Region Celebration of Excellence this year for its increase in whole blood collections and efficiency.
In a county that is home to a military base, the Red Cross Armed Forces emergency services are a very important part of the local chapter's outreach, Waller said.
The Red Cross has the distinction of being able to relay important messages to deployed service members, speeding along communications about any family emergency taking place back home, even when the troops are in the middle of a war zone.
"Red Cross has a communication network that is already in place, that's set up to cover anywhere on the planet, and there are rare occasions we have people on foot delivering these messages in very, very remote areas," Waller said.
This year, the chapter provided 1,566 services to military members and their families. That included delivering emergency messages to deployed troops, providing comfort kits to deploying service members and offering refreshments for family members waiting for their loved ones in the National Guard to return home.
The Red Cross service for the Armed Forces often "flies under the radar" for most civilians -- but that's all right, because the group doesn't do it for the recognition, only for the troops, Waller said.
"These folks do such an extraordinary job of preserving things that we take for granted," he said.
Every minute counts in an emergency, and the first responder to a choking or injury is usually a family member or co-worker. The Wayne County Red Cross chapter certified 4,981 people in CPR and other first aid skills during the past year.
Jimmy Frederick, a local resident trained by the county chapter of the American Red Cross, received the Presidential Certificate of Merit Lifesaving Award for saving a life -- and months later was saved from choking by co-workers who were also Red Cross trained. His workplace was one of 129 businesses that received the life-saving skills classes in 2010.
Preventing emergencies is also a key role of the Red Cross, and the county chapter taught 650 second and third graders water safety during the Red Cross Water Safety Awareness Week. The Red Cross also provided 4,634 people with HIV/AIDS awareness education.
Despite the official-sounding name, the American Red Cross is not a government agency, Waller pointed out. All assistance and programs provided by the agency are free to the public, and made possible through donors and volunteers.
"I tell people all the time, the American Red Cross is not the handful of staff that we have on hand. The American Red Cross in communities across this great land are people in the community ... who are rolling up their sleeves and donating blood, it's those volunteers that go out at 2 a.m. when somebody's home burns down, it's those people who write those checks who let us do what we do," Waller said. "We can't do it without people in the community rising to the occasion to help us."