When there’s a disaster, the American Red Cross will be there.
United Way funds two programs at the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross — disaster services and services to Armed Forces.
Disaster services mostly focuses on single family fires under United Way funding, said Kimberly Berrier, business operations manager for Eastern North Carolina American Red Cross. With anything else, it is on a case by case basis.
“We send a report every quarter to United Way that shows how much we have spent on financial assistance,” Berrier said. “Financial assistance is the biggest thing for people who have lost everything and need help getting back into a home.
“Financial assistance helps with first and last month’s rent, getting utilities turned on, additional food that you might need if you couldn’t bring what you had with you, clothing — basically the necessities to start over, especially if you’ve lost everything in a fire. And it will help with a hotel room if you need one for a couple of nights.”
If United Way did not help fund this program, the Red Cross would have to do additional fundraising to operate it.
“It’s our mission,” Berrier said. “We’re going to extend financial services to a family one way or the other. We’d have to adjust our fundraising in order to compensate for that.”
Another part of disaster services is helping the community prepare for a disaster.
“We want to make sure people are prepared,” Berrier said.
Prepration for a fire includes the Red Cross’ free smoke alarm program. Volunteers will go into homes and install smoke alarms for free for anyone who contacts the Red Cross.
“But installing an alarm is only one step,” Berrier said. “We’ve got to make sure people understand what their evacuation route is and where they’re all going to meet when they finally make it out of their house.
“And people who have experienced fires in their home have said they didn’t realize they had only 2 minutes to get out. A lot of times you don’t have time to grab your important papers, your glasses, your medications. You have to pick and choose what you’re going to take out with you. A lot of times, you don’t get to take anything out. You just have to get out.”
And if a storm is coming, part of the prep work is making a disaster kit. The Red Cross can provide a list of items that should be in that kit.
United Way also funds the services to Armed Forces program for retired veterans and active duty military.
“A lot of times our younger servicemen find themselves moving from base to base before their financial assistance is able to catch up with that move,” Berrier said.
“So we can help with getting utilities turned on, first and last month’s rent, medical expenses that maybe their insurance doesn’t cover. There’s a lot of things we do.”
If the United Way funding was not available for this program, the Red Cross would have to do additional fundraising.
“The program is desperately needed here, being a military town,” Berrier said. “We’re going to provide that service one way or the other.”
The American Red Cross has operated in Wayne County for 101 years.