Red Cross month honors volunteers

Published 5:34 am Wednesday, March 16, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared March as Red Cross month.
Since then, every president has proclaimed March to be national Red Cross Month.
According to the Red Cross national website, Clara Barton founded the Red Cross in 1881.
Back then the Red Cross was totally funded by individuals who wished to contribute money whenever a catastrophe occurred. According to the site, "news of an event broke, the American Red Cross rushed to the scene with help, and people around the country came forth with outpourings of volunteer assistance and donations of funds and supplies."
In between disasters the Red Cross was often left with little or no funding.
In 1917, when World War I broke the government ordered the Red Cross to raise funds to help support its aid to the military. Since then, the Red Cross has been actively seeking donations and supplies rather than waiting for these things to arrive.
Since Hurricane Ivan, the West Escambia Red Cross has been seeking donations to help alleviate some of the losses from the storm.
"We really want people to be aware that we are in need of funds in Escambia County," Charolette Boyle, chairman of the West Escambia Red Cross, said. "West Escambia Red Cross is the service delivery unit for the main chapter in Mobile. We would like people to be aware that even though we have organizations that we are in need of contributions."
Though the homes of several of the Red Cross volunteers were damaged, as was their office, they set up a shelter during the storm and stayed 24 hours a day for a week to assist other victims of the storm.
"We opened a shelter for the people at the high school and we stayed there a week with it," Boyle said. "We stayed there around the clock at the high school. We kept the shelter open as long as people needed it to stay there. There were 300 people and the lunchroom prepared food for the people. The lunchroom ladies used the lunchroom food to prepare meals for these people and our Red Cross reimbursed them."
The Red Cross also supplied cots to sleep on as well as snacks and drinks provided by Pepsi-Cola.
"Red Cross paid for the food and ordered the food," Boyle said. "That's why a town like this needs the Red Cross."
Boyle said it was also the West Escambia Red Cross that ordered assistance from the national chapter of the Red Cross.
"The whole town was ignored for a while because they thought the worst damage was at the coast," Boyle said. "Our mayor and our congressmen got involved and we got the publicity we needed to get help. We had 35 or more representatives from the national Red Cross who came in to interview people for their immediate needs; food clothing and medicine. Then they brought in things like diapers, formula, food, cleaning supplies, water and ice."
The storm has put a serious strain on the Red Cross financially as well as facility-wise.
"We carry on the same as we always have; helping the needy with emergencies and other crises that may arise, but we also office and distribute funds from project share, which helps people over 62 and those that are disabled," Boyle said. "We're still operating as usual although we're at a handicap. We are so appreciative of the Atmore Advance for the use of their building, but we are looking forward to getting back to our building."
The Red Cross also needs donations for the unusual number of house fires that have occurred since the hurricane and the large number of people that still need some form of storm assistance.
"We have had an excessive number of fire-related disasters since the hurricane and the Red Cross helps them," Boyle said. "We're always on call to help the needy."
Though March is the month for recognizing the Red Cross and its efforts, Boyle would like to recognize a few of the people that have helped the Red Cross in the past year.
"We are really thankful for the schools that have made contributions for the Red Cross," Boyle said. "Most of those funds went to the tsunami and were not kept here though.
We really appreciate the First National Bank for their latest contribution from their chili cook-off. We do appreciate the organizations that have contributed and especially the United Fund for always including us in its budget."

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