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Local Red Cross offers variety of assistance, disaster or not

Published 9/14/2013 in Local News : United Way

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.

BY ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

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Becky Malewitz/TelegramBob and Doris Lewis inspect a Red Cross disaster relief vehicle to prepare for its deployment to Oklahoma in May.

Becky Malewitz/TelegramBob and Doris Lewis inspect a Red Cross disaster relief vehicle to prepare for its deployment to Oklahoma in May.

The Red Cross is best known for providing food, shelter and clothing to people who have been displaced from their homes by natural disasters, but the organization does a great deal more than that.

Susan Escareno, executive director of the Finney County United Way, which is providing $28,000 to the local Red Cross chapter in 2014, said disaster relief is usually the first thing that comes to mind, when one thinks of the Red Cross.

"They also do CPR trainings and blood drives. We often think of Red Cross as responding to disasters and forget about those other things they do," Escareno said.

Carolyn Henry, executive director of the Western Kansas Chapter of the American Red Cross, said that through the Red Cross's blood service program, the chapter supports awareness, recruits volunteers and encourages people to donate blood.

Escareno said that the Red Cross's distaster response services are critical to aiding people displaced by fires or storms.

"They provide shelter for those families, gather up clothing for them and that kind of thing. Without the Red Cross, it would be even tougher on those families," she said.

Henry said that aside from providing food, shelter and clothing for displaced families, the Red Cross also provides mental and emotional support.

"The mental help aspect is very, very important because everybody's shook up and they need someone saying, 'It's okay. We're going to help you get started again,'" Henry said

She said that the local chapter, which is comprised of about 200 volunteers, has responded to several local house fires this year.

"We went to fires all over western Kansas — grass fires, hay fires. When they had that hay fire in Moscow, we were there two days and set up shelter," Henry said.

Volunteers from the local Red Cross chapter also assist nationally. This year, local volunteers traveled to Moore, Okla., to assist those those displaced by the F5 tornado that devastated the area in May, and traveled to New Jersey to assist residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy in October. More recently, according to a post on Western Kansas American Red Cross's Facebook page Friday, four volunteers are taking the chapter's emergency response vehicles (ERVs) to assist those affected by the flooding in Colorado.

After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Henry said the Red Cross actually assisted incoming passengers and flight crews at the Garden City Regional Airport, as commercial jets were diverted there after the Federal Aviation Administration directed all aircraft to land at the closest accommodating airports.

Henry said the money that the Red Cross receives from the United Way is used to train volunteers, purchase materials and continue its blood services program.

"We don't receive government funding and because of that, we rely on the public. By getting $28,000 from the United Way, we know we get that much money each year to continue operations," Henry said.

The organization's other sources of funding come from grants and donors.

The local Red Cross chapter, headquartered in Garden City, serves 33 counties in western Kansas.

The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $560,000 for 2014, $10,000 more than it has been in previous years, as four other partner agencies have been added to the roster.

The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 campaign include:

Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council — Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains — CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital — Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission — Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels.

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