Editor's note:This is the ninth in a series of stories featuring the 21 agencies that will receive funding from the Finney County United Way in 2013.



Local American Red Cross volunteer Anna Velev has seen firsthand what the organization does during the most horrific natural disasters.

"And the community is so grateful. We're kind of invisible otherwise," she said about the agency's ability to answer the call.

Through her 15 years of volunteer experience, Velev has responded to such disasters as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Greensburg tornado in 2007.

"I've been involved nationally in hurricanes, forest fires, tornadoes and other disasters," she said.

She and a volunteer partner were among the first volunteers to respond to Hurricane Katrina. She was there almost 21 days.

"And down south, the people were so grateful," she said.

Velev spent a week in Greensburg, and it happened to be the week leading up to her daughter's wedding.

She went to Greensburg and set up a shelter for the victims of the tornado.

"I did go ahead and work because it just took everybody then," she said.

Her latest volunteer assignment was to help with the aftermath of a home fire in Garden City.

"We called the people and asked if they had insurance and a place to stay," she said.

Velev said her service has been rewarding.

"I love helping people. And being able to be there when needed. You get the feeling that you're making a difference and helping other people. I've gotten to do just a little of everything," she said.

Velev encourages others to get involved and become volunteers.

"It's just very rewarding to know that you're needed," she said.

Part of the way volunteers receive training is through the funds the United Way gives to the organization.

The Red Cross is asking for $30,000 from United Way for 2013, according to Carolyn Henry, Red Cross executive director.

The past few years, the organization has received $28,000.

Henry said the reason the local chapter has asked for more funds is because it continues to serve more people. It's also more difficult to get funds, she said.

The local chapter now serves 33 counties. In the past year, it has served more than 6,000 people in Finney County.

The majority of Red Cross' funding comes from grants, mainly from donors. The organization receives no federal funding, although it is mandated by the federal government to respond to natural and aviation disasters.

The money from the United Way will go to help training volunteers and purchasing materials for training programs.

Henry said the blood service program is another aspect of the organization.

"Without the gift of life, many of us would be in trouble," she said.

Henry said the volunteers are what make the organization so successful, and it can always use more.

Only 5 percent of all of Red Cross workers are paid. There are 201 registered volunteers in the local chapter and only two paid employees.

"The volunteers are the heart of our organization. We can't do it without them," she said.

The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $550,000 for 2013, the same as it has been for the last few years.

The 21 partner agencies for the 2013 campaign also are the same as this year.

They include: Miles of Smiles; Russell Child Development Center; Finney County RSVP; Kansas Children's Service League; Catholic Social Service; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Program; Smart Start; Playground Program; Family Crisis Services; Spirit of the Plains, CASA; The Salvation Army; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; Garden City Family YMCA; Garden City Chapter of the Red Cross; Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Community Day Care Center; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; and Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.

For more information on the American Red Cross, visit www.gardencityredcross.org, or call 276-2762. The office is located at 210 Fulton Terrace, Garden City.