Long known for teaching swimming, collecting blood and aiding disaster victims, the American Red Cross chapter in Hagerstown does all these things - and does it in more than two dozen languages if needed.
This international flavor didn't happen by accident. Much effort has gone into recruiting area residents who have language fluencies that can be called into service in emergencies, officials said.
"I've been involved for three or four years," said volunteer Agnes Supernavage. The Red Cross language bank has been active here for at least 15 years, she said.
"I'm involved because I know Spanish and Russian," said Hagerstown attorney Scott Schubel, another volunteer.
He said he learned Spanish in school and picked up Russian by reading and studying on his own.
A native of Belgium, Supernavage said she has been called on to use her French, including one time when the person for whom a translator was needed was Haitian.