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Red Cross focusing on local programs

March 18, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

In a nation still struggling in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the American Red Cross of Washington County is trying to refocus its efforts again toward local needs and programs.

"We slowed our capital campaign six months ago, putting it on hold until the first of this year - now we need a shot in the arm," said Julie Barr-Strasburg, executive director of the agency located at 113 S. Prospect St.

So far, the capital campaign fund stands at about $1.2 million of the $2 million goal. At stake is a new 13,000- square-foot building planned for a 5.4-acre site on Conrad Court off Eastern Boulevard near Community Rescue Service headquarters.

"There has been a re-evaluation of the building plans ... there are no frills," Barr-Strasburg said. But there is still a lot more space than the current site - a plus for the public.

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The local chapter long ago outgrew the 2,400-square-foot building it has occupied since 1967, she said.

Lately there has been a surge of offers of in-kind donations, where businesses have been volunteering to do landscaping, grading, etc. at no cost to the agency. More of those would be welcome, Barr-Strasburg said.

March is Red Cross Month and has been since the 1940s, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president of the United States.

"We do our job and we do it quietly," said Cindy Blackstock Kline, director of emergency services at the Red Cross.

Kline said the local Red Cross chapter, like most other agencies nationwide, focused on the national tragedy six months ago, putting other efforts on hold. But people still have fires and patients still need blood, Kline said.

"In FY 2001, we assisted 58 families in the area of disaster relief," Kline said. In the past six months, only nine families have needed aid.

During the last fiscal year, the local Red Cross chapter conducted 208 blood drives, scattered all around the region in schools, churches, businesses, etc.

"Once we get into our new building, there will be more consistency and greater efficiency in collecting blood," Kline said. "And it will be so much more convenient for donors."

Another plus will be the large classrooms for those citizens who take Red Cross certification courses for lifesaving techniques. "In FY 2001, more than 7,000 people were involved in those programs," Kline said.

Currently those classes are either held in workplaces or other locations with more space. At the Prospect Street site, classes are limited to 10 because of space restrictions.

The capital campaign wraps up in May and hopefully, ground will be broken and the building will be under roof by next year.

"We're there when you need us," Kline said. "Now the Red Cross needs you."

For more information, call 301-739-0717.

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