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Red Cross moves its offices

February 08, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

After nearly 40 years at its small, historic South Prospect Street location in downtown Hagerstown, the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross has moved to a new, much larger building off Eastern Boulevard.

Julie Barr-Strasburg, the chapter's executive director, said the new center, off Eastern Boulevard behind Maaco Auto Painting and Bodyworks, is 13,265 square feet compared to its former location, which was a mere 2,400 square feet.

The new building, which Barr-Strasburg said cost a little more than $1.3 million to construct, has 1,700 square feet reserved solely for a blood center, which the Red Cross will help to run along with a Johnstown, Pa.-based blood services group.

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When the Red Cross moved into the more than 150-year-old building on Prospect Street in 1967, the chapter only had three people and "to them it was big," Barr-Strasburg said.

Now, the Red Cross chapter has eight people on staff and 780 active volunteers, more than double the amount of volunteers the chapter had in the 1960s when it was focused on providing aid to the Vietnam War, she said.

After looking for three years for a building that would accommodate the chapter's need for growth, Barr-Strasburg said a board member offered to sell the chapter a 5.4-acre lot in east Hagerstown for a discounted price of $150,000.

Barr-Strasburg said the chapter looked for another location in downtown Hagerstown, but they couldn't find a space large enough or with enough parking to fulfill its needs.

"It's a new beginning for the chapter in that the opportunities are endless here," she said.

Barr-Strasburg said the money to build the new center came from a variety of sources, including from the sale of the old building, bequeathed donations and contributions by state and county governments.

Businesses also gave the chapter breaks in prices on electrical and cooling work for the new building, she said.

Barr-Strasburg said the old house has been sold to a counseling services firm. The South Prospect Street building now is known as Prospect Cottage.

The move into the new building has not been easy, she said. This past week has seen a bombardment of snow, ice and disasters that couldn't be ignored during their move.

Many volunteers and a moving company have helped carry boxes and equipment between the locations during the "anxious time," Barr-Strasburg said.

The Red Cross used both of its buildings to assist about 20 people who were displaced because of a fire Thursday night at 201-203 Franklin St., said Rayetta Schindel, co-chair of the capital campaign committee for the chapter.

She said fire marshals came to the new building to meet with their emergency services director about the victims. They even helped move some desks.

Charles Newcomer, 74, one of about 25 Red Cross board members, was tearing apart cardboard boxes Saturday morning in a large room Barr-Strasburg said could be used as a disaster shelter or as a place for volunteers to meet.

"I love it. I've been dreaming of this for a long time," Newcomer said. "We have not had the room to grow properly for the past 10 years."

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