Live chat with Red Cross Executive Director Julie Barr-Strasburg - transcript

November 08, 2005
(Page 2 of 2)

Barr-Strasburg: The local chapter currently needs volunteers to work at our bloodmobiles as greeters, canteen workers and receptionists. We also are recruiting local disaster action team (DAT) members to report to local single-family fires. One area that we also need help with is instructors to teach babysitting courses and volunteers to serve at the VA Medical Center in Martinsburg. Thank you so much for asking about volunteer opportunities.

Moderator: How many local volunteers have been trained and have traveled to the flood-damaged areas of the Gulf Coast and what does the training involve in terms of time and skills learned?

Barr-Strasburg: The Washington County chapter trained 40 local volunteers in mass care, feeding and emergency relief vehicle operation. At the onset of the disaster volunteers were needed to do mass feeding and sheltering. As the operation progressed the Red Cross recruited mental health professionals, supervisors, managers and emergency relief vehicle drivers. To date we have deployed three volunteers and approximatley 22 trained volunteers are on standby for placement in areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.


Moderator: Has the local Red Cross helped to relocate any hurricane survivors to Washington County, and if so, do these people have needs that local citizens can help with?

Barr-Strasburg: Our local chapter has assisted 13 families who were victims of Hurricane Katrina. Two of those families have made plans to relocate to Washington County, primarily because they have family in this area. I am still in awe of the generosity of the citizens of Washington County. The Red Cross received at least 46 offers from local families who were willing open their homes as temporary shelters for displaced hurricane victims. We also received numerous calls from businesses and individuals who had job opportunities, vehicles, trailers, machinery to be used for recovery efforts. Many faith-based groups were prepared to (adopt a family), provide housing, furniture, jobs, whatever it took to get people back on their feet. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty impressed with the outpouring of kindness from our community.

Moderator: In 2004, The American Red Cross of Washington County was able to move out of its long-time quarters on Hagerstown's South Prospect Street to a new building on Eastern Boulevard? How has that changed what the agency does?

Barr-Strasburg: Absolutely. We now have workspace for our volunteers, ample classroom space to teach our CPR, First Aid and disaster courses. We have room large enough for an emergency shelter and we can hold a bloodmobile and conduct a large gathering of over 120 people. During operation Hurricane Katrina the staff and volunteers were grateful for the state-of-the-art phone system, computer system and work space to interview disaster victims, hold meetings, organize disaster supplies and educational materials. On more than one occasion I could hear someone say how fortunate we were in Washington County to have such a wonderful Red Cross headquarters to provide emergency services to our community.

Moderator: Is there any new activity the Red Cross has taken on that would surprise those who have been familiar with the agency over the years?

Barr-Strasburg: The Red Cross must provide disaster relief and services to our nation's armed forces and their families to be a chartered chapter. I believe a program that is vital to our community and is fairly unknown is our transportation program for our local veterans. Red Cross volunteer drivers transport veterans to the VA Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Last year we transported over 900 veterans to medical appointments. The United Way supports this program and I feel it is a much needed service for our veteran population.

Moderator: If there were one fact you could get across to the public about your agency and what it does ?or doesn't do ? what would it be?

Barr-Strasburg: The American Red Cross is not a government agency. We are a nonprofit, humanitarian organization led by volunteers and paid staff that provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

Moderator: In September of this year, The Greater Alleghenies Region of American Red Cross Blood Services announced it would donate $1 to the national Disaster Relief Fund on behalf of every presenting blood donor. Is that a sign that blood is in short supply, either for regional needs or for the Gulf Coast area?

Barr-Strasburg: I believe this unique program after Hurricane Katrina was an effort to remind area residents that blood donations are always needed and it is an important part of preparedness for individuals to make blood donation a regular part of their life. Thankfully our Red Cross blood region is part of a national blood supply network and we want to be prepared to help if called upon anywhere in the country. Our blood supply continues to be at a one day supply. We need blood every day not only when there is a large disaster. Our family, friends, neighbors, rely on the blood supply when they have scheduled surgeries or when there is an emergency. This is a great opportunity to remind our community that if you are eligible to give blood please do so by calling 1-800-54-BLOOD and schedule an appointment.

Barr-Strasburg: Thank you for your support and for participating in this live chat today. If you have any further questions you can reach me at 301-739-0717, ext. 208.

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