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Red Cross honors its 'Heroes'

September 06, 2006|by JANET HEIM

There are many unsung heroes in Washington County, but on Thursday, Aug. 31, The American Red Cross, Washington County Chapter, made sure some of their heroes were recognized.

At the "Heroes for the American Red Cross" Celebration Lunch, businesses and individuals were honored for their participation in the chapter's first "Heroes" campaign. The food for the recognition lunch at the Red Cross office on Conrad Court was provided by Always Ron's Catering.

Maria Johns, who was recently hired as the Financial Development Director for the Washington County chapter, borrowed the idea from the national office of the Red Cross. Robert Rankin served as campaign chairman.

It is a grassroots campaign in which local business people, school groups, church groups, civic clubs and individuals pledge to raise $1,000 each, through any legal means they choose, for the local Red Cross chapter.

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The funds raised through this year's "Heroes" campaign will be used to support Red Cross services, such as disaster relief, assistance for fire victims, emergency military communications, first aid and CPR training, disaster preparedness information for the community and collecting blood products for area hospitals. All money raised will stay in Washington County to support local families and individuals.

"Heroes" were invited to a kickoff breakfast on Aug. 7. Other businesses and individuals provided sponsorships, so that there were no overhead costs for the campaign.

Each business or individual had different methods for raising the money, Johns said. The Hagerstown Speedway held 50/50s, while Family Recreation Park is donating a percentage of the proceeds of the grand opening of paintball at the park.

Karen and Wells Ridenour donated stock for the campaign. Citigroup sold coupons to employees for $10 to dress down for a week and sold tickets for raffles for a day off of work. They also collected donations from employees.

"The success of this year's "Heroes" campaign is a testament to the hard work of our heroes and the generosity of our community. The money raised will go a long way to helping families in Washington County prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies," Rankin said. "All of our gracious donors truly have made a difference in the lives of their neighbors."

At the end of the campaign more than $27,700 had been raised. Julie Barr-Strasburg, director for the Washington County Red Cross chapter, said this effort was a "huge victory."

Barr-Strasburg said it costs about $1,000 to help a family after a fire. The cost of running the van that takes veterans to the Veterans' Administration Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., three times a week is escalating as gas prices have increased, she said.

Dependent on volunteers and supported by community donations, the American Red Cross, Washington County Chapter, is assisted by more than 850 volunteers and nine employees dedicated to saving lives and helping people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

In fiscal year 2006, the Washington County Red Cross mobilized relief to families affected by more than 31 disasters, trained 10,255 people in lifesaving skills and exchanged more than 90 emergency messages for U.S. military service personnel and their families.

Three hundred fifty blood drives were held in the county last year and brought in 9,000 units of blood. The Red Cross is the largest supplier of blood and blood products for Washington County Hospital and also assists victims of international disasters and conflicts at locations worldwide.

"Our next Heroes campaign will be in May of 2007, and we plan on involving our schools to give our youth an opportunity to participate in this fun campaign. I can't wait to see what creative means they develop to achieve their goal." said Johns. "I am very grateful for the support our community has given us for this, our First Heroes for the American Red Cross campaign, and I trust we can count on their support next year."

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