Typically the American Red Cross has its busy times, but this past year, there just weren’t too many quiet ones.
The American Red Cross Chapter serving Winona, Wabasha, and Goodhue counties has had to reach deep and reach out to make sure clients of all ages, locations, and needs were supported during some very tough times.
Marie Barrientos, Executive Director of the local chapter said, “We rely on our volunteers, donors, and partners to walk alongside us in our mission as we serve the emergency needs of our community. We truly are neighbors helping neighbors, and 2012 was a perfect example.”
In 2012, the local chapter’s disaster program responded to 33 fires (17 Goodhue, 14 Winona, 2 Wabasha) assisting a total of 117 clients. Services vary depending on specific needs but mainly include: shelter, food, clothing, seasonal gear, and eyeglass/medication replacement. Along with that they set up multiple canteens to support emergency responders at the scene of disasters, including a nine day canteen at the river when a search began for a missing boater who had drowned. Disaster numbers are not the only numbers that are climbing, the amount of Service to the Armed Forces emergency communication cases in the area have also increased as more local families know they can turn to Red Cross for help when time is of the essence and they have stationed and deployed loved ones they need to contact.
Recently the chapter turned their attention to neighbors in need by deploying 10 local volunteers to the east coast to assist in feeding, sheltering, mental health, nursing, logistics, and client casework for those devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Each trained in their field and ready to serve, they have come back with humbling stories of loss, triumph, frustration, and gratefulness. “We were sitting around the table listening to the stories and I was just amazed at what they go through to help others. One of our new volunteers came back and told me he would be honored to go again. I am just humbled by the compassion I get to work with,” said Dianne Thompson, Emergency Services Coordinator. Deployments have ranged from 2 to 6 weeks and have been in New York or New Jersey. Currently the chapter has one volunteer stationed in New York in public relations and another volunteer is set to deploy for his second trip and will be assisting in long-term recovery planning.
“Regardless of size, disasters are devastating to all involved. We are committed and dedicated to working with affected families not only to get them through the first few days, but help them make a plan. Disasters don’t have timelines, don’t have maps, and can’t be predicted. We depend on the generosity of local community members to carry out our mission and thank them for their continued support. Every dollar makes a difference when you are standing with a client who has lost everything” said Barrientos.
The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster. Those who want to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and wildfires, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Contributions may also be sent to the local American Red Cross at 1660 Kraemer Drive, Winona, MN 55987 or call 507-452-4258.