United Way Focus: Red Cross aims to ease loss in times of disaster

Its volunteers are known around the state, nation and world for the help they provide in the aftermath of disasters great and small and for the training they provide to help people be ready in an emergency situations.

The work of the American Red Cross is almost non-stop year-round, and the leaders of the North Mississippi Chapter know this firsthand.

“Red Cross will be there in a disaster. This means the most locally when we help that family who has lost everything in a house fire. A house fire is a disaster for that family,” said Patty Tucker, executive director of the Northeast Mississippi Chapter.

“A fire doesn’t get the publicity that a tornado might get. Because of the United Way dollars we receive, we are able to help that family with immediate needs. Having somewhere to stay is an immediate need,” Tucker said.

Headquartered in Tupelo with satellite offices in Starkville, Columbus and New Albany, the Red Cross’ Northeast Mississippi Chapter serves a 16-county area, including Oktibbeha and Webster counties. In addition to its well-known disaster relief efforts, the Red Cross provides training programs in CPR, First Aid, water safety, lifeguarding, disaster relief and HIV/AIDS education and offers 24-hour communication between military personnel and their families.

In the last year alone, the Red Cross provided the following services in Oktibbeha and Webster counties:

  • Disaster assistance for 26 families.

  • First Aid and CPR training for 9 people.

  • Four disaster response training classes for 29 people.

  • Military family assistance for 37 families.

  • Nine disaster education programs for a total of 802 people.

The Red Cross is always seeking new volunteers to support its work, and getting involved is as simple as visiting the organization’s national and state websites.

“We have a new program for our volunteers called Volunteer Connection, where volunteers can go online to Redcross.org or Mississippi-Redcross.org to sign up as a volunteer and take basic training courses online,” Tucker said. “They can do that even before they come into the office. As soon as they sign up, we make that connection with them and walk them through the steps of training. It is a wonderful program and a way to gain more volunteers.”

The Red Cross relies heavily on donated money to support its programs, including funds from the United Way of North Central Mississippi, Tucker said. The United Way is currently conducting its annual fundraising campaign to raise money for the Red Cross and 14 other charitable agencies.

“Because of the funds received from the United Way of North Central Mississippi, the American Red Cross of North Mississippi is better able to serve the families in Starkville and Oktibbeha County that have been affected by house fires,” Tucker said. “Because of the United Way, the Red Cross can provide families with assistance to meet their immediate disaster-related needs.”

In addition to funding for disaster relief and education efforts, Red Cross volunteers also welcome donations for comfort kits that are given to each member of a family affected by disaster. The comfort kits include a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, combs, razors, deodorant and other basic hygiene items.

“A lot of churches and clubs make up comfort kits. We have the items. We need people to help us sort them and then prepare the kits,” Tucker said.

For more information about the American Red Cross of North Mississippi, call the Tupelo office at (662) 842-6101 or the Starkville office at (662) 323-4621. The Starkville office is located at 106 Miley Road in the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District building.

To make an investment in the United Way of North Central Mississippi and support agencies like the Red Cross, contact the office at (662) 323-3830.

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