The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

January 1, 2012


In disasters large and small, the American Red Cross is there

In most terrifying disasters and accidents in the United States and the world, victims will see the white flag emblazoned with a red cross flying high, signifying the presence of the American Red Cross, providing a hot meal, shelter and medical assistance to those who need it most.

Roseann Berry, director of the Fayette-Nicholas Chapter of the American Red Cross, said her chapter does a lot of work after single family house fires, which are much more frequent during the winter months.

“During the holidays it seems we have more fires and it is even sadder to think about. A lot of times, families lose Christmas toys for their family in addition to everything else,” she said.

Each year, the chapter assists about 30 families who are displaced by house fires within their 57,000 population service area, Berry said.

“When anything like this happens, the family is in shock. Sometimes they just need a place to try to talk and figure things out. We always provide three days in a hotel and talk to them to try to help them get back on their feet by figuring out what their needs are,” she said.

In addition, the Red Cross provides food and clothing vouchers to families who have had house fires.

Berry said the Red Cross also works to encourage preparedness for larger disasters.

“We educate the public on disaster preparedness, what they need in their homes to be prepared for a flood or an earthquake. Even small things like having fresh batteries or how much extra water to have on hand is important in a disaster,” she explained.

In West Virginia in the winter, the Red Cross encourages people to be prepared with extra water and heating sources in the event of extreme winter weather that may cause electricity to go out, she added.

In case of a larger disaster, she continued, the Lewis Community Foundation Christian Community Center is a designated shelter. With a disaster trailer behind the facility, cots, cleanup kits, and comfort kits are always prepared and close at hand.

In addition to disaster preparedness, the American Red Cross offers training and classes in CPR and First Aid.

“I think one of the best programs we have is our Health and Safety Program and it is much easier to sign up than before. You can register online and find all of the classes in your area and register and pay online. It is a wonderful program,” she said.

Those who sign up to take the class have access online to their training materials free and can study ahead.

Berry added that has an online gift catalog and she hopes people consider giving gifts of apparel that support the American Red Cross.

In addition, First Aid kids, preparedness packs, weather radios and an assortment of gifts are available online.

“If people want to help the community by helping the Red Cross, they can always give a monetary donation or donate their time. Volunteers are always needed, people committed to training in and responding with disaster services,” she said.

“We are always out in the community doing presentations on disaster preparedness and all the services of the Red Cross.”

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