Red Cross hemorrhaging

Published 2:57 am Wednesday, February 11, 2009

By Staff
Donations lagging at local Pamlico chapter
Managing Editor
Beaufort and surrounding counties are bleeding, and the Red Cross is quickly running out of tourniquets.
Pummeled by a disastrous economy and fewer donations, the Greater Pamlico Area Chapter of the disaster-relief organization has about 25 percent less money than it did at this time last year, said chapter Treasurer James Johnston. The last quarter of 2008 was particularly gruesome: Donations were down 40 percent, Johnston added.
For new Executive Director Lorrie Beach, who came aboard in early December, the funding crisis is playing havoc with her near-term planning. Beach, 51, said the chapter has enough money to operate for about the next three months — barring a catastrophe.
The recession has exacerbated the local chapter’s money woes in another way, too: In June, the Beaufort County office assumed Red Cross service for Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties. According to Beach, the three counties had Red Cross facilities at one time, but funding issues doomed them.
Beach estimated that about a quarter of the winter’s fire victims have been from outside Beaufort County.
Red Cross volunteers also help coordinate blood drives by registering donors and providing snacks.
Though the Red Cross is among the more venerable of the nation’s social-service agencies — Clara Barton and a circle of acquaintances founded the organization on May 21, 1881 — it is only one of many such agencies coping with sagging donations and funding.
During years without catastrophes such as hurricanes, the Greater Pamlico chapter needs about $6,000 a month to meet operating expenses, Johnston said.
Major disasters eat up the money much faster.
But even day-to-day circumstances can drain Red Cross resources, as evidenced by the proliferation of house fires that occur when the temperature dips. Families needing shelter after tragedies are offered assistance based on a scale that considers such factors as the number of people in the house, their ages and the season.
A family of three, for instance — father, mother, child — might typically receive food, clothing and shelter at a hotel for three nights at a cost of $1,075, Beach said. The money is funded through United Way and donations from individuals and businesses.
Though the situation is dire, Beach — the local chapter’s only paid employee — and her cadre of about 50 volunteers aren’t sitting around twiddling their thumbs. The director wants to raise $69,000 in fiscal year 2009, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2010.
That’s $1 for every person in the four covered counties, Johnston said.
In addition to individual donations, Beach and her volunteers will rely on money derived from a variety of classes at the Washington Red Cross site. The offerings — taught by certified instructors, Beach said — include CPR, first aid and a class on defibrilators.
The chapter also is preparing for its annual fundraiser in April and awaiting to find out how much money it will receive from the United Way for the next fiscal year.
But in the meantime, Beach is on pins and needles. If donations don’t improve in the next three months …
Cutline for corresponding photo: Dolly and Oliver Bunn’s home on New Road in Beaufort County sustained significant damage on Jan. 27 when fire engulfed the house’s living room, den and roof. The Greater Pamlico Area Chapter of the American Red Cross put the couple up in a motel for three days following the fire. (WDN Photo/Paul Dunn)