Red Cross reaches out|Area chapter seeking funds and volunteers

Published 7:33 pm Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Daily News Correspondent

Local volunteers with the Greater Pamlico Area chapter of the American Red Cross are working to expand the organization’s reach and raise funds for disaster relief.
From 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Oct. 5, chapter volunteers will wait and bus tables in a section of Golden Corral on Carolina Avenue in Washington, said Lorrie Beach, executive director of the chapter.
Tips for the volunteers’ labors will translate into additional dollars for local disaster relief, Beach said.
“A dollar makes a difference,” she said.
From 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. Oct. 10, the chapter will hold a benefit yard sale at the former Pecheles car dealership next to Verizon Wireless on West 15th Street in Washington.
In addition, the chapter is selling popcorn at every Music in the Streets festival in Washington, selling cookbooks and hosting a Spring Fling dance each spring — all to keep local operations afloat.
“We get no money from national headquarters at all,” said volunteer Sandy Fenn, a Washington resident.
“We raise every dime of our budget,” added Fenn, who offers her time along with her husband, Tom.
Beach and others are also trying to raise awareness of the services that the Red Cross offers.
“We’re way more than just blood,” Beach said, later adding: “I don’t care who you are, the Red Cross has touched your life in some way, whether you know it or not.”
Beach emphasized that, beyond blood drives, the Red Cross provides CPR training and disaster response that can be as varied as helping hurricane victims find lodging or providing food and drink to firefighters combating a wildfire.
“If somebody’s house burns down, we get a call in the middle of the night,” she said, “and if we get a call, we take care of that family.”
Beach noted that the chapter has undergone a number of changes during the past several years. No longer responsible for just Beaufort County, the chapter now covers Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties as well.
This change in coverage area occurred more than a year and three months ago, she said.
The change was necessary because neighboring counties lost their Red Cross chapters from lack of support, Beach said.
Yet, the director noted that she is starting to see some returns on the meetings she attends in these counties, as more people sign up to become volunteers.
On Tuesday night, volunteers were scheduled to conclude a training session, at the end of which the chapter would have eight disaster-response teams on call on a rotation basis, said volunteer Johnie Williams of Bath.
Williams started as a disaster-response volunteer after Hurricane Katrina hammered the Gulf Coast.
“To me, it was life-changing, and I got hooked on disaster volunteering,” she said.
According to Williams, the Red Cross still needs more volunteers, but money is the most essential factor in the equation.
“Like every other nonprofit, a lot of our time we have to spend fundraising because we have to raise all of our money for local disasters,” she said.