Red Cross looks to revive presence in community

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   A few local citizens spent last week undergoing introductory training with the American Red Cross as the agency seeks to re-establish a presence in Carter County.
   "People learned what the role of the American Red Cross is in a disaster function," said Jane Harris, executive director of the Kingsport Area chapter of the American Red Cross. The Kingsport chapter assumed management duties of the Elizabethton office since mid-September.
   "A lot of people think we just feed people," she said. "We have a role in doing damage assessment, interviewing families, and the ancillary jobs of people running the computers and all the things that go on behind the scenes."
   Participants in last week's classes received training on the mission and work of the Red Cross with an emphasis on the agency's "sheltering and feeding" function during disasters and emergencies.
   Harris said six people attended the introductory class in disaster services earlier this week. The training simulated the agency's activity part for sheltering and feeding victims of disasters.
   The county's Red Cross board of directors and two-member staff resigned in early September shortly after the organization's Regional Volunteer Committee voted not to recharter the local chapter.
   The office remained closed until volunteers with the Kingsport Area chapter of the American Red Cross began providing services for the county.
   A sharply divided Elizabethton/Carter County United Way board of directors voted 8-7 to provide tentative funding support to the local Red Cross office through the first three months of 2003. Board members had questioned the reasons behind the chapter's loss of charter by the Red Cross.
   The funding comes with a contingency for additional funding based on how the chapter operates in the coming months, according to Brenda Wallace, president of the local United Way.
   "We were very pleased that they gave us that vote of confidence and were willing to put money into our efforts," said Harris. "It gives us a good base to begin from."
   Wallace said the funding amount was not designated by the board and would depend on fund-raising efforts of the United Way's 2002-2003 campaign.
   Harris also said the Kingsport chapter was preparing to hire a part-time office coordinator to recruit volunteers, develop community support and schedule classes.
   Elizabethton's Red Cross office remains open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., said Harris.
   "Some Kingsport volunteers and a couple of Carter County folks are becoming involved," she added. "Red Cross volunteers don't consider themselves bound by any geography."
   To become a Red Cross volunteer at the Carter County office, call 542-2833. .