YOUR Red Cross

Story by Susan Todd Krafft

The Northwest Arkansas Chapter — are you wondering why this article is in the About River Valley Magazine? No, it’s not a typo; we are truly YOUR Red Cross! Despite what we all think of when we picture Northwest Arkansas, the River Valley area is also included in the 19-county jurisdiction of the NWA Chapter.

We cover 19 counties in the top left corner of Arkansas, with the inclusion of one county in Oklahoma. The Russellville office is one of three offices that serve the chapter. We also have an office in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and another in Tontitown (Washington County).

When you think of the American Red Cross, most people think of two things: blood and disasters. Sounds like we could have our own Twilight book series! The Red Cross provides more than half of the nation’s blood supply and many of us had our very first interaction with the Red Cross at a blood drive in our school or church. Huge, devastating disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding are the stories you see on the evening news.

However, your chapter does so much more! We teach lifesaving skills to literally thousands of people each year through our Health & Safety programs. Classes are available in Infant, Child, and Adult CPR and First Aid. We can also teach you how to perform First Aid on your beloved pet dog or cat! Teenagers can learn skills in child- care through our Babysitter Training and we send campers safely on their way after attending our Wilderness Training course.

We have implemented a Youth Program and proudly taught hundreds of elementary, middle, and high school students about the mission of the Red Cross. Our younger children have met “Scrubby Bear” who teaches them how to properly wash their hands and reduce the spread of germs. Middle school students have participated in “Masters of Disaster,” learning about severe weather and ways to be prepared. High School students were able to gain life- saving skills through “CPR Made Simple” classes provided by a generous grant from Medtronics.

Service to Armed Forces is still a critical part of our mission; our local chapter facilitates financial assistance to military families and provides emergency communications to service men and women all over the world. Locally we also strive to provide a shoulder to lean on for our military families, especially those with loved ones deployed overseas. Although a somber activity, we are proud to provide support to families and the Patriot Guard during military funeral services as well.

And back to disasters: house fires. Your local Red Cross responded to over 300 house fires in our entire chapter, helping over 1,000 family members. In Pope, Yell, and Johnson counties, we provided assistance to 52 families in the past year that experienced a disaster. What are we doing at house fires? We are providing immediate, emergency needs to families who have nothing but the clothes on their back. Also provided are financial assistance to purchase clothing, shoes, groceries, formula/diapers, and vital medications. A couple of nights in a hotel means that family has a roof over their head and warm bed to sleep in until more permanent housing can be found. Our Disaster Action Team members provide this service 24/7.

And your Red Cross is also prepared for the big disasters, too. Thanks to a capacity-building grant from Wal-Mart, we have six 14-foot trailers fully loaded with the supplies we need to open a shelter. Entergy provided funding for us to purchase a new Chevy Silverado to pull our new trailer – the couldn’t be more grateful for these gifts, knowing they will help us fulfill our mission to serve those in need.

You might think that because the American Red Cross has a Congressional Charter that we are a branch of the government and receive government funding to do our work. This is a false assumption that we encounter quite often.

All of the funding we receive to serve our families comes from wonderful donors, contributors, and sponsors. We are also able to generate revenue from the course fees associated with our Health & Safety courses mentioned earlier. So quite literally, we rely on the generosity of the American people to complete our mission.

How can you help? What can you do to be involved in this undertaking? There are countless of ways to be a part of the American Red Cross! We hope to start doing more activities, events, and programs in the River Valley and we’ll need the support of the community to make it happen.

Learn more about your local chapter by logging on to www.redcrossnwa.org. Call our office and visit with Audrey Cottingham (479) 968-3498) about how you can be part of the Red Cross family right here in the River Valley!

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