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On Christmas Day, one Carroll County family lost everything they had, including their children's presents, when their house caught fire.
The Woods River Chapter of American Red Cross found them a place to stay and helped with their emergency needs.
“That lady comes by the office regularly just to say thanks and helps us [by giving to fundraisers] to make our money,” said Joan Isom, Galax chapter director. “We live in a community that is very appreciative of what we do. And I have that to look forward to every day.”
The volunteer humanization organization assists locally and nationally with disaster relief, such as Hurricane Katrina; provides health, safety and aquatic classes; offers international tracing to find missing family and friends separated during war or disasters; and provides armed forces emergency services.
The local chapter serves Galax, Grayson, Carroll and Wythe counties.
In addition, Red Cross gives financial assistance to seniors and low-income families needing help with utilities, medication emergencies or eviction notices.
During the economic downturn, though, Woods River is in need of assistance from the community it serves.
For the previous fiscal year, the budget was at $92,800, and the Red Cross met that goal. However, the local chapter has fallen $55,000 short of its estimated $127,000 budget this year, mainly because of a drop in attendance at fundraisers and a decrease in monetary donations. This fiscal year will end June 30.
The Red Cross is not government-funded, and each chapter supports itself.
“The needs are going up, and the money is coming down,” said Isom.
This fiscal year, it spent $13,500 to help with disaster-related incidents and $15,184 on local programs.
The chapter members are just hoping at least 40 teams and hole sponsors will participate in the Captain's Choice Golf Tournament at the Galax Municipal Golf Course on May 9, with all proceeds going to the Woods River Chapter.
It will feature morning and afternoon tee-offs, with lunch provided, and will include prize raffles, such as a flag autographed by the men's Senior Golf Tour, donated by Galax native and pro golfer Tom McKnight, who is on the tour.
“With this fundraiser, the funds will stay local to carry out our services,” Isom said. “We've heard a lot about Red Cross chapters doing this type of fundraiser, and they've been successful.”
Local artist Becky Guynn, a volunteer of the local Red Cross chapter and coordinator of the 2nd annual golf tournament, painted an image of Virginia Tech to help raise funds for the Red Cross, right after Hurricane Katrina hit.
Proceeds from sales of the painting raised $50,000, with all the funds channelled through the local office to the victims of the hurricane.
“With the economy the way it is, all the small branches of the Red Cross are having to cut back,” Guynn said. “If volunteers and the community don't step up, we'll have to worry about disasters and things happening to the area, in which we may be short of funds. So, this is important because we can't afford to lose them.”
From July 1, 2008 to March 30 of this year, the Woods River Chapter assisted with 27 families who lost their homes to fires. When this happens, Isom said, the Red Cross goes on scene or is contacted by individuals who have lost their homes; finds out their emergency needs, such as clothing, medications and shelter; and provides the family with a charge card to take care of those needs. And if the Red Cross cannot provide funding for a particular need, it seeks out partner agencies that can.
In the event of a major community disaster, the Red Cross will open a shelter and provide food. If there is a forest fire or drowning, for example, the Red Cross also provides food to rescue workers, Isom noted.
The Red Cross supports military personnel needing emergency leave during family sickness or death. The Red Cross first verifies the need and then provides financial assistance to get them home.
Isom said one initiative of the local American Red Cross is informing high school students about health and safety. Members of the local chapter go into the area school systems to train 7th and 9th grade students first aid, CPR and babysitting skills. Two Carroll County Red Cross clubs teach basic aid training and prepare 11- to 13-year-olds to help with disasters, giving them the opportunity to volunteer for fundraisers and activities.
This fiscal year, the local Red Cross provided CPR, first aid, disaster relief and aquatics training to 2,975 individuals.
• The Woods River Chapter of American Red Cross is located at 244 Beeline Drive, Galax. For more information about classes, services, volunteering or to make a donation, call 236-2891.
Make donation checks payable to The American Red Cross, 244 Beeline Drive, Galax, Va. 24333.
For information, also see www.redcross.org.