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Red Cross helps in times of need

There is one thing to which Lockhart’s Dorothy James and Opp’s Chad and Shannon Williamson can attest – when tragedy strikes, local residents can always turn – the Covington County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The three are among the victims of 45 local emergencies to which the county chapter responded in 2009. In James’ case, a fire destroyed her home, as well as nearly all of her and her family’s personal belongs.

For the Williamsons, a tornado decimated their Opp home, along with more than seven other structures. Both instances occurred March 2009.

Instances such as those led to March being declared as National Red Cross month by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943, “recognizing the American Red Cross as a true reflection of the humanitarian and volunteer spirit and calling on Americans to rededicate themselves to the splendid aims and activities of the Red Cross,” said Merrill Davis, executive director of the county chapter. Every president since that time has recognized the work of the Red Cross with a Red Cross Month.“The thing about the Red Cross is that we’re down the street, across the country and around the world – wherever the need is, we are there,” Davis said. “Locally, day-to-day, when you’re looking at our most prevalent disaster – home fires – you’re looking at someone who has lost everything.

“As Red Cross workers, we are the first step in putting those first pieces back into their lives,” he said. “It’s a wonderful feeling.

“A lot of times we have resources that people need,” he said.

“And sometimes it’s as simple as giving people good advice on which way to go next.”

Additionally, the county chapter has assisted 87 military families and trained 525 people in lifesaving skills. Plus, more than 1,200 individuals from this area donated blood in 2009. “During Red Cross month, we want to recognize the valuable supporters whose generosity makes the work of the American Red Cross possible,” Davis said. “In addition, Red Cross Month is a great time for people to get involved with the Red Cross, such as donating blood; signing up for a CPR, first aid or another Red Cross course; giving a financial gift that can really save the day when the next disaster strikes, or getting involved as a volunteer.”pe to survivors of nearly 70,000 disasters each year; helps prepare communities for emergencies, and is the largest single provider of the nation’s blood, as well as providing educational instruction in lifesaving skills to more than 5 million people a year, and supporting military members and their families. ss has responded following the Haiti earthquake in January, working to turn despair into hope,” he said. “The Red Cross is there in Haiti now – and we are also here each day across the country for families who need us here in Covington County.

“Although major disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires capture national media headlines, the day-to-day work of the Red Cross often takes place in local communities,” he said. “

On the local front, the county chapter has a number of activities planned for Red Cross Month in March, including community outreach meetings, blood drives, health and safety community classes and seeking sponsorship for the chapter’s biggest fund raiser of the year “Taste of Covington County,” which will be April 26, he said.

For more information about the “Taste of Covington County” or any of the services provided by the Red Cross, call 334-428-2680.