UW funding helps Red Cross respond when you need it

Published 9:37 am Tuesday, January 27, 2015

NW0127 UW Red Cross A

When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is there to help with supplies, food, water and shelter.
For the American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee, funding from the Elizabethton/Carter County United Way helps make that emergency response happen.
“The money we get from the United Way allows us to assist people during a disaster,” Red Cross Director Glenda Bobalik said. “It also helps us to develop a more resilient community of prepared people.”
Bobalik said the Red Cross works to educate people on what they can do to be prepared when an emergency happens by hosting preparedness planning meetings throughout their service area. Through the presentations, the Red Cross shares information people need to know about being prepared.
For example, families should have an emergency kit with food, water, medicine, first aid supplies and other necessities ready to go in case an emergency strikes.
The next step is developing a plan for what family members will do, such as planning ahead for pets, marking an evacuation route and meeting places and designating contact people outside of the family in case people get separated.
“We help people be prepared by telling them what they need to do and how they need to act when there is an emergency,” Bobalik said.
Then in the cases when there is an emergency, Red Cross volunteers and employees are on the streets in the communities helping those afflicted by the disaster with their immediate needs and then to pick up their lives and get back on track.
“Volunteers respond to meet those immediate needs in the emergency area,” Bobalik said. “We make sure people have food, clothing, medical care and shelter. After that, we move on to recovery, connecting families to groups that can help them through the steps to getting back to normal.”
The Red Cross sets up shelters in these areas but also responds with its emergency vehicle — a large box truck that can be used to serving meals, distribute supplies and provide temporary shelter
About 10 percent of the local Red Cross’ funding comes from the Elizabethton/Carter County United Way, Bobalik said. The Red Cross serves 13 counties in east Tennessee including Carter County.
The most common disaster response for the local Red Cross is house fires. Bobalik estimates that 95 percent of the emergency response calls the agency receives is for families who have had their homes destroyed by fire. Other emergencies experienced in Carter County have been floods, tornados and winter storms.
In addition to helping residents during emergencies, the Red Cross also supports first responders by providing food and drinks, along with other needs, as they work to assist people affected by the disaster.
Funding from the Elizabethton United Way is also used by the Red Cross to help members of the military stay in contact with their families at home. Bobalik said the Red Cross can make contact with military out in the field within 24 hours on average in an emergency to let them know something has affected their family.
“We let them know if there has been an illness or a death,” she said. “It can also be good news, like a birth in the family.”
Bobalik said the funding from the United Way allows the Red Cross to carry out these services for families in the region.
“The funding provides a big assist to make sure we can help when we are needed,” she said.”Partnering with other agencies like this helps us serve the community in a better way all around. If someone comes to me and needs assistance with an electric bill, thanks to working with the United Way, I would know who to tell them to call. These partnerships strengthen all of our services.”

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