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Disasters don't decrease with the economy

"There aren't less disasters because the economy is down." That's what Kris Strobel, executive director of the West Central MN Chapter of the American Red Cross (ARC), desperately wants people to know. The economic downturn has affected individua...

Tornado
A fundraiser is under way to ensure local Red Cross is ready when disaster strikes.

"There aren't less disasters because the economy is down."

That's what Kris Strobel, executive director of the West Central MN Chapter of the American Red Cross (ARC), desperately wants people to know.

The economic downturn has affected individuals and families, businesses, and of course, non-profit agencies. The Red Cross is no exception.

"What many people don't realize is that we are not government funded, and we do not receive funding from the American Red Cross," Strobel explained.

The local chapter of the ARC is responsible for raising its own money, which then stays in its own three-county area (Douglas, Grant and Traverse) to offer the following services:

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  • Disaster services to those affected by natural and man-made disasters.
  • Support for Armed Services personnel and their families.
  • First Aid and CPR classes to individuals and businesses.
  • Babysitter training courses.
  • Lifeguard and aquatics training.

"In order to keep all of these services going, we need money," Strobel said.
In the past, money has been raised through various fundraisers such as garage sales, dinners, the Run for the Red race and donation letter campaigns.

"It was obvious with the decline in the economy that we needed a major fundraiser," Strobel said, adding that the Red Cross Heroes Campaign is currently under way. "We're hoping to raise $25,000 through this campaign." (See details on this effort in the related sidebar article.)

The West Central MN Chapter was chartered in 1917. It operates out of the Marian Building at 700 Cedar Street in Alexandria with one full time and one part time staff member, and 15 to 20 key volunteers. These volunteers staff Disaster Action Teams, often responding to house fires and single-family disasters. They help families displaced by fire to get immediate shelter, food and clothing.

Volunteers also answer phones 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The most common local disaster is single-family house fires.

"We provide temporary shelter, clothing, food, medical services - any immediate emergency needs, as well as conduct damage assessments," Strobel said.

She noted that the chapter responded to 12 fires in 2008.

One of the larger disaster responses the chapter has been involved with in recent years was the March 2007 Browns Valley flood. This response cost the local chapter about $28,000. That money was reimbursed, Strobel noted, because the disaster area is not in the West Central MN Chapter's jurisdiction.

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"We were reimbursed for that, but it still gives you an example of what kind of money is needed to offer these disaster services," Strobel said.

She added that if the local chapter is unable to raise enough funds, it could be shut down, and the area turned over to the Central MN chapter based out of St. Cloud.

"We definitely don't want to see that happen," she said.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross (ARC) is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a not-for-profit organization committed to helping people, especially after disasters. It was organized in Washington, D.C. in 1881.

Though chartered by Congress to provide relief services, ARC isn't a government agency. Its staff is made up largely of volunteers. Aside from providing relief to victims of more than 60,000 natural and man-made disasters nationwide each year, the Red Cross teaches CPR, first aid, water safety, and AIDS awareness courses; provides counseling and emergency message transmission for U.S. military personnel; and maintains the nation's largest blood bank.

While the ARC functions independently of the government, it does work closely with government agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), during times of major crises.

It is mandated by Congress to give aid to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and to disaster victims at home and abroad. It does this through services that are consistent with its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement allowing the Red Cross to stay neutral and impartial.

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Each year, the ARC responds to more than 70,000 disasters, including home fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous material spills, transportation accidents, explosions, and other natural and man-made disasters.

Red Cross disaster relief focuses on meeting people's immediate emergency disaster-caused needs - shelter, food, health and mental health services. The core of Red Cross disaster relief is to assist those affected by disaster to enable them to resume their normal daily activities independently.

Red Cross Heroes

Campaign

The West Central MN Red Cross invites you to be a Red Cross Hero by joining a 2009 Red Cross Heroes Campaign team.

Five teams have been established, with the goal of raising $25,000 to ensure the local Red Cross chapter can continue responding to disasters as they arrive.

The teams are listed below:

Team 1: Action Heroes. Members include Bremer Bank, Target and Wal-Mart.

Team 2: West Central Heroes. Members include Pete's County Market and Elden's Food Fair.

Team 3: Hearts of Gold. Member includes Douglas County Public Health Nursing.

Team 4: Military Service Organizations. Members include American Legion Post 393 of Hoffman and American Legion Post 231 of Elbow Lake.

Team 5: The Invincibles. Members include Sertoma, Douglas County Tax Accountants, Douglas County Hospital Auxiliary and Alexandria Orthopaedic Clinic.

The team raising the most money will be awarded the 2009 Red Cross Super Heroes title, along with a traveling trophy and bragging rights for one year.

The campaign kicked off March 9. Teams have until 5 p.m. on Friday, March 27 to raise money.

To join a team, make a donation or for more information, call the local Red Cross office at (320) 763-3800, e-mail kstrobel@rea-alp.com or visit the Web site www.WCMNRedCross.org .

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