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Red Cross chapter marks eventful year

Members of the board of directors for the Mid-South Chapter ofthe American Red Cross, volunteers and guests received a report onthe status of the local organization during the annual meeting atthe State Room Tuesday.

Layla Case, executive director of the Mid-South chapter, saidthe organization had a good year, despite a falloff in donationsand a majority of national funds being diverted to efforts on theGulf Coast, where the Red Cross continues to help families recoverfrom Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina also factored into the donation shortfall because peoplehere gave so much to charitable organizations in the monthsfollowing the storm, she said.

The Mid-South Chapter, which covers Lawrence, Lincoln and Pikecounties, provided more than $30,000 in financial assistance to 48families whose homes were destroyed or damaged by fire or a naturaldisaster in 2006, Case said. Nearly half that amount, approximately$13,500, went to 18 families in Pike County. Lincoln Countyreceived nearly $12,000 to assist 23 families while Lawrence Countyreceived nearly $5,000 for six families.

“We provide comfort to the families along with emergencyshelter, clothing, groceries and personal items to each individualin the affected family,” Case said. “Our chapter also provides eachindividual with a referral to other agencies within their countiesfor additional assistance.”

The service is provided regardless of income or insurancestatus, she said, and all disaster assistance of this type is fullysupported by local donations.

Melissa Smith, assistant director of the chapter, said she wasworried about how long the chapter could continue to provide thisservice without an increase in local support.

“When there is a major disaster like Katrina that has long-term,continued recovery efforts, everyone focuses on the big disasterand it’s the daily disasters that get forgotten,” she said.

The Rev. Jerry Durr, president of Brookhaven Outreach Ministriesand a charter member of the Red Cross chapter here, said everylocal organization that assists with individual daily disasters isfeeling the strain on resources.

Durr’s organization and the Red Cross have been able to maintaintheir level of service to the local community since the stormthrough reserve stockpiles of the basic necessities, such asclothes, furniture and food. But with very little coming in toreplace them, he is also concerned about how long they can continueto adequately meet those needs.

“Each organization is relying on the other to fill the needsthat we can’t,” Durr said.

Emergency shelter is one of the main problems faced by theorganizations, Smith said.

“I can tell you horror stories,” she said. “We can put clotheson their back, but there’s nowhere to send them.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the first to feature Franklin County as apartner, Case said. Hilda and Percy Peeler are working to establishan office there that will be incorporated into the Mid-SouthChapter once completed. In the meantime, the chapter will assistthe county as a designated service area.

“We’re just here for support and guidance. They don’t have achapter,” Case said. “We’ll probably annex them when they get morevolunteers and are officially declared a chapter.”

Eight volunteers were awarded for dedication that went “aboveand beyond the call of duty. Those awarded included Percy and HildaPeeler, Melody Roberts, Kim Carr, Charles “Shorty” Lofton, the Rev.Jerry Wilson and board members Mary McMorris and BettyGriffith.