“Red Cross is just one of these organizations, they’re always there,” said Cartersville resident Janet Queen, project relocation coordinator for Georgia Power Plant Bowen, who is raising money for the Red Cross campaign and trying to recruit fellow “heroes.” “I think sometimes because American Red Cross does such a good job with the services they provide, sometimes we just take it for granted that they’re always there. I actually became involved with the Red Cross when I worked for the sheriff’s office and had 911. I worked directly with [the Red Cross] because anytime there were structure fires and there were people who were displaced for whatever reason, we were able to work with American Red Cross to find them some suitable temporary housing.
“.... I consider myself as a person who cares and [this is one] way that we can help the American Red Cross because they have so many needs. ... Everywhere you look their services have been extended and depleted because we’ve had unusual circumstances the last couple of years — tornadoes and snowstorms and fires.”
Along with disaster relief, the Heroes for the American Red Cross campaign’s funds also will support the nonprofit’s emergency military communications, and CPR and first aid training. While the effort officially kicked off this month, the campaign received some early support in November 2013 when the Bartow County and Cartersville fire departments’ bucket drive generated $15,000.
“We operate solely off donations, and this is our one and only organized fundraising campaign we do during the year, primarily for disaster relief,” said Jeffrey Putnam, executive director for American Red Cross’ Northwest Georgia Chapter, which covers a 10-county region. “... It’s a grassroots fundraiser. We’re out recruiting heroes, which can be businesses or individuals or social groups, whatever. What they do is they commit to trying to raise $1,000. Pretty much the way it’s done is left up to them.
“It’s truly grassroots. We suggest reaching out to your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, employees. ... As long as it’s legal and it doesn’t put anybody in a bad light, we leave it up to them. If they are struggling for ideas, we do have ideas that have worked before that we can share with them and stuff. And also another way that we are working on it this year is we’ve partnered with the website called Crowdrise. It’s an online fundraising website. The chapter itself, we have our own page and people can go to that page and build their own page off of it ... and then they can share it through social media.”
Based on the need to generate more funds to cover disaster services, this year’s goal for the Heroes for the American Red Cross campaign is more than double that of last year’s $36,000.
“The need is so great and our donations this year are so much dramatically lower than they were last year,” Putnam said. “The biggest thing is we’ve seen a dramatic jump in house fires, which is our most common disaster we respond to. Our volunteers, they go out there and meet with the client usually while the fire department is still there. That’s how we usually get notified is through the 911 centers, and our volunteers work with them and determine what their needs [are]. Our primary focus is food, shelter and clothing.
“... We operate on a fiscal year, which is July through June. ... We’ve responded to 147 house fires since July 1. ... We had 158 for all of last year. So it’s a pretty dramatic increase already because we’ve still got nearly four months left in our fiscal year. Just since Jan. 1, we’ve had 46 house fires that we’ve gone to throughout our 10-county area and that uptick is due to the cold weather. We’ve just had some very unseasonably cold weather this year. People are still struggling, and if they lose their power and they’re using alternative heat sources, a lot of times that’s what happens. They set their house on fire accidentally. Those are the ones that really need the help are the uninsured, the ones that don’t have insurance and don’t have the means to provide for themselves after they’ve had that kind of disaster.”
For more information, visit www.nwgaredcross.org or www.crowdrise.com/northwestgeorgiachapter.