“It’s been wonderful, the support we’ve received for Haiti,” said Wood’s River Red Cross Chapter Executive Director Joan Isom. “I hope people will bear in mind, while that’s going on; we’re trying to help the needs of those who are devastated by incidents locally.”
The Wood’s River Chapter of the American Red Cross steps up whenever there’s a local need, serving Carroll, Grayson and Wythe Counties and the City of Galax. With a force of around 250 volunteers, quite a lot can be accomplished.
Recently, the Wood’s River Chapter has assisted in several fires throughout the area, including the Briarleigh Court Apartment blaze in Hillsville, the hostage situation in Wythe County last month, and the emergency closure of Interstates 77 and 81 due to the heavy snowfalls of December.
“The incidents we have worked since Dec. 17, we have spent over $6,000 already,” said Isom. “That’s a lot for us in one month.”
Isom said the services the Red Cross offered in those situations ranged from food for more than 200 emergency personnel during the hostage standoff, emergency shelter for those stranded by the Interstate closure, and temporary lodging, food and money for those who were displaced by fires.
“In a single-family fire, we can provide up to three nights place to stay, depending on what the situation is, whether we can do repairs or if it’s clothing, food and immediate needs like emergency meds and glasses,” Isom said.
In addition, the Red Cross also helps put up military personnel — including veterans.
Isom said she is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and if a call comes in, she springs into action and designates whatever services are appropriate.
“It comes down from the chain of command with cooperation from the Board of Supervisors and emergency coordinator,” Isom said. “In the City, it’s the City Manager and coordinator. When that call comes from C-Com, I immediately activate whatever team is needed the worst and whichever is closest that we can get to.”
She said sometimes, she’ll arrive at the scene of a fire, for instance, and begin assessing the situation and working with families.
“Usually, with fire victims, the fire departments will notify us of the situation,” Isom said. “If I can go to the scene, I will, but we’re finding that right at the time it’s going on, the family is so devastated; they don’t feel they can make logical decisions. After talking to them at the scene or by phone, we decide what they need. We immediately step in and when we go to the scene, we’ll activate a card right there so they can have the means to money within an hour, at max.”
The Red Cross operates on funds from donations, fundraisers and money from the United Way. Isom said each chapter is responsible for keeping itself viable.
For those wishing to donate, Isom said checks can be mailed to P.O. Box 1416, Galax, VA 24333 or dropped off at 244 Beeline Drive in Galax.
Donations for local services are always welcome, but Isom said if one wishes to give to help the crisis in Haiti, she can take care of that as well.
“If they want it to stay local, they don’t have to put anything on the memo line,” Isom said. “If they want it to go to Haiti, they should designate ‘For Haiti’ in the line.”
Isom said volunteers are always needed to help the Red Cross. And for those who would like to help, but don’t have the money or time, supplies for the emergency vehicle are most welcome.
“We’re in the process and are seeking donations to finish outfitting our disaster vehicle, which was donated to us by Carroll County EMS,” Isom said. “Anybody that would like to donate cots, blankets, anything that would go in a disaster vehicle or money for that would be wonderful too.”