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Archive for Monday, October 15, 1990

RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS STRIVE TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE

October 15, 1990

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From a friendly voice on the telephone reassuring those in need to large-scale relief efforts for the victims of disasters, Jo Byers, Douglas County Red Cross Chapter manager, says that the American Red Cross can help.

With 75 percent of its funding coming from United Way allocations, the Red Cross of Douglas County operates diverse programs designed to aid and educate the county's residents. Its United Way allocation from the current drive is $71,830.

Byers says that disaster relief is the most gratifying aspect of working for the Red Cross because "you can see what you have done for a family; you can see the recovery."

BYERS SAID the most frequent call for aid is from families whose homes have burned. Through a national disaster relief reserve fund, the Red Cross can provide these families immediate food, clothing, shelter and medical needs. The service can help a family get back on its feet by finding them new furnishings and clothing, all an outright gift from the Red Cross.

Although major disasters aren't that frequent, the Red Cross is equipped to handle them. Twenty-five volunteers throughout Douglas County are trained in disaster relief, and each volunteer can collect needed supplies at any time from volunteer businesses.

When heavy rains washed through the Lone Star community two years ago, the Red Cross and its disaster relief program proved to be invaluable to the 20 families affected.

ANOTHER major responsibility the Red Cross has is to the armed forces. From its founding by Clara Barton after the Civil War, the Red Cross has been associated with the military. Through a Congressional charter, it is the only outside agency that aides the military.

The largest responsibility the Red Cross has to the armed forces is in communications, handling messages from family and friends. With the present crisis in the Persian Gulf, the Red Cross communications system, AmCross, based in Washington, D.C., has been handling about 95,000 messages every 24 hours. Financial assistance also can be obtained by the families of servicemen.

A third major responsibility the Red Cross has is supplying blood for various emergencies. The Lawrence Blood Center, located at 329 Mo., near Lawrence Memorial Hospital, supplies 20 units of blood daily, all from donations.

THE CENTER, under direction of Joan Cook, a registered nurse, is part of Blood Services for the Wichita Region and supplies blood not only to Douglas County but to most of Kansas, Northern Oklahoma and northern Texas.

Cook said the center makes appointments but also welcomes walk-in donors. After having a brief medical history taken, a donor's temperature, blood pressure and pulse are checked, and a test for adequate amounts of red blood cells is administered.

The donor then relaxes while the staff takes a unit of blood. After the blood is drawn, the donor may leave. In four to six weeks, a person's blood is regenerated, and the donor is eligible to give again.

Blood donors are but one group among many who volunteer their time to the Red Cross. In Douglas County, 400 to 700 volunteers are helping out at any given time. These people come from all backgrounds, all ages and all professions.

BYERS SAID 45 medical doctors and dentists and many volunteer nurses give their time to the Health Care Access program, sponsored by local community health care agencies. The program is nearly a year old and is designed to help meet the medical needs of people without insurance or sufficient income.

The U.S. Postal Service cooperates with the Red Cross in a carrier alert program. The service has been in operation for about four years and is used by 25 people. Each subscriber to the service places an identification sticker on the mailbox. If the person has not picked up mail in 24 hours, the Red Cross is notified and a volunteer checks on the individual.

The Phone Reassurance program operated by the Red Cross is similar to the carrier alert service. People just leaving the hospital or having other physical complications may notify the Red Cross, and a volunteer will then call the person at a designated time to make sure he or she is all right. About 30 people in the Lawrence area now use the service.

Byers said volunteer instructors teach courses in swimming, cardio-pulmonary recuscitation, day care and other assorted skills. The Red Cross charges only for the books needed in each course.

These services are far less visible than the aid provided to survivors of major disasters, but they exemplify the philosophy behind the Red Cross: to improve the quality of life.

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