MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

February 27, 2013

Red Cross asks heroes to help

— When hundreds of families are recovering from disasters each year, they receive that help from American Red Cross heroes.

Now, the Red Cross is looking for help with its Hero campaign.

“Heroes are the people who donate to us so we can keep helping area families,” said Red Cross Director Ryan Hardaway. “Most people think of the Red Cross like blood drives or Hurricane Katrina, but single-family house fires are the most common disaster we respond to. If you add up all the other disasters, there’s more home fires than all those combined.”

Hardaway said he hopes to raise $50,000 during this year’s campaign, which begins with a kickoff party Thursday, one day before National Red Cross Month begins.

“We’re chartered by Congress to respond to disasters, but we’re not government funded,” Hardaway said. “We need money and volunteers and the donated dollar to do that; otherwise there is no Red Cross.”

Hardaway said the Hero Campaign raised about $32,000 last year, which sounds like a lot until you realize they doled out $71,232 to 121 families in three counties in 2012. The year before that, the Red Cross assisted 155 families with $108,000 of disaster relief.

“There were 1,000 families in total that we helped in some way last year in Eastern Oklahoma,” Hardaway said. “And 610 of those families had zero insurance whatsoever.”

For instance, Hardaway said a Red Cross volunteer might receive a page at 3 a.m. stating there’s a house fire, and a family needs assistance. That volunteer responds, and based on certain criteria such as family size, immediate needs, and what was lost, the needy family is given a pre-loaded debit card. The average family of four, Hardaway said, receives around $800 to $1,000 in assistance.

“But if they don’t have insurance, they have no way to get into a new place,” Hardaway said. “We can help them with their deposit or their first month’s rent.

“If there’s no Red Cross, then you have an epidemic of homelessness in Eastern Oklahoma.”

Hardaway said Thursday’s meeting is open to people who would like to join the Hero Campaign.

“We’ll have someone who has gone through a fire come up and speak and show how the process affected them,” Hardaway said. “There’s an emotional aspect to it that hopefully people can see and appreciate.”

There are many ways to participate. To be a “Hero,” $1,000 must be raised.

“I tell people to come up with any way they can to do that, legally,” Hardaway said.

All donations are accepted as the Red Cross tries to fill their coffers for what could be a busy 2013.

“Maybe it’s as simple as finding 10 people to each donate $100, or 20 people to donate $50,” Hardaway said. “We’ve had little girls do lemonade stands. They didn’t reach $1,000, but they helped. It all helps.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

If you go

WHAT: American Red Cross Hero Campaign

WHERE: McEntee’s, 301 W. Broadway.

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

ETC.: Open to anyone who would like to learn more about the Red Cross Hero Campaign.

INFORMATION: (918) 682-1366.

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