'Heroes' for American Red Cross

From devastating fires and armed forces services to disaster relief and safety training, the Catawba Valley American Red Cross assists people during some of the most defining moments of their lives.

But with an economy where many people are forced to stop donating to charities, the Red Cross needs help with financial support.

That's why the Catawba Valley chapter is participating in the 2011 Heroes for the American Red Cross campaign, a grassroots, volunteer-led campaign to raise funds locally.

"This campaign is crucial for us to serve our clients seamlessly," said Suzan Anderson, Catawba Valley American Red Cross executive director.

About $1,000 can provide groceries for eight families of four people.

That same amount will also provide clothing for two families of four or hotel lodging for six families.

But each donation doesn't have to be $1,000, Anderson said. Every little bit helps.

"It could be $1," she said. "It all adds up."

The Catawba Valley chapter serves Catawba, Alexander and Caldwell county residents with assistance after home fires and other natural disasters. The agency also provides health and safety training, such as CPR and first-aid classes.

"A fire is one of the most devastating tragedies anyone can go through," wrote Phyllis, an American Red Cross client. "When my home went up in flames, my family had to rush out, leaving everything behind. I am so very thankful the Red Cross was there, providing my family with food, clothing and a motel room."

Catawba Valley American Red Cross volunteers responded to 160 local disasters, including house fires and tornadoes, last year. The group provides victims with items to replace the ones lost during the disaster, such as food, clothing and lodging.

"The Heroes campaign is a short-term volunteer-led, grassroots community event that will raise these necessary funds and provide an awareness of how the Red Cross is committed to serving the local people in your county," Anderson said.

Although the Red Cross is chartered by Congress to provide services for those in need, the organization isn't government-funded. That's why the Heroes campaign is so important, Anderson said.

During the year, the Catawba Valley chapter provided volunteers and other support during the search for missing 10-year-old Zahra Baker.

The organization also provided services during downing incidents at Lake Rodhiss.

In addition to disaster-relief efforts, the American Red Cross also provides support services for the country's armed forces. The Catawba Valley Chapter served more than 158 families last year with emergency messages and other referrals.

Two clients, twin brothers Mike and Matt, had third-degree burns after a gasoline explosion. Matt's wife was on active military duty, and Red Cross helped contact her and alert her of Matt's injuries.

"I am so grateful the Red Cross was able to contact my wife and fly her home from Iraq to help me in my recovery," Matt wrote. "I will always be thankful for the Red Cross."

The American Red Cross also trains volunteers in life-saving skills, such as CPR and first aid. Client Michael completed safety training with the Red Cross, and days later, he used those skills to save his son's life.

"This could happen to anyone with children," Michael wrote. "I am so thankful I had completed the Red Cross course. Every time I think about my only son choking, possibly dying, it makes me aware of the importance of being trained by the Red Cross."

To donate to the campaign, make checks payable to American Red Cross Catawba Valley Chapter and note the money is designated for the 2011 Heroes.

Mail donations to P.O. Box 1329, Hickory, NC 28603.

Donate online at www.catawbavalleyarc.org or call (828) 322-4211 for more information.