Red Cross wants to recruit more local volunteers in Boyle

Published 7:01 pm Friday, July 26, 2019

The American Red Cross could use more trained volunteers in Boyle County, according to two Red Cross representatives who met with the Local Emergency Planning Committee on Thursday.

Following his presentation that explained the programs and services the Red Cross provides, John Mistretta said Red Cross and its volunteers provide more assistance in “smaller disasters” than in large-scale emergency situations. “Smaller disasters seems to be a new norm,” Mistretta said. That includes flooding, home fires and tornadoes.

Sally Higgins, who works for the Red Cross and lives in Lawrenceburg said, “One of the goals of this presentation was also to talk about what is the resources out here. How can we help. Who has what to build on to bring to the table.”

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Mistretta said, “Sally is on the road for hours because we don’t have enough volunteers. It’s part of the reason to come out and talk to folks.”

Most of the Red Cross’s volunteers are in and around metropolitan areas, Mistretta said. So, rural areas could use volunteers within their communities.

However, some people in the LEPC seemed to be reluctant to show much support for recruiting volunteers for the Red Cross because of its history with the community.

According to an article in The Advocate-Messenger on Aug. 2, 2011, changes in the operation of the American Red Cross led to the elimination of the Danville chapter’s director position and its finances were to be administered at the regional level. This meant the Central Kentucky chapter, which covered Boyle and Mercer counties, was forced to turn over about $70,000 in a trust fund that had been in Farmers Bank for more than 50 years. The local chapter was not dissolved, but was supposed to continue working as a local board with the Lexington office, according to the article. Also, all disaster response was to be coordinated by the Lexington office.

At that time, no decision had been made about what to do with its building on Third Street, which was only about two years old. It’s now the home of the Shepherd’s House day treatment program for former inmates of the Boyle County Detention Center.

Boyle County Fire Chief Donnie Sexton voiced his concern about the Red Cross when he said, “I think they took our funds and our house and left town, best I can remember.”

“That’s why we’re here. I understand your concerns about lack of support in the past and we’re trying to fix that,” Mistretta said.

“When they turn their back on you, it’s hard to come in the same community and go, ‘We want you to volunteer for Red Cross.’ Oh really?” Sexton asked.

“It’s tough; I can see that,” Mistretta said. “We wanted to get back into this community. … You’re right, that trust is kind of gone.”

Sexton sat back in his chair, folded his arms and answered, “It’s gone.”

Also at the meeting was Dan Hitchcock who is on the local Red Cross Board of Directors. “I was kind of skeptical myself,” Hitchcock said. “… We’re part of this community and have been.” He said the Red Cross wants to serve everybody “as quickly as possible and be taken care of in a disaster.” The ice storm in 2009 “is a prime example,” Hitchcock said.

Emergency Management Director Mike Wilder, who was leading the meeting said,” You’ve got to start somewhere. It’s not going to happen overnight. … I believe we’re on the right track to maybe get some cooperation and maybe get back in some semblance of a working relationship.”

“We have a group of people right here in this room of every facet that you can imagine. … I would think within this group of people, somewhere, there would be some connection that maybe some would want to get with Red Cross people and would want to get trained,” Wilder said. “The longer you go the worse it’s going to get.”

Mistretta said an example of why Red Cross needs local volunteers was if another ice storm hit the area like it did in 2009. If there’s several inches of ice covering the roads, “I can’t get my trailers in here. If I don’t have local capacity to initially give things, we’re going to be behind the eight ball all the time.”

After the meeting, Wilder said the Red Cross “Is not the primary source that we use” during emergency situations. “They are a support group and they have a tremendous amount of resources. But we feel that we’re fortunate enough in this county that we have volunteers … that we can get started by ourself” during an emergency.

“If the incident is large enough, certainly we’re going to need Red Cross’ help over an extended period of time. … We need them as a support group.”