Albany Red Cross chapter still in dire need of help

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- As the hurricane season approaches, a local disaster aid center is once again watching its funding diminish.

The Southwest Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross has seen its flow of donations all but dry up, prompting officials to reach out to the community.

"We know people are out of work, but we have so many counties that depend on us," said Chapter Executive Director Mari Wright. "Hurricane season is starting in a few weeks, and I keep thinking what the summer will be like.

"We need to be prepared."

The dire straits being experienced within the Southwest Georgia chapter comes on the heels of the January earthquake in Haiti that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Since the quake hit, that country has received an outpouring of support for their relief efforts.

"I think people were wonderful with Haiti," Wright said. "The money was much needed, and we know that. What happened was devastating, and Southwest Georgia really came through."

Even so, there are still people in the Albany area in need of help, officials say.

"These are your neighbors," said Mary Beth Hobby, a member of the chapter's board of directors. "It's always easy to reach out in a time of crisis, but these are folks you see at your grocery store."

One of the chapter's key fundraisers is coming up, which officials hope will help fill in the budget gap. Colquitt's Swamp Gravy will hold its third annual production to benefit the American Red Cross. This year's show, to be held on May 15, will be performed at Lee County High School and is titled "The Gospel Truth."

"We are hoping we can sell out," Wright said. "We are hoping people will remember us.

"The people in the play are local, and the play tells the story of rural life in the South. They (the theater group) writes the script and the music, and they do their own choreography."

Wright said she is hopeful the play will be successful.

"It has been successful, and they are wonderful entertainment," she said. "It should be enjoyable."

Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children aged 12 and under. Tickets are available at the chapter, located in downtown Albany.

"We've always found that it's a huge draw for the community," Hobby said. "It helps spread the word about what the Red Cross does on a local level."

In February 2009, donation flow to the chapter was so low that officials were facing the possibility of closing the office's doors. After an appeal was made to the public for help, area residents responded.

While the bitter winter brought fewer house fires than expected, incidents are continuing throughout the Southwest Georgia chapter's 11-county coverage area. There have been three over the last two weeks that they have assisted with. In addition, there were five house fires in March and seven in February.

Along with disaster relief, the American Red Cross also holds training sessions on CPR and first aid. Officials are available to do presentations off-site, Wright said.

"I think people forget we do those things," she said.

The chapter provides service to the counties of Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Crisp, Dougherty, Early, Lee, Miller, Randolph, Terrell and Worth.

The office is located at 500 Pine Ave. For more information on the play or the organization's services, call (229) 436-4845.