Red Cross prepared for hurricane season

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Experts have predicted a busy hurricane season this year, which has prompted the Southwest Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross to brace themselves so they can offer assistance to residents in their greatest time of need.

Officials say it's a job that would be easier if the organization's financial situation would remain stable.

"Donations are really, really slow," said Executive Director Mari Wright. "They're not great, and I'm hoping they'll get better.

"It's the summer, and people forget those things."

Monetary resources of the American Red Cross tend to dry up faster in the summer because fewer people make donations during that time of year.

"We could always use donations," Wright said.

The scariest part about not having the money to do what the chapter needs to do is that there is no telling what the future will bring, officials say.

"Storms devastate families, but gives people awareness of what we do," said Lorie Farkas, a member of the chapter's board of directors. "If we don't get constant donations, then (disaster assistance) won't be there.

"We don't need the staff to worry about if they'll get their next paycheck."

On May 15, Swamp Gravy held its annual production at Lee County High School to benefit the chapter. This year's play, dubbed "The Gospel Truth," brought in an estimated $10,000.

"We did have a good turnout," Wright recalled.

In recent years, the chapter has been lacking in manpower, but that is beginning to change.

"(Chapter Emergency Services Director) Bud Greco has worked hard to get new volunteers," said Farkas.

In light of hurricane season kicking off this week, officials with the Red Cross have been encouraging people to build a disaster kit and prepare a personal disaster plan as well as listen out for weather updates and heed evacuation orders.

Even though Southwest Georgia might not feel the impact directly, activity in the Gulf of Mexico does have the potential to bring inland flooding to the region.

This is why the local American Red Cross chapter embraces their educational role seriously.

"We are watching the weather now," said Wright. "We want people to be aware and pay attention to the weather.

"We have information about kits as well as information about where to go or what to do."

More than 35 million Americans live in regions most threatened by hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. The experts at Colorado State University have predicted 15 named storms for this season, including eight hurricanes. Accuweather has predicted 18 named storms, including five hurricanes.

"We are here and one of the things we do is help people prepare," Wright said.

Along with providing assistance to victims of natural disasters and house fires, the chapter also conducts regular health and safety classes such as CPR and first aid. Certified nursing assistant classes are also held at the chapter in four-week blocks.

"(The certified nursing assistant course) is a great way for women who haven't worked in years to get in the job arena again," Wright said.

The chapter is located at 500 Pine Ave. Red Cross staffers can be contacted at (229) 436-4845.