Up Front … Help is never more than a few steps away

  • Tuesday, September 17, 2013

By Ashley DesMarteau

This time of the year is filled with many of the things I love — college football rivalries ramping up, cooler weather giving me an excuse to make apple crisp (and count it as a fruit), and the much anticipated debut of baby turtles breaking free from the safety of their nests — ocean bound. As happy as I am with all of this, I can't help but shake the bad memories of Septembers past. I don't want to give September a bad rap, but between the natural disasters and the horrific events that changed us forever on the 11th, it's hard to not feel a little bit vulnerable.

We've managed to hang our hats in many places with historically bad weather. Tornadoes when we lived in Kansas, Hurricane Hugo while living in Charleston, Tropical Storm Alma while living aboard our sailboat in Costa Rica, earthquakes in Oregon, wildfires and floods in California and the flooding of the Mississippi River. If this were a game show I'm sure I'd be winning a new refrigerator with this list, but the reality of it is that it's just the tradeoff for living in places prone to these types of disasters — and I wouldn't trade a single address. When bad things have happened, the common thread is that no matter how desperate and heartbreaking the situation, there is one organization that is always there to provide aid, support and a helping hand — the American Red Cross.

Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross has been a 'consistent lifeline for people when they need them the most'. Just 36 years after Barton founded the organization, Woodrow Wilson signed Georgetown's charter for the American Red Cross. Now the office is conveniently located right off Front Street at 104 Screven.

People have the idea that “we are just blood and floods” said Executive Director Nanci Conley. The Disaster Action Teams establish aid, shelter and other services needed during natural disasters and are an invaluable lifeline. “Most are surprised to learn that our largest response is to everyday house fires, and here in Georgetown County we have many more than our neighboring counties — 46% more than Williamsburg and 55% more than in Horry County” said Conley.

The location right off Front Street has been great for the Coastal South Carolina Chapter; they've seen an increase in their foot traffic with people stopping by. “We are available 24/7 on our hotlines” said Conley, not just providing services when the office is open. And with the limited pool of volunteers from the community, it's hard to keep the building staffed in Georgetown. They are equipped to do so much more for us — education outreach to schools and community groups. Conley and her staff would welcome the opportunity to give presentations on disaster preparedness to any groups — office, church, business clubs — just call and they'll be happy to set something up. But community volunteers are a critical piece of the puzzle. Staffing the office on Front Street, answering the phone, helping with events, any little bit helps — and for an organization that does so much for so many, it's just a little time they ask in return.

At the Red Cross it's the “common bonds of humanity and compassion” that unite communities and while that's true for disaster relief, it is equally important with “helping neighbors every day.” The American Red Cross — good neighbors right off historic Front Street at 104 Screven. Make it your business to keep it local. (And don't forget to volunteer and eat apple crisp!)

Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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