Not many residents may know about American Red Cross services available in Forsyth County through the organization’s Northeast Georgia chapter.
Attendance at the organization’s Tour of Hope presentation Thursday morning further emphasized the need to reach more volunteers and donors.
“People understand what Red Cross does in disasters, but they don’t see us in between disasters,” said Philip Reed, executive director of the chapter. “And that makes it hard to fundraise, because you have to catch people’s attention immediately.
“When something else is on the news, people assume we’re fine and forget about us. But we’re working hard to overcome that with the health and safety training, and with continued emphasis that we’re an asset in the community.”
For the Tour of Hope, volunteers were encouraged to bring a friend to learn more about the local chapter of the Red Cross, which covers Forsyth and 12 other counties in northeast Georgia.
The handful of people who came were encouraged to spread information on how valuable the organization is to local communities.
We don’t brag a lot,” said David Mancuso, board chairman. “People don’t realize what we do, and we’re just trying to tell our story. The more we tell and the better we tell the story, the better recourses we’ll have and the better job we’ll do.”
Volunteer Kristine Croft kicked off the event, sharing a story of when she got to use her Red Cross training.
Because the organization offers training in CPR, babysitting, being a lifeguard and even pandemic flu preparation, volunteers are prepared for many emergencies, said Joe Brown, disaster volunteer.
“If you’re with the Red Cross, you know what you’re going to do,” he said. “You know where you’re going to do it and you know how you’re going to do it. The people we use are trained, and if they’re not, we train them.”
Brown is one of the many volunteers on call for emergencies. But as part of a group of 600 serving the 675,000 residents of the 13-county service area, he needs help.
Boosting volunteers from 600 to 1,000 is one of the main goals for the next two years, Mancuso said. Fundraising is another. With an annual budget of $1 million, the funds are not enough to expand with the region.
Red Cross volunteers respond to all house fires they’re informed of, said Mancuso. Response costs about $1,000 and the organization spent about $20,000 last month alone in house fire response, he added.
The Red Cross was congressionally chartered in 1881, Mancuso said, but that “doesn’t mean we get money from the congress or U.S. government.
“That’s something people don’t realize. We have to do our own fundraising locally in order to support staff services and more importantly, if there’s ever a disaster here, we’ve got to have the funds available here to support that disaster.”
The Tour of Hope event was held days after the organization announced its plan to trim its staff of nine down to five. Despite the cuts, Mancuso said there will be no changes to the Forsyth location.
“The office will remain open,” Mancuso said. “We’re committed to Forsyth County.”
Training and recruiting volunteers also are crucial to the organization’s mission, said Kim Price, community relations officer.
“I would like to tell you that if you’re anywhere in Cumming, that you’re going to be OK if you have a coronary event,” she told the group. “Unfortunately, there is 3 percent of our population here that is trained in CPR.”
“Your survival rate if you’re on any given street in the state of Georgia is 2 percent, because there’s just not enough emphasis put on the simple life-saving training.”
By charging for the CPR and other public service classes, the organization is both able to raise funds for disaster relief and help train volunteers.
“By being prepared, you effectively become a volunteer for the Red Cross,” Mancuso said.