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Sunday, July 14, 2024

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Local Red Cross Has $125,000 Budget

By Christine Cote

What do all these have in common? They are regular services provided by the Cape May County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
How do they do it? With an annual budget of $125,000 and the help of volunteers. The money comes from fundraisers and donations, Merideth Fiorucci, vice chair of the chapter’s board of directors, told the Herald.
“It’s amazing how much we do with that budget,” said Fiorucci, who has served on the board for four years.
It covers salaries, services, and taxes and maintenance for the chapter’s office here on Me-chanic Street, she said.
Paid employes include newly appointed Interim Site Manager Raymond E. Batz, who works about 20 hours a week and is in the office Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, she said. The of-fice is open daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and when Batz is not there a part-time secretary is available to the public.
Cindy Rhodes is the chapter’s health and safety instructor and is “mostly out in the commu-nity,” said Fiorucci, teaching programs for certification in first aid, CPR, water safety and life guarding skills. Rhodes is a paid, part-time employe.
The board recently considered but decided against merging the chapter, which has been in ex-istence for 88 years, with Atlantic County.
“We explored that route to see how best to grow our chapter,” said Chairwoman Lisa Hagan, who is serving her second term and has been on the board for four years.
“We will probably share services with Atlantic and Cumberland counties,” she said. “Espe-cially if a hurricane were to come up the coast, we would be going to those counties. We need to keep the lines of communication open.”
Donations made to the chapter stay here in the county, Fiorucci said, although “we are as-sessed a small — not more than 10 percent — of any money that comes in” to support the na-tional effort of the American Red Cross.
The chapter has been adversely affected by the significant events that occurred this year. Al-though she said it was wonderful to see people donate to victims of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, that did mean less donations locally.
Donations directed to these efforts through the chapter were sent on to the national offices.
It is “so critical for the community to donate” for local programs, said Fiorucci. “Our two greatest needs are volunteers and donations. We have a disaster preparedness team that goes through training to help the community in case of a natural disaster. We’re trying to grow that team.”
The chapter’s service of assisting families who have been victims of house fires has been called on recently and that service includes short-term replacement housing and vouchers for clothing and food. There is no obligation to reimburse the chapter for these expenses.
 The chapter relies on fire companies to alert it to a family’s distress and when notified volun-teers who are trained for this type of work arrive on the scene, said Fiorucci.
There is no cost for Operation Fireside that places Coast Guard recruits in local homes for holiday meals each Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Other volunteers assist at blood drive and the chapter runs several hundred of those each year, said Fiorucci.
Marilynne Oandasan has been a board member since November 2001 and is the chair of blood services for the chapter.
This is an area where more volunteers are needed, said Fiorucci. Even with “over 100 that help out with the program, the bank continues to shrink,” she said.
“We are trying to engage today’s youth,” said Fiorucci. That’s an area they’re trying to en-courage.
Unfortunately, the chapter recently lost volunteer Jack Kammer, of Erma, who resigned after 10 years because of the way a blood drive was handled at Lower Cape May Regional High School in November.
It was the third time he was discouraged with the response from Penn Jersey, which supplies the professional paid staff and equipment for blood drives scheduled through the chapter.
Penn Jersey is the regional blood distribution system for the county chapter and it provides blood to nearly 100 hospitals in the region. If Penn Jersey doesn’t collect “enough blood they have to purchase it from another blood distribution center,” said Oandasan.
In November, Kammer told the Herald, the school had anticipated 90 donors and had expected nine beds with correlating staff to handle that amount. But only six beds were brought to the school, with less staff and that caused frustration and delays. Potential donors had to be turned away.
This was not the first time there had been miscommunication, said Kammer. About two or three years ago, a similar situation occurred at Ocean City High School where 150 donors signed up and equipment and staff for 40 showed up.
When that school did another drive recently, there was another minor problem of servicing donors.
“It’s a matter of communication,” said Kammer. “If Penn Jersey would just explain before hand, the school could plan accordingly,” he said.
Oandasan said she was aware of the problems, “We have an awful lot of drives and, yes, things do go wrong. We do strive to give the best possible services we can.”
She admitted that it’s not really in her hands, sometimes Penn Jersey does not have enough staff or equipment and “we have to go with what they bring.”
“It’s avoidable,” Kammer said and that’s what led him to resign, although he has nothing but good things to say about local volunteers. He has criticized Penn Jersey’s response in writing each time. After the LCMR event, he said he felt his criticism was ignored.
But, T.J. Belasco, Student Council advisor and English teacher at LCMR, who has been run-ning three blood drives a year for six years, told the Herald he is satisfied after he had a “sit down” with someone from Penn Jersey and got an explanation for why things went they way they did in November.
He said he has now been assured that they will meet the goal of 80 donors with adequate staff and equipment when the next drive is held in mid-January 2006.
He was frustrated, he said, and agreed communication was the problem.
His primary goal is to make the event “smooth for students,” he said. They get priority be-cause “we are trying to produce students who will continue to donate,” said Belasco.
This is the only school that has three drives a year, said Oandasan.
The chapter’s next major fundraiser will be its Gala on March 4 at the Flanders in Ocean City.
March is National Red Cross month and in 2006 it will be celebrating its 125th Anniversary, according to Fiorucci. Tickets for the gala are $125.00.
Contact Cote at: ccote@cmcherald.com

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