By Jamie Young, PR volunteer
Since 1917, the volunteers of the Bears' Paw Chapter of the American Red Cross have donated countless hours to provide services for the betterment of Havre and the surrounding Hi-Line communities. Red Cross volunteers come from all walks of life to help people in need regardless of race, creed, color or religion, making Havre and the surrounding Hi-Line communities a safer, healthier place to live.
The Red Cross offers a wide range of services. What follows is only a small representation of the volunteers and numerous services that the Bears' Paw Chapter offers to the communities, which it serves in Hill and Blaine Counties.
Members of the Board for the Bears' Paw Chapter of the American Red Cross that serves Havre and the Hi-Line are:
Janet Boisvert of Harlem, Chapter Manager Tom Geelan of Havre, Alice Kleinjan of Chinook, Chapter Chairwoman Vicke Larson, Robert Nieuwenhuyse of Havre, Sue Nieuwenhuyse of Havre, Kathy O'Brien of Chinook, Terry Schend of Havre, Pam Smith of Havre, Denise Spinler of Havre, Janet Trethewey of Havre, Sue Swan of Havre, Mollie Keller of Havre, Kevin Brown of Havre.
Each year, Red Cross paid and volunteer personnel respond to more than 50,000 disasters ranging from single-family house fires to major disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. They provide assistance to hundreds of thousands of people by providing food, clothing, shelter and other emergency needs - free of charge. In addition, Red Cross chapters are involved long before disaster strikes by educating the community on how to stay safe in the event of a disaster. Other services provided by Red Cross workers include repairing or rebuilding homes when other resources are not available to the family or prove inadequate, referring families for financial assistance from the government and other financial organizations, and serving as liaison with other organizations and agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In 2000, the Bears' Paw Chapter provided aid for 11 disasters - 10 of which were single family fires and one due to high wind. According to Vicke Larson, Chairwoman of the Board, there are a number of trained Caseworkers who work with the victims (or "clients" as deemed by the Red Cross) of disasters such as single-family fires. Red Cross disaster relief focuses on meeting people's immediate emergency disaster-caused needs. The clients receive vouchers for motels, food, one set of new clothing per family member plus vouchers for personal hygiene products.
Another service offered by the Bears' Paw Chapter is the Vision Service Plan which was implemented in 2000. According to Chapter Manager Tom Geelan, the local chapter works with Havre Optometric Clinic to replace eyeglasses if they are lost in a fire or other disaster.
Trained Case workers include: Terry Schend, Tom Geelan, Bob Rice, Vicke Larson, Sue Swan, Ed Spinler, Bob and Sue Nieuwenhuyse serve the Havre area and Deborah Davies from Chinook and Janet Boisvert from Harlem.
Each year, Red Cross volunteers help collect more than 6 million units of blood from more than 4 million volunteer blood donors. These donations amount to nearly half the nation's blood supply and help save countless lives. To get the most out of each unit donated, the Red Cross processes the blood into various components. The Red Cross then distributes the processed blood to help treat people suffering from many types of blood-related conditions, including hemophilia, sickle cell anemia, and leukemia. In addition, Red Cross scientists are continually conducting research and testing for signs of infectious diseases.
The Bears' Paw Chapter conducts Blood Drawings every 56 days. Alice Kleinjan conducts Blood Drawings in Chinook, Janet Boisvert Harlem and Alta LeDoux, Havre Area. Sue Swan coordinates the blood drawings that are held at Northern Montana Hospital, MSU-Northern and Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad in Havre.
January is National Volunteer Blood Donor Month and blood drawings are scheduled for Jan. 8 at the Methodist Church and Jan. 9 at Northern Montana Hospital.
HEALTH AND SAFETY SERVICES
Based in communities across the nation, Red Cross instructors each year certify an average of 7 million people in Red Cross health and safety courses including CPR, first aid, lifeguard training and swimming.
According to Janet Trethewey, Health and Safety Specialist for the Bears' Paw Chapter, the Red Cross is always actively recruiting people for training and certification.
"It is a universal goal of the American Red Cross that each local chapter certify 10 percent of its population each year," Trethewey said. "We have received recognition from the national level for traditionally exceeding that goal. In 2000, we certified approximately 25 percent of the population that we serve."
Other services that may be provided by your local Red Cross Chapter include providing instructors for the workplace to teach employees these courses and others such as back injury, prevention and stress management. Health and Safety workers may also offer blood pressure screening, referral, and follow-up, Red Cross first aid stations at public events, Red Cross home health care courses, baby sitter training, and training for child care providers.
ARMED FORCES EMERGENCY SERVICES (AFES)
The American Red Cross is an around-the-clock, around-the-world emergency communication network available to the men and women of our armed forces and their families during times of personal emergencies. Sue Niewenhuyse is a trained volunteer in the AFES with military background. Sue's military background provides her a greater understanding of the chain of command when trying to notify people in the armed services.
"Our job is to gather, verify and transfer information to the commanding officer of the affected military service person," Niewenhuyse said. "It is then up to the commanding officer to determine what happens next."
Other AFES benefits may include providing military members and their families with interest-free loans and grants, assisting veterans during discharge procedures and helping them complete forms for military benefits, and offering counseling and other social services to military families.
Although it is not a government agency, the American Red Cross is chartered by Congress to provide special services to members of the U.S. Armed Forces ant to disaster victims. The Bears' Paw Chapter is an independent, non-profit organization that primarily relies upon people like you for support. One hundred percent of the donations received by the local chapter stay in the community to help local residents in need. In addition to seeking individual donations, the local chapter works in cooperation with the local United Way.
Community members continue to use the American Red Cross as a tool to help neighbors. They have helped the organization fulfill its mission over the years through generous contributions of money and donations of blood and time. Your time, money and blood donations make possible what the volunteers of the Bears' Paw Chapter strive to do - improve the quality of life in Hill and Blaine Counties.
About the writer: Jamie Young is a Havre native working full time at Northern Montana Hospital and attending Montana State University-Northern part time. She is a volunteer public relations director with the Red Cross under the community service program for credit at MSU-Northern.