By Robert Lucke
On July 1, the Bears Paw District of the American Red Cross became more effective in helping Montana residents, according to local Red chairwoman Vicke Larson.
On that day, all the individual chapters in Montana pooled their efforts under one tent.
"There were 13 individual chapters in the state and they all merged together to become one chapter so we could be more effective around the state," Larson said. "Now we have a central headquarters and, even more importantly, we now have the administrative and financial support to do more in rural areas."
Under the new system, the state was broken up into zones and each zone had one major population area in it. That makes for a better sharing of resources, she said.
"The Red Cross did a two-year study before they made that decision," said Bears Paw District executive director Hannah Bryeans. "People were concerned about losing their identity. There were no offices closed and the general public would never recognize that there were any differences at all."
"It is all working well," added Larson. "I am a six-year volunteer and I see it as a tremendous benefit. We can share so much more. We had an executive director leave and one came right out from Great Falls to help out until we found a new one. That wouldn't have happened in the old way."
The Bears Paw District, which includes Hill and Blaine counties, sponsors some important services.
Biomedical Services includes a regular schedule of blood drawings. The last one in Havre, on Monday, attracted 108 walk-ins and had 94 successful donors. Seven were first-time donors.
Health and Safety Services provides two or more classes a month that offer cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid instruction to the community. Life guard training classes are offered periodically and the local swimming pool offers American Red Cross-approved swimming lessons for children during the summer months.
Armed Forces Emergency Services has someone on call 24 hours a day to meet the needs of service men and women from Hill and Blaine counties stationed worldwide. Locally , the most frequent assistance is in the area of emergency contacts, notifying service people of relatives' deaths and illnesses in the community.
Disaster Services provides 24-hour on-call personnel available to assist disaster victims. They are prepared to provide food, shelter and other necessary items to victims.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Larson said, the local Red Cross and those across Montana noticed a decrease in giving. Montanans gave so generously to 9-11 relief and the Red Cross Liberty Fund that there was just no more to give, Larson believes.
"Remember that most of the Red Cross money collected here stays right here," Bryeans said. "Unless it is designated by the giver to go somewhere else, it is used here. We have our own budget and we are responsible for meeting that budget. Sometimes we are given a little grace period when collecting funds but we have to see that our costs are covered."
"We are also a United Way agency," Larson said. "We want to thank the community for their generous support of the United Way."