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Red Cross provides relief to servicemembers worldwide

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Two American Red Cross volunteers demonstrate the use of a backboard during a health and safety class. The ARC provides services to Eglin and Hurlburt personnel in a variety of ways, including health and safety classes, disaster awareness briefings and emergency communications. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anthony Jennings)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Two American Red Cross volunteers demonstrate the use of a backboard during a health and safety class. The ARC provides services to Eglin and Hurlburt personnel in a variety of ways, including health and safety classes, disaster awareness briefings and emergency communications. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anthony Jennings)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Jan Stratton, American Red Cross volunteer, stuffs folders with children's activity papers for an upcoming ARC event. The ARC provides services to Eglin and Hurlburt personnel in a variety of ways, including health and safety classes, disaster awareness briefings and emergency communications. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. LuCelia Ball)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Jan Stratton, American Red Cross volunteer, stuffs folders with children's activity papers for an upcoming ARC event. The ARC provides services to Eglin and Hurlburt personnel in a variety of ways, including health and safety classes, disaster awareness briefings and emergency communications. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. LuCelia Ball)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- A deployment. A house fire. A hurricane.

Each of the above events is seemingly unrelated. However, each affects a military family by the disruption of their daily lives. But there is an organization available to help. It's the rare military member that has not been touched by the Red Cross at some point in a career.

From its humble beginnings in 1881, the American Red Cross has since evolved to head disaster relief efforts in domestic and overseas locations, aid military members with communications and handle peacetime relief work.

Locally, the American Red Cross Office provides services to Eglin and Hurlburt Field. Their efforts encompass activities such as health and safety classes, communications to military members worldwide and disaster preparedness classes.

"Frequently, squadron leadership asks us to come and brief their members about disaster preparedness," said Karen Dugre, American Red Cross Military Affairs Coordinator. "We work in conjunction with the Airman and Family Readiness Center to ensure our military members have the information they need to prepare for a natural disaster."

Airmen and their families are briefed on preparation for a natural disaster such as a hurricane: how to secure their homes, items to include in a disaster kit, planning evacuation routes and how to inspect a home upon arrival back from an evacuation. The organization is also equipped to assist Airmen with food and water if they encounter a power outage.

The ARC personnel also respond to assist families who experience a house fire.

"Single-home fires are the No. 1 disaster in our area," said Ms. Dugre. "We can put them up for three days in a hotel. If a family member evacuated without shoes, we can give them a voucher so they can get shoes. And some financial assistance for food. It's just to get them through until they can activate their disaster plan."

The ARC personnel usually respond soon after the fire department does, as the fire department often calls the Red Cross to notify them. In those cases, the organization dispatches a disaster action team member to come out, assess the damage and assist the family at that time.

Other programs include health and safety classes to include swimming, CPR and First Aid, HIV awareness and babysitting.

The primary goal for ARC at Eglin, however, is emergency notifications to personnel.

"We notify members and their commanders of a death, critical illness or birth," said Ms. Dugre.
" Leave extensions are run through us as well to verify the emergency or any other time there is a crisis at the home."
The unit is on call for notifications 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The happier side of the Red Cross mission centers around deployments.

"We run the ditty bag program which is the best stuff on the line; ask anyone who has been through it," said Ms. Dugre. "It includes candy and cookies, paper to write a letter with, toothbrush and toothpaste, a deck of cards and toiletry items. We also give the individuals an info sheet on how to contact the Red Cross for their family and what information will be needed to start an emergency message if one needs to be started. social security number, date of birth, unit, location of unit, full name, rank and branch of service. Which seems simple, but when someone is in a panic, it's not simple."

With only one paid worker, the Red Cross relies on help from volunteers. Currently, more than 100 people volunteer their time to help out with classes, special events and fundraisers.

"I started out here as a volunteer myself," said Ms. Dugre. "I do this because I believe it's important. It's a good feeling to be able to offer someone something who has just lost everything."

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