Help­ing those in need

Cana­dian Red Cross vol­un­teers re­spond when disas­ter strikes

South Shore Breaker - - FRONT PAGE - VER­NON OICKLE ver­non.l.oickle@east­link.ca

When a disas­ter or an emer­gency strikes, area res­i­dents can take com­fort in know­ing that Cana­dian Red Cross vol­un­teers and work­ers will be there to help them find sup­port and to com­fort them in their time of need.

For more than 20 years, the lo­cal branch of the Cana­dian Red Cross has been work­ing out of its Bridge­wa­ter base, an­swer­ing the call to help oth­ers not only lo­cally, but be­yond re­gional bor­ders as well, with some go­ing to other prov­inces and all the way across the coun­try to lend a help­ing hand.

But that’s what Cana­dian Red Cross vol­un­teers do, points out Tracey Cle­ments, the co-or­di­na­tor of the Cana­dian Red Cross Ser­vice Cen­tre that’s lo­cated at 42 Glen Al­lan Dr. in Bridge­wa­ter.

“We have a tremen­dous group of trained vol­un­teers who are ready to go wher­ever they are needed,” Cle­ments says.

For ex­am­ple, she says, the South Shore branch has sent vol­un­teers to help with the dev­as­tat­ing fires in Fort Mcmurray and last year in Bri­tish Columbia. Just this spring, she adds, they sent vol­un­teers to help with the floods in

New Brunswick.

“Lo­cally, our disas­ter man­age­ment team con­sists of 18 mem­bers who are well trained to go any­where in Canada at a minute’s no­tice,” Cle­ments ex­plains.

“Th­ese are vol­un­teers who do not get paid for their ser­vices and they know they will be work­ing long days with very lit­tle rest, but they want to help and it’s what they be­lieve in. We are grate­ful that we have such a large group of ded­i­cated vol­un­teers who will an­swer the call to help in a time of emer­gency.”

While emer­gency re­sponse is a large part of what the Cana­dian Red Cross does, she quickly ex­plains it is not all that they do, point­ing out that pro­vid­ing sup­port for peo­ple in the area who need med­i­cal equip­ment through their equip­ment loans pro­gram is also a ma­jor com­po­nent of the ser­vices they pro­vide.

“Through this pro­gram, we loan mo­bil­ity and bath­room equip­ment at no cost to peo­ple with med­i­cal con­di­tions,” she says, adding that the pro­gram is op­er­ated through the cen­tre by a group of ded­i­cated vol­un­teers five days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Through this pro­gram, they can pro­vide such things as walk­ers, crutches, wheel­chairs and even per­sonal floata­tion de­vices.

“Our ob­jec­tive is to help peo­ple when they need it,” Cle­ments says, not­ing that ser­vice is achieved through their reg­u­lar pro­grams and through their disas­ter re­sponse teams.

Re­tired teacher Ch­eryl Gran­tham of Bridge­wa­ter has been a Cana­dian Red Cross vol­un­teer

for more than 20 years and says she be­came in­volved be­cause she wanted to help peo­ple in need.

“The Red Cross was the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for me to do that,” Gran­tham says. “And hon­estly, it feels good to be there for peo­ple when they need help.”

In ad­di­tion to vol­un­teer­ing at the cen­tre, Gran­tham is also the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s his­to­rian and with the help of fel­low vol­un­teer John Maclean, they have com­piled a brief his­tory of the Cana­dian Red Cross on the South Shore.

As of 2018, there are Cana­dian Red Cross ser­vice cen­tres or help desks in Yar­mouth, Kentville, Amherst, Truro, Antigo­nish, Syd­ney, Hal­i­fax, Dart­mouth and Bridge­wa­ter to serve those through­out Nova Sco­tia in need of med­i­cal equip­ment and as­sis­tance.

Gran­tham and Maclean write in their his­tory, “The year was 1995. The lo­ca­tion was Bridge­wa­ter. Vol­un­teers un­der the lead­er­ship of Mike Smither­man worked to­gether to co-or­di­nate health equip­ment from Bridge­wa­ter, La­have, River­port and New Ger­many ar­eas to open the first Red Cross Ser­vice in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia.”

The area’s first cen­tre was lo­cated in the Bridge­wa­ter Gateway Plaza and, they write, the fa­cil­ity was small but the rent was rea­son­able. A small space for an of­fice front pro­vided room for Cana­dian Red Cross ma­te­ri­als, a desk and re­cep­tion area for clients. A larger room was lo­cated in the back where avail­able equip­ment was kept. A bath­room, a larger sink and shower al­lowed for the clean­ing of re­turned items. Sev­eral ta­bles were avail­able for meet­ings and teach­ing Cana­dian Red Cross first aid cour­ses.

Ac­cord­ing to Gran­tham and Maclean, Joan Rus­sell from Ch­ester was the first Cana­dian Red Cross co-or­di­na­tor in the area and the lo­cal Cana­dian Red Cross com­mit­tee from the Bridge­wa­ter area in­cluded Edie Hall and Louise Hir­tle, who acted as vol­un­teers.

Su­san Publi­cover was a per­son in charge, they say, adding that Pat Veinot and Donna Maclean or­ga­nized the vol­un­teers.

“The cen­tre op­er­ated three days a week and a Thurs­day evening was tried for a brief time. The time evolved to a daily open­ing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a spe­cial ser­vice pro­vided by the Phar­masave lo­cated next door. They were the keep­ers of the key for vol­un­teers to open and close the cen­tre.”

Gran­tham and Maclean say vol­un­teers con­tin­ued this ser­vice un­til an­other change came about in 2004, when the suc­cess of the Bridge­wa­ter Ser­vice Cen­tre was rec­og­nized by the Cana­dian Red Cross of­fice in Hal­i­fax and Saint John.

The Bridge­wa­ter cen­tre be­came the model for the fu­ture of the Cana­dian Red Cross pro­grams and vol­un­teers and sub­se­quently, ser­vice cen­tres were opened in pop­u­lated ar­eas around the prov­ince.

The of­fice in Bridge­wa­ter changed its open hours and in 2004 the lo­ca­tion of the Bridge­wa­ter ser­vice cen­tre was up­graded and moved to the Med­i­cal Arts Build­ing at 42 Glen Al­lan Dr., not far from the South Shore Re­gional Hos­pi­tal. A Cana­dian Red Cross co-or­di­na­tor was also hired at that time.

“With the open­ing of the first ser­vice cen­tre in Bridge­wa­ter in 1995, vol­un­teers set an ex­am­ple for the rest of Nova Sco­tia and the At­lantic area,” Gran­tham and Maclean say. “Thank you to those vol­un­teers who showed com­pas­sion and the true mean­ing of hu­man­ity.”

Cle­ments, the cur­rent co­or­di­na­tor, says they are proud of their past and are anx­ious to be pro­vid­ing help and ser­vice well into the fu­ture. Any­one who would like to vol­un­teer can drop by the cen­tre or call 902-543-8565 dur­ing hours of op­er­a­tion.

Ver­non Oickle

Cana­dian Red Cross vol­un­teer Ch­eryl Gran­tham (left) and co-or­di­na­tor Tracey Cle­ments are shown in the equip­ment room at the Cana­dian Red Cross Ser­vice Cen­tre lo­cated at 42 Glen Al­lan Dr. in Bridge­wa­ter.

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