Af­ter six years, Red Cross opens of­fice

Lex­ing­ton Park site first of sev­eral planned in So. Md.

Maryland Independent - - NEWS - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Dan­danEn­tNews

Af­ter clos­ing its La Plata re­gional of­fice af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irene six years ago, the Amer­i­can Red Cross re­cently opened a new of­fice in Lex­ing­ton Park to ex­pand its lo­cal pres­ence and en­hance its out­reach ef­forts.

Open for about a month, the new lo­ca­tion is in Lex­ing­ton Park, next to a pet well­ness clinic in a com­plex in Mil­li­son Plaza across from the Patux­ent River Naval Air Sta­tion.

The of­fice will al­low the Red Cross to host health and safety train­ings in the new space and raise aware­ness of its ser­vices, said Jason Mar­shall, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s South­ern Mary­land di­rec­tor.

“My job is to re­vi­tal­ize the ser­vices we of­fer,” Mar­shall said, not­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion had an in­for­ma­tional booth at the St. Mary’s crab fes­ti­val ear­lier this month and plans to do the same at the oys­ter fes­ti­val in Oc­to­ber.

“Our main job down here is disaster re­sponse,” Mar­shall said.

The Red Cross of­fers emer­gency ho­tel stays, food and cloth­ing for those who are dis­placed as a re­sult of nat­u­ral or man-made dis­as­ters such as floods, house fires, haz­ardous ma­te­rial spills and car ac­ci­dents, ac­cord­ing to the non­profit agency.

In April, Red Cross helped a to­tal of 27 peo­ple in the tri-county area dis­placed due to home fires — three in Charles, 17 in Calvert and seven in St. Mary’s, ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s most re­cent progress re­port.

It of­fers a great deal of com­fort for folks who are of­ten dis­traught af­ter catas­tro­phes to hear that they have a room to stay that night and food for the kids, said Bob Kelly, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the St. Mary’s County De­part­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices and Tech­nol­ogy, whao works with the Red Cross closely.

There used to be a Red Cross of­fice in each of the three coun­ties be­fore the or­ga­ni­za­tion con­sol­i­dated them into one of­fice in La Plata, Kelly said. In the past few months, Red Cross told Kelly’s de­part­ment that the or­ga­ni­za­tion is shift­ing its fo­cus from a re­gional ap­proach to a county-cen­tered ap­proach.

“It’s a good thing for the county; it’s a good thing for Red Cross,” Kelly said, not­ing the new of­fice space gives them a place to con­vene for meet­ings and pro­vide train­ing for vol­un­teers.

Af­ter the clos­ing of its La Plata lo­ca­tion, Red Cross co­or­di­nated ser­vice in the re­gion from its Annapolis of­fice, ac­cord­ing to Mar­shall.

“We never left South­ern Mary­land,” he said. Six on-call disaster vol­un­teers pro­vide 24/7 as­sis­tance to res­i­dents in St. Mary’s County.

“Our vol­un­teer num­bers are go­ing way up,” Mar­shall said. The re­gional chap­ter has about 400 vol­un­teers in Anne Arun­del, St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles coun­ties, which is about a 300 per­cent in­crease com­pared to two years ago.

The new of­fice will also be able to pro­vide sup­port for about 30 vol­un­teers in St. Mary’s, he said.

Con­sid­er­ing the ser vices Red Cross of­fers, be­ing in a com­mu­nity is es­sen­tial, said Amanda Hollins of Sun­der­land, chair of the board of di­rec­tors in the re­gion.

“It’s who we serve,” she said. “We are work­ing to es­tab­lish our pres­ence” in South­ern Mary­land to in­crease the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s vis­i­bil­ity and raise aware­ness of its ser vices.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion is also look­ing for do­nated space in Calver t and Charles coun­ties to es­tab­lish new of­fices, Mar­shall said. The Lex­ing­ton Park of­fice has one vol­un­teer who keeps the of­fice open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day.

For res­i­dents who are in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, call 410-624-2040 to talk a live Red Cross case­worker for fur­ther as­sis­tance.

STAFF PHOTO BY DANDAN ZOU

Open for about a month, the new of­fice is lo­cated next to a pet well­ness clinic in a com­plex at the Mil­li­son Plaza across from the Patux­ent River Naval Air Sta­tion.

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