American Red Cross helps disaster victims abroad and at home

Red Cross sign
David Hintch, left, director of the Western Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross, and Eric Myers, emergency services manager, show off a new sign at the Grand Junction. A business that sponsors a family with a contribution of $1,500 is recognized on the sign. (Business Times photo by Mike Moran)

The earthquake that devastated Haiti in January drew contributions from across the globe and the American Red Cross was a major player in collecting donations of food, clothing and money. Red Cross also was responsible for distributing those contributions, and the efforts were felt in the Grand Valley.

“It took tons of staff and volunteer time to make sure it got to Haiti,” said David Hintch, executive director of the Western Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Hintch had special empathy for the earthquake victims because he set up the Red Cross office in Haiti in 2002. Still, he had mixed feelings about the effect in Grand Junction, because the donations for Haiti might have resulted in lower contributions to the local chapter. All donations earmarked for Haiti were shipped to Haiti, he said.

“Last year, we were in the black for the first time in a long time,” said Hintch. But this year could be different.

Business donations have waned this year, said Hintch. The scenario is understandable given the soft economy, and his staff has developed a program to encourage businesses to contribute.

Called “Support Local Disaster for a Day,” the program asks businesses to support families suffering from a house fire or other local disaster. A donation of $150 can support a family for a day, including food and housing in a hotel or other temporary location. A donation of $1,500 can carry such a family for 10 days and also garners a business recognition on the new Red Cross sign in front of the office at Fifth Street and Gunnison Avenue.

House fires occur more frequently in winter, when furnaces are running or fires burn in fireplaces. The local Red Cross chapter has helped 27 people involved in emergencies in recent weeks, said Eric Myers, emergency services manager for the local chapter.

A fund-raiser is planned to raise money for the Red Cross in late winter. During the Academy Awards, the Red Cross will sponsor a “Red Cross, Red Carpet” event. KJCT-TV will televise the awards Feb. 7 on a big screen at Two Rivers Convention Center. People who attend will have a chance to win prizes while watching the awards.

The funds should come in handy, but Hintch said local people have continued to support the Red Cross even during a rough economic climate. The local chapter should be able to meet its budget goal for the year, he said. He also realizes contributions for Haiti were important as well.

“I never had the opportunity to thank people,” he said.