YAKIMA - March is national Red Cross month, and the agency's volunteers in the Yakima Valley have even more to celebrate.
That's because this also marks the 90th year that the Yakima Valley chapter of the Red Cross has served the area.
Elizabeth Carroll is the executive director of the Yakima Valley Red Cross, and praised volunteers who contributed time, money and even blood to help the chapter reach the 90-year milestone.
The chapter's efforts include coordinating blood drives, responding day or night to emergencies, such as fire or flood, as well as providing CPR and first aid training.
In the past year, Carroll said the Yakima Valley chapter volunteers provided 378 fire victims with emergency food, clothing, shelter and counseling, assisted 137 military families and trained 2,500 people in lifesaving skills such as CPR and first aid.
"Volunteers are the core of the Red Cross," she said.
The chapter offers assistance and training throughout the area, including the Lower Valley.
That includes working with the farm workers clinic in Grandview, responding to emergencies here, as well as providing CPR and first aid training in the Lower Valley.
In addition, the chapter works as a liaison between the military and local families with loved ones serving overseas.
"In case there was a family emergency such as death or a birth, we talk with the family and get them patched through to the proper authorities," said Carroll.
The same applies when a family learns they have lost a loved one in military service.
"Many times when there is a military death, the medal ceremony is out of the community," Carroll explained. "We are able to get close family members from here to wherever it might be."
Chapter members also are available to assist those facing mental health problems following an emergency.
Carroll said some ways that Lower Valley residents can get involved include contacting the chapter to bring CPR and first aid classes to this area.
"If they (Lower Valley residents) would like CPR first aid classes, call here and we can set up something," she said. "We'd love to be down there more often."
The contact number for the Yakima chapter is 509-834-2656. In addition to the Yakima Valley Red Cross' phone number, the chapter can be reached at its office, 302 S. Second St. in Yakima, or on the web at www.yakimaredcross.org
Speaking of classes, the chapter is starting a new class called "Safe Baby," which upon request could be offered here in the Lower Valley.
"We'll be teaching emergency CPR for infants," Carroll explained.
In other local service opportunities, Carroll said there is still a need for volunteers to provide Spanish language interpretation when the Red Cross responds to a fire or other emergency.
Max Robinson is the chapter's emergency services manager. He noted there is always room for trained volunteers to serve on disaster action teams in both the Upper and Lower Valley.
Team member training is free, but it is extensive, Robinson said, requiring about 20 hours of volunteer time.
"We make sure that people have a roof over their head, and have their basic needs met," he said of the team's response to emergencies.
As far as the impact of Red Cross month, and the chapter's 90th year celebration, Carroll said her hope is that it will remind the community that the Red Cross is in Yakima County.
"We just want there to be an awareness that the Red Cross is here and the services we can offer," she said.
Carroll also noted that another focus this month is raising funds to support the services provided by the Yakima Valley Chapter.
"As a volunteer-led organization, the American Red Cross relies 100 percent on the generosity of this community to support our services," she said. "When you help the Red Cross, you are really helping your neighbors in the Yakima Valley."