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Red Cross keeps offering helping hand in St. Mary's

You can rest assured it’s going to help people in St. Mary's County

Last summer the office of the Southern Maryland chapter of the American Red Cross in La Plata shut down, but the need endures and, the Red Cross says, so does the response.

Michelle Thompson, who became the Red Cross’ emergency services program manager for Southern Maryland, took on the post in November, has a field office in Prince Frederick and has been touring her new domain.

“I’ve spent a lot of time traveling through the counties and meeting many of our volunteers and county administrators,” said Thompson, who previously served six years with the Red Cross in Michigan.

“It’s a beautiful area,” she said. “Everyone has just been so kind, ... and so very, very generous with their time and sharing their knowledge.”

The continuum of service most recently was demonstrated in St. Mary’s by the Red Cross response to help the displaced occupants of a burned house trailer in Dameron and a family who lost their Great Mills home to a fire.

All fundraising in Maryland for the Red Cross now is done through its Baltimore office, but both the local front-line volunteers and financial support for the organization remain essential, according to Doug Lent, the regional

communications director for the Red Cross’ Chesapeake Region.

“We’ve always fully expected to have our volunteers still in force in Southern Maryland. These are the ones who really do all the work,” Lent said. “The strength of the Red Cross has never really been about buildings.”

Bay District Volunteer Fire Chief Shawn Downs said the Red Cross response to the Nov. 27 house fire in Great Mills’ Bay Ridge Estates community exemplified the continued support of the agency, where and when its needed. “We haven’t seen any break in the help that they bring,” Downs said. “We got a phone call in two or three minutes of asking.”

The fire chief said the Red Cross quickly set up help for the displaced family of four.

“Before we left the scene, they had hotel reservations and everything,” Downs said. “There was no delay at all.”

There currently are about 15 Red Cross volunteers in St. Mary’s. “It is pretty consistent,” Thompson said, “but we are looking to increase those numbers.”

At the same time, Lent said, the need continues for donations to ensure that the response to home fires and other disasters will always be available.

“We really need the financial support to pay for that emergency shelter and to pay for [the provided] food,” Lent said.

“You can rest assured it’s going to help people in St. Mary’s County,” Lent said.