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Special Disaster Trailers readied to assist with functional needs

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The American Red Cross Serving Central Pennsylvania has a new, and its first, disaster relief tool to help the elderly and those with mobility problems.

In May, the organization unveiled its new Functional Needs Disaster Trailer at the Victory Athletic Association, York, which donated funds for the trailer and its supplies.

According to Christopher Weidenhammer, Regional Disaster Program Officer, "Statistics show that 1.95 million residents of Pennsylvania have a level of functional need that would require them to have access to special supplies during a disaster, such as adjustable cots, wheelchairs, canes, walkers and other items."

Mike Murphy, volunteer chair of the Access and Functional Needs Committee, said, "I saw firsthand the need for equipment for those with health and mobility concerns. During Tropical Storm Lee, many of the 250 people displaced by flooding had mobility issues. There were not enough wheelchairs to meet the need."

Wheelchairs are among some of the supplies inside the trailer, which will be towed behind an SUV in the event of a disaster. Other equipment includes cots, privacy screens, walkers, canes and toiletry items.

The $25,000 cost for the trailer and equipment came from proceeds of Victory’s small games of chance. By law, social clubs are required to donate a portion of those proceeds to charities. Association president Steve Taylor said donations usually go to local organizations, but since the trailer could be used anywhere, including York County, association members felt it was a worthy cause. He was not only instrumental in giving funds toward the trailer, he also had a hand, literally, in building the final project. Apprentices at Kinsley Education Center, where Taylor is a teacher, made shelves for the trailer to keep supplies organized. "It’s pretty neat when you give money and you get to see the end project," he said.

This trailer will be housed in Harrisburg, but it can be called out to respond to disasters in any of the 22 counties in the state covered by the organization. A second trailer has been purchased by a gift from Dave Triosi and the Bonnie Troisi FundWilliamsport. This trailer will be stationed at the NorthCentralPa Chapter and will be easily accessible to the northern tier of the region.

The Function Needs Trailers are being added to the Red Cross’s fleet of Emergency Response Vehicles and general Shelter Trailers. In addition the organization is part of the national Red Cross network that would assist with materials, supplies and funding if necessary.