The colder winter weather, lingering with us into spring, has financial implications for the Coastal South Carolina Chapter of the American Red Cross, which is running its annual fundraiser Heroes Campaign.
“It’s been a tough year,’’ says chapter executive director Nanci Conley, noting the January ice storm and the Georgetown waterfront fire in September. Operating budgets are based on annual normalcy, as Conley puts it, that cannot take into account ice storms and the like.
From July 1 through Feb. 28, the Red Cross responded to 131 home fires in the chapter’s three-county service area. In the same months a year ago, the total was 114 home fires in Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties. The Red Cross response provides a safe place to stay, clothing, food, medical supplies and follow-up caseworker help for 90 days. The Red Cross notifies employers and schools, typically helping start help for the family.
“You know they need the help,’’ Conley says when 77 percent of households receiving home fire responses have less than $25,000 annual income. “If we don’t get them back to their pre-disaster situation,’’ that family likely will need more help from government and private programs.
“Each family is different,’’ and the cost of the response varies, but the average cost for a family of four is $1,250, or $163,750 in the last eight months. Fortunately, we did not have another Hurricane Sandy, which devasted parts of the Northeast including the New Jersey shore the previous year. People here and across the country gave from their hearts to help victims of the storm, Conley says. “Donor fatigue naturally follows’’ such disasters.
April is restaurant month in the Coastal S.C. Chapter’s 2014 Heroes Campaign, Ed Piotrowski again is chairman of the Heroes Campaign, which has a goal of $200,000. Fifteen restaurants have dates scheduled and have pledged about $25,000, leaving the charity still in search of $50,000. Restaurateur Mike Arakas is chairman of the restaurant division. Participating establishments are announced on WPDE-TV.
Fifteen dates in April are available and Conley hopes restaurateurs, especially those on the North Strand will agree to participate. “Not all heroes wear capes,’’ according to the slogan of the campaign and Conley hopes other businesses, organizations and individuals will agree to be heroes for a $1,250 donation, the average cost of a home fire response.
Home fire responses are a major aspect of Red Cross services, but millions of Americans have been touched by the Red Cross through blood donations, military service notification of family situations, water safety and swimming lessons. Area hospitals received 119,735 units of blood, Conley says. “We’re here for everyone.’’
Constant preparedness for disasters has a cost, too. Conley says it costs about $75 to train each of the 236 folks who serve as volunteers for the Red Cross in various capacities.
The Coastal S.C. Chapter‘s annual operating budget is about $700,000. The chapter receives allocations of $75,000 from the United Way of Horry County and about $7,000 from the Georgetown County United Way.