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American Red Cross of South Georgia: A Year of Heroic Service and Support

Whether in small towns or large cities worldwide, during times of crisis, American Red Cross employees and volunteers provide aid and relief to people in need, including shelter and food to people severely impacted by disasters. 

In 2023, the American Red Cross of South-Central Georgia responded to 246 disasters and assisted 322 families. 

Jacqueline Shoemaker, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of South-Central Georgia, said house fires are the most frequent disaster.

“Our trained volunteers arrive with comfort kits containing basic toiletries, snacks, and blankets,” she said. “While onsite with the family, Red Cross employees and volunteers can load debit cards with money based on the family size and situation.”

According to the American Red Cross, home fires claim seven lives every day, but having a working smoke alarm can reduce the risk of death by half. 

 

Due to these alarming statistics, the Home Fire Campaign was developed to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries through fire safety education and the installation of free smoke alarms.

Shoemaker expressed gratitude for the support of volunteers, including 

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Jacqueline Shoemaker,

Executive Director of the American Red Cross of South-Central Georgia

chapter-wide fire personnel, who helped install 621 free fire alarms, significantly reducing the risk of fire-related injuries and fatalities, offering “peace of mind to families,” and making 279 households safer.

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Hurricane Idalia

On a larger scale, during Hurricane Idalia’s severe impact on Florida and Georgia, the American Red Cross acted quickly to set up emergency shelters and distribute essential supplies.

Shoemaker, who joined the American Red Cross seven months before Hurricane Idalia, stated, “Before my employment, I had an outsider’s perspective, but the hurricane response quickly demonstrated the power of the American Red Cross. When you see the scale of a major response effort, there is tremendous pride in being part of that.”

Local Red Cross staff and volunteers were joined by more volunteers from across the country who helped serve meals, provide shelter, and distribute clean-up supplies.

People whose homes had extensive damage were provided direct payments to cover immediate needs such as temporary housing, clothing, and other essentials.

 

“We were also fortunate to have assistance from the Greater Valdosta United Way and many nonprofits, churches, and other organizations,” Shoemaker said. “The initial response included hot meals and safe shelter, then it shifted to offering financial assistance to families with significant damage to their homes.”

The Greater Valdosta United Way provided Walmart gift cards to individuals and families financially impacted by the hurricane.

 

Beyond disaster relief, the American Red Cross is crucial to community health and safety. Local chapters sponsor blood drives, support military members and their families, and offer lifesaving training and certification programs.

Lifesaving Blood Drives

As the U.S.’s largest provider of blood products, the American Red Cross supplies 40% of the nation’s blood to hospitals and medical facilities for lifesaving treatments.

Last year, the South-Central Georgia chapter held 249 blood drives, collecting 5,120 units of blood.

 

Shoemaker cautions that with the start of summer vacation comes a decline in donors, significantly impacting patient care. “Approximately 20% of our blood drives take place in schools,” she said. “This often means an even greater shortage during the summer months.”

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Despite fewer blood drives in the summer, the Red Cross donor center remains open, and appointments are available online at www.redcrossblood.org.

Military and Veteran Support

For more than 140 years, the Red Cross has been deployed alongside the military in every U.S. conflict worldwide.

 

 “The American Red Cross has a federal charter to provide family communications and other forms of support to the U.S. military,” Shoemaker said. “For instance, if a service member is deployed and a family member has an emergency, the Red Cross delivers verified messages to the commanding officer.”

 

In 2023, the South-Central Georgia chapter addressed 644 armed forces cases and provided 1,023 services.

Training and Certification

From first aid and CPR to babysitting training, the South-Central Georgia chapter offers many lifesaving training and certification programs. Last year, the chapter provided these programs to 4,330 adults and children through online and in-person classes.

 

More than 431 children in grades three through five participated in youth preparedness classes, which teach students about personal and family preparedness, safety skills, local hazards, and basic coping skills.

Volunteer Efforts

Whether motivated by a desire to give back to the community or to help those less fortunate, Red Cross volunteers are the organization’s backbone.

Serving 25 counties, the South-Central Georgia chapter operates with a small staff of five full-time and one part-time employee. Volunteer support is crucial to getting the work done.
 

Shoemaker emphasized the vital role of volunteers, who compromise

about 90% of the workforce. “We have volunteers who average more than 40 hours a week,” she said. “They are like a family, and for many of them, it’s a big part of their lives that brings them a lot of fulfillment.”

 

For more information, contact Jackie Shoemaker at 229-242-7404 or  jacqueline.shoemaker@redcross.org

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