Red Cross provides many services in Southeast Missouri

Sunday, June 17, 2012
Jonathan Jones of Jackson performs chest compressions on a CPR dummy Tuesday. (Laura Simon)

The American Red Cross is known for its blood donation services. However, this is not the only service it provides.

Each year the humanitarian organization responds to more than 70,000 natural and man-made disasters. These disasters include home fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents and explosions.

"It is our goal to be there within an hour of any disaster," said Sara Gerau, executive director of financial development for the Southeast Missouri chapter.

The local chapter covers 11 counties from Perry County to the Bootheel, including Cape Girardeau, Bollinger and Scott counties. Gerau said the chapter responds most often to house fires.

"They are normally almost a daily occurrence," Gerau said.

John Simelton Sr. and his wife, Ernestine, of Cairo, Ill., breathe for the CPR dummy Tuesday at the American Red Cross in Cape Girardeau as part of their lay responder CPR and first aid class. (Laura Simon)

According to Gerau, 86 volunteers recently responded to Diehlstadt, Mo., which was hit by a tornado on June 4.

In the event of a disaster, the organization provides shelter, food, health and mental health services to victims.

"We are there to comfort them and make sure their immediate needs are met," Gerau said.

Depending on the situation, immediate needs may include a hotel for the night or funds for necessities. Gerau said they also offer mental case work for disaster victims.

"It is very traumatizing for these people," Gerau said.

Health and safety instructor Christine Beardslee leads the lay responder CPR and first aid class Tuesday at the American Red Cross in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

In addition to helping victims, the Red Cross also brings food to emergency workers. Volunteer services manager Ann Knopf said they did so in February after Oak Ridge was hit by storms.

According to Knopf, the organization is run by 97 percent volunteers. She said in the 11 counties covered by the Southeast Missouri chapter, there are abound 300 volunteers.

"They are really the ones on the front line," Knopf said.

Gerau said these volunteers, including the financial donors, are the heart and soul of the organization.

"We couldn't do what we do without volunteers," Gerau said.

Those interested in volunteering must be 18 years old and pass a background check.

Volunteer opportunities are also available through the Junior American Red Cross. Gerau said they will be reimplementing this program in September. It is an opportunity for the community's youth to become involved in service projects such as landscaping or creating first aid kits.

In addition to disaster services, the organization offers health and safety classes for lay people, professional rescuers and health care providers. These classes include the pediatric and adult first aid, CPR and AED training which took place Monday and Tuesday at the Southeast Missouri chapter in Cape Girardeau.

Health and safety director Beth Seabaugh said many people attend these classes because they are required to do so. However, they can provide peace of mind for nonemergency professionals.

"Can you imagine if you were at a family dinner and something happened to your favorite uncle?" Seabaugh said.

Gerau said the organization's goal is to have at least one in four people trained in a life saving skill.

According to Seabaugh, many of the organization's classes are offered on a rotating basis throughout the month, with the exception of their baby sitter training course and wilderness and remote first aid course.

The chapter will offer this baby-sitter training class July 18 at their office.

"They get good hands on experience caring for children," Seabaugh said.

A disaster institute training will be offered June 28-30 at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

According to Knopf, the eight classes at the institute will provide upper-level disaster training. One class will teach those in attendance how to prepare food in the event of a disaster.

"We are excited that we can bring that level of training to Southeast Missouri," Gerau said.

For more information on classes or becoming a volunteer, contact the Southeast Missouri chapter at 335-9471 or visit


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