By BRAD GASKINS
SHARON – Weakley County residents are donating money to the American Red Cross but not getting any relief assistance in return.
That was the message – an olive branch, of sorts – the disaster relief charity’s new regional coordinator delivered Thursday night (Jan. 31) at Shelton’s restaurant during a quarterly meeting of the Weakley County Fire Chiefs Association.
Brandy Box is the American Red Cross’ director of emergency services for the Northwest Tennessee chapter.
She said in the few months she’s been on the job, the Red Cross has worked 35 regional cases. More than $18,000 has been spent helping 112 individuals in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, mostly house fires. And none of those have been from Weakley County.
“Since I’ve been there,” Box said, referring to the Red Cross, “I’ve noticed Weakley County is not using our services.”
When a fire destroys a home in Weakley County, if the residents have no insurance, the Red Cross can cover the cost of a motel room and money for immediate clothing, food and medicine, Box said.
The Red Cross can also help in more serious community-wide incidents such as explosions and hazardous materials spills, she said.
The Red Cross can feed up to 500 people at a time with just one of its mobile feeding units, she said.
“I just want you guys to know that I’m here to assist you,” said Box, whose office is based in Dyersburg. “I want you to use our services because they are there.”
She noted that in the past, perhaps the Red Cross and Weakley County haven’t always had the best working relationship.
“Maybe Weakley County received some poor service from the Red Cross,” Box said, noting the county may have been hesitant to call because it didn’t think the Red Cross would help.
“I’ve seen times we could use you but didn’t have the relationship or contacts that we needed in the past,” Sharon Fire Chief Gary Eddings said.
Box noted she has a large geographical area to cover and not many resources available.
“I’m a one-woman deal,” she said. “I have to have volunteers. I need your help in getting volunteers.”
Free training is provided by the Red Cross in CPR, disaster training and other areas. Volunteer chaplains are also needed.
During a question-and-answer portion, Weakley County Mayor Houston Patrick asked Box what her priority would be if a tornado came across three counties.
Box said she would contact emergency management agencies in the three counties to see where the Red Cross would be needed most immediately. She said her next step would be to start sending trained volunteers with equipment into the affected areas, while at the same time calling for national support from the Red Cross if needed.
Box said the Red Cross has seven shelter agreements in place with churches and schools in Weakley County.
In an emergency, “We all become one instead of fighting against each other,” she said. “If the Red Cross comes in, we’re all going to work together and do whatever you need.”
Box, along with the local fire chiefs, encouraged Weakley County citizens interested in volunteering to call Box for more information. She may be reached at (731) 286-4740.
The Weakley County Fire Chiefs Association is comprised of fire chiefs from Weakley County. The group has been meeting for the last 20 years.