A Feb. 2 fire damaged a Martinez home and left the five-member family out in the cold.
Fortunately for them, and numerous others, the American Red Cross was there to help.
Through the end of March, the Red Cross is holding its Heroes Campaign to raise funds to support local disaster services.
"When it is the middle of the night and people are in a horrible situation, they are traumatized, they have nothing," said Pam Tucker, Columbia County's Emergency and Operations Division director and campaign co-chair. "Right then, the Red Cross shows up. That's their lifeline. That is their support."
Through its local disaster services, the Red Cross provided that Martinez family their immediate needs -- food, clothing, including winter coats, and a hotel, said Jana Hill, public affairs director for the American Red Cross of Augusta.
The Red Cross, a nonprofit organization, provides health and safety information and services, including Disaster Action Teams -- on-call volunteers ready to respond to disasters day or night.
The Augusta office provides services to 11 counties, including Columbia, Richmond, McDuffie, Burke and Lincoln.
Since January, the Red Cross has assisted 24 families totaling 87 people -- including 14 families totaling 53 people in Columbia and Richmond counties. Hill said that last year the Red Cross spent about $170,000 providing disaster relief services to 475 families.
Hill said 25 percent of the Red Cross budget comes from the United Way. The remainder of the needed funds must be raised locally.
The goal of the Heroes Campaign is to raise $50,000 to support disaster services.
"All these funds will be used in this local community," Hill said. "Nothing will be sent anywhere else. It allows us to help people in this community who need help at the time they need it."
To be a Red Cross Hero, Hill said any business, club, school, church, civic group, or individual must pledge to raise $1,000.
That $1,000 can go a long way, Hill said. It can buy 476 toiletry kits for disaster victims, 28 cots or 198 blankets to supply a shelter during a large-scale disaster, or groceries for 20 families of four, she said.
Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue has offered to be a Hero by placing donation collection boxes at 12 of its 16 Columbia County fire stations. Chief Doug Cooper said as a firefighter he's seen the effects of a devastating event such as a home fire and how the Red Cross is always there to help displaced families.
Hill said the services also include counseling and providing information to military personnel.
Tucker said she has a special kinship to the Red Cross after the agency's response during the 1990 flood in Augusta.
"I don't know what we would have done without them," Tucker said. "Government does not do relief. And if people don't support the Red Cross, one day whenever they find themselves in that situation, who is going to help? There may be no help."
For information on the Heroes campaign, call Hill at (706) 724-8481.
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