Of the Baker City Herald

Thanks to financial support that a local Red Cross official described as broad-based and generous, the Eastern Oregon chapter of the American Red Cross will have enough money to keep its doors in both Baker and Union counties open at least until summer begins.

A holiday season fund drive combined with special one-time fund-raisers enabled the chapter to close a $30,000 shortfall that threatened to end the chapters near century-long presence in Northeastern Oregon, said chapter executive director Beverly Higley. The Red Cross budget for the two-county chapter is about $130,000 annually.

I am cautiously optimistic about funding for the coming year, Higley said. We were pleasantly surprised at the communitys response when they knew that we were in trouble. It told me, one, that the work we do is important and that people want us here, and two, that that theres a financial base here sufficient to support the Red Cross. Were very grateful for the support we received.

That support has come through both traditional and innovative means. Some people simply got out their checkbook and gave.

Other volunteers and friends staged successful fundraisers in both counties. Dave Grover of Baker City decided to stay on the chapters board of directors after putting together a benefit concert late last year at Baker High School. The Grande Ronde Community Choir also delivered a benefit concert in La Grande.

La Grande restaurateur Sandy Sorrels hosted a dinner that served as a fund-raiser in November.

Weve had to be creative to keep our doors open, Higley said. If the support we receive continues to broaden, well be OK. Not only are we a volunteer-led organization, but were volunteer driven. It is our volunteers who do a great deal of our work.

Its important to build up a cushion by June, Higley said, because thats when many money-making courses, especially in the areas of health and safety, are discontinued for the summer.

Volunteers can also help the chapter to raise money as well as to train area residents in important skills. Baker County residents are needed, for example, to serve as instructors for a babysitting course that certifies area teen-agers in that vital skill. Thats a money-maker for the chapter, Higley said, because students pay a small fee to take the course.

Its a valuable course because babysitters learn not only what to do in case of an emergency, but how to market their business, she said.

The young people who have gone through that course are amazed at what they learned in two days, Higley said.

An area resident is available to teach the teachers how to lead the course, and training materials are readily available.

With all the courses in health and safety that the chapter sponsors, its focus remains on emergency preparedness, Higley said. Meetings with officials from the Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot have been held to help area chapters prepare for that unthinkable disaster.

Weve been told that our chapter will have to look at having to shelter up to 3,500 people, depending on which way the wind blows, Higley said.

Those meetings also produced a tangible benefit, Higley said: the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide the chapter with a transportable emergency trailer that will deliver up to 100 cots, blankets and pillows that can be used in case of emergency.