As kids learn about fire, Red Cross asks for blankets

Published 11:14 am Friday, October 12, 2012

Among the groups of pre-schoolers, firefighters and parents at the Vicksburg Fire Department’s annual Fire Prevention Day Thursday, a small American Red Cross booth sat near the edge of the City Park Pavilion asking adults for something simple, blankets.

For the fifth year, the Red Cross is beginning a drive for donations of blankets or money to buy them.

“We seek blanket donations all year, but especially in the winter,” Red Cross volunteer Patty Montague said as she stood by the booth, which displayed six blankets.

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She said blankets are used by the Red Cross to provide comfort to victims of disasters such as fires, storms and floods, and are also given to people who can’t afford them.

“When we go to a fire, every family member gets a blanket,” said Janice Sawyer, readiness and response manager for the 19-county Mississippi Capital River Chapter, which includes Warren County.

“We also assist with providing blankets to elderly people living alone who don’t have family members to help them, and to nursing home patients who don’t have family nearby,” she said. “We learn about the elderly and the patients from home health workers, social workers and workers in nursing homes.”

From October 2011 until now, Sawyer said, the Red Cross has distributed up to 1,000 blankets in Warren County to the elderly, fire victims and people in its shelters during such disasters as Tropical Storm Isaac.

She said the drive, which ends Nov. 30, starts during Fire Prevention Week because it is close to winter and a reminder that disaster can strike any time.

Brad Campbell, a Red Cross disaster service volunteer, said requests to aid fire victims come from fire chiefs, volunteer firefighters, police and deputies.

“We try to find hotel rooms where someone who’s lost everything in a fire can stay for a couple of nights,” he said.

Campbell said people who want to donate money or blankets to the program can call 601-636-9182.

Sawyer said the blanket program began in 2007 “and has continued to grow. Right now, I’m down to 50 blankets and I need to have more.”

One group, the Woodmen of the World, was at the pavilion to donate six blankets and $300 to purchase more.

“We’ve been doing this for three years,” said WOW Lodge 1 Vicksburg member Sandra Harrigill. She estimated Woodmen of the World has donated almost $1,000 for blankets in three years.

“A blanket provides more than just warmth. It provides comfort. It’s something reassuring to a person who has just lost everything in a fire,” Sawyer said.