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Red Cross is alive and well in county

If there is one thing Jackie Smith wants to make sure people understand, it’s that the American Red Cross remains in Marengo County to offer its services to residents.

Smith is brand new at her job as managing director of the Red Cross for the five-county area of Marengo, Dallas, Wilcox, Perry and Choctaw. She began April 1 and is still learning the territory.

Working out of the central office in Selma, her home, Smith comes to her new job with a wealth of experience as a former employee of the Selma city government for 25 years.

Marengo and Selma are the only two counties to have Red Cross employees in a permanent location. From the office in the Courthouse Annex, Brettania Evans, office manager, and Don Self, health and safety manager, try to meet the emergency and education needs of those in the county.

Hers is a difficult job since headquarters for the Red Cross moved to Montgomery. When the Selma central office lost its charter, many people in the west Alabama region believed the Red Cross no longer would be around to help in emergencies.

Smith is out to change all that. Her first priority is to set up an Advisory Council to assist her in fund-raising, outreach and disaster preparedness. The council, to be made up of at least two people from each of the five counties she served, "will be my connection to the community," she said.

Second on her list of priorities is for the Red Cross to become more visible in Marengo County. She hopes to expand the classes that Self teaches now and offer them in more locations.

Finally, she wants to identify citizens who are willing to work with Self and others to handle disaster relief. No special qualifications are needed, she said. "There’s something for everyone to do."

Volunteers can be trained to assess damage, counseling and as rescue workers, among other duties.

The Red Cross "must services" are disaster relief and working with military families to notify those in the armed forces of any emergencies at home.

Self conducts classes in CPR, First Aid and Water Safety Instructor in Marengo County. In Selma HIV/AIDS education and prevention classes and a baby-sitting training course are offered. Classes can be held in Marengo County any time 12 or more students can be gathered, Smith said.

The biggest presence in Marengo County for the Red Cross continues to be Project Share. Residents who qualify are helped with the cost of utilities during the cold winter and hot summer months.

For the past week, Smith has been visiting governmental bodies and private citizens she hopes will support the Red Cross.

As she introduces herself to Marengo County, Smith hopes to generate new support for the venerable American Red Cross.