The Red Cross is celebrating Emergency Preparedness Week in style by launching a $3-million campaign to make Kelowna a hub for its Southern Interior operations.
The organization has been in its Adams Road facility since 2011, but is now expanding the services and capacity to create the B.C. Southern Interior Support and Disaster Operations Centre on the site. As one of just 13 provincial hubs, it is hoped the Red Cross will double its volunteer base in the region and significantly expand services.
“Kelowna is amazing. I was so impressed with Kelowna and the way these communities came together and the way they were supporting people,” said Kimberley Nemrava, director Canadian Red Cross Society BC & Yukon, who worked among the disaster response team during the 2003 wildfires.
That supportive nature has already seen $1.5 million in donations offered to the campaign by major contributors. With campaign chairwoman Anna Hunt-Binkley, who has retired from a long run as school trustee, and honorary chairwoman and former mayor Sharon Shepherd at the helm, it’s hoped the $1.5 million needed to complete the job will be in the bank by the end of the year.
Shepherd and Hunt-Binkley told a crowd gathered for an announcement Wednesday they both have intimate connections to the Red Cross.
Shepherd’s mother-in-law, Norma Shepherd, went overseas to volunteer for the organization in the Second World War and she was on hand for the announcement Wednesday to hear her daughter-in-law describe how she has inspired her to contribute.
Hunt-Binkley recently learned of how the Red Cross told family members when loved ones had been killed overseas during that war, including members of her own family.
“I knew then, ladies and gentleman, that I was definitely helping the right organization,” Hunt-Binkley said as she thanked those who had already contributed.
The campaign will raise the money to centralize cleaning and repairs for its medical equipment loan program, which offers access to items like crutches, wheelchairs, back boards and bath seats.
“This equipment is so important because it helps people be safe and it helps people have dignity when they’re in their homes recovering from an injury,” said Nemrava. “It also helps people who are facing end of life to have the end of their life in their home.”
Some $750,000 will be put toward expanding the volunteer base in the region from 500 people to 1000.
“It costs us about $1200 a year to recruit, train, support, supervise and recognize a volunteer and we need to have the support to do that,” Nemrava said.
The volunteers are needed, in part, to support expanded disaster relief services as the campaign also aims to put half of the total $3 million toward further development of the emergency response network and the teams, operations centre equipment, vehicles, generators and disaster preparedness information needed for events like the ongoing wildfire evacuations.
Emergency Preparedness week runs May 6-12 and encourages Canadians to prepare for disaster, noting all Canadians should have enough supplies on hand to last 72-hours without help in the event of an emergency.
Contribution are now being accepted to The Red Cross House—Building for Humanity campaign.