On Tuesday afternoon Elizabeth Wooldridge, the director of the American Red Cross' Albany/Carbon County operational site, cut a ribbon on their 3rd street offices. This event was held to celebrate their new location, however the Red Cross has been in Albany county since 1917 and in Wyoming since 1914. The organization might be old but it is still very relevant in today's world and plays a vital part when disaster strikes. The Red Cross has actually been in the new offices for a while but decided to wait until yesterday to officially cut the ribbon. The Red Cross moved into the new building at 1050 N 3rd Street, Suite I because its layout was better suited for teaching many of the classes that they offer to the public and accomplishing their mission.

The Director of the Red Cross for Wyoming, David Bock, sat down with me to talk about some of the really vital things that the Red Cross provides for the community of Laramie, many of which I was aware as well as a few that were surprises. The classes mentioned earlier that the Red Cross offers include CPR, First Aid, Babysitting, and Wilderness First Aid. If you are interested in taking one of these classes you can sign up on the Red Cross Website or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

I knew that the Red Cross played a huge role in large scale disasters, but what I didn't realize is how much assistance they give when it comes to smaller scale events like house fires. After a family experiences some kind of tragic event the Red Cross can help financially to provide things like food, clothing, medications, eye glasses, and first months rent. It is nice to know that someone has your back in tough times.

When asked about response to this past years slight flooding David said:

You know it was amazing that it looked like there was going to be some pretty significant flooding and there wasn't, but we were on standby to setup several shelters.”

The Red Cross might not have been needed in this scenario but rewind 6 1/2 years ago to the Wright, Wyoming tornadoes and the Red Cross showed that it was worth its weight in gold. The Red Cross works very closely with police and fire services as well as emergency management to respond to disasters as a first responder bringing in people from all around the country if necessary.

Probably the biggest [disaster] recently was the Wright tornado where about 100 homes were destroyed, which was a federal disaster. We set up shelters and helped provide for the physical needs of the people. Setting up the shelters is a really big deal.”

I had no idea that the Red Cross dealt with our armed forces but they actually provide assistance in this capacity as well.

Say a Wyoming family has a loved one in Afghanistan or Iraq and there is a family emergency like a death, serious illness, or birth, the the family calls the Red Cross to make a communication link with the commanding officer overseas so they can make a decision as to what to do. In any given year 300-600 Wyoming families depend on that service.”

Many times when people think about large aid organizations like the Red Cross there might be a sense of hesitancy to give for fear of where their money might end up, but when you see the impact that the organization has on real people reality sets in, especially when disaster strikes. David said the Red Cross gets no national funding and that they only get some local support; a little bit of funding from Albany County, and little from the City of Laramie as well as the United Way. The rest of the program is supported through private donations. The Red Cross also gets funding through events that donate to the cause including the Laramie Enduro Bike Race and the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority who help raise money for the Red Cross.” You can donate on the Red Cross website if you would like to contribute to the cause. You can also volunteer with the Red Cross to help as well. They only have 9 paid employees in the state of Wyoming but rely on over 100 volunteers to help respond to disaster.

When asked about some of the most rewarding parts that come with working for or volunteering with the Red Cross David had this to say:

Helping military families in desperation gives me real satisfaction as well as seeing lives saved by people who have taken our CPR, Wilderness Survival or other classes. Many people are alive by means of our work and we know it is of real value in terms of human life.

It seems that everyone forgets what exactly the Red Cross does when things are going well, but this serves as good reminder or the instrumental part they play in the Laramie community.