The Roanoke location for the regional offices of the Red Cross fails to suggest the depth of its impact on Botetourt. So, you need know about the new Red Cross regional CEO, Lee Clark. Many supporters of the Rescue Mission already know Clark from their visits there, where he had been director of development until his recent move. That same pleasant man they knew there now runs the local Red Cross, and uses the help of Botetourt’s own Ann Layman, a volunteer who serves as secretary of the board of directors.
Maybe you associate the Red Cross with its blood giving programs, and rightly so. “Red Cross is the sole provider of blood and blood products at all area hospitals,” Clark said. “We have a very safe blood supply here,” he continued, “no problems with undetected illnesses.”
The blood services always need “lots of volunteers. And drives are held periodically all over Botetourt, including at Bonsack Baptist, the Botetourt Athletic Club, both high schools and Eagle Rock firehouse.” Clark suggests you keep an eye out for announcements, or go to their website for dates and times.
Other Botetourt aspects include the classes Red Cross offers teaching CPR [cardio pulmonary resuscitation] and first aid, because every second counts until the rescue squad can arrive. Other classes for would-be lifeguards in lifesaving skills, and would-be sitters in baby-sitting skills, provide not just things good to know. “These can give a young person, especially one from a low income family, a way to earn money with a summer or after school job,” Clark noted.
“One thing I have a passion for is the disaster service. Red Cross steps in when families are at their worst ebb — due to fire, flood, other disasters. We help people, comfort them, supply immediate needs.
“In Botetourt County, in the past year, five families were burned out. We helped them with food, clothing, hotel rooms, counseling, everything they needed to get through the immediate crisis, to get back on their feet. We can do grief counseling in such cases, especially for children. It’s traumatic for children to lose all their toys and belongings.”
Discussing disasters reminded Clark to mention that most home fires are preventable. “Mostly what we see are electrical fires and ones from alternative heating sources. The most important thing anyone can do is to have a working smoke alarm.” Five disaster action team volunteers live in the county so they can respond immediately to a fire. In case of a major countywide disaster, the Red Cross has shelter agreements with six county schools.
Red Cross also has a program which serves all members of the military and their families, especially important because Botetourt does not have a military base here. “We provide emergency communications between service members and their families, such as notification of a birth or death in the family, and financial assistance and counseling services, too.”
Clark, 47, grew up in Stuart but his college work at Radford University gave him ties to this area. Trained as a CPA, he started out doing straight accounting work. He soon switched to working for the Roanoke Times in finance, ending in marketing. Because of his volunteer work on the board of the Rescue Mission, he obtained his full time job there, where he had remained until now. With that accounting background, Clark handles the Japan relief fund work handily.
Clark urges everyone here in Botetourt to get and keep in working condition a smoke alarm. He much prefers that we all prevent fires than help with the aftermath. But for when fire or other disaster does occur, he sees to it the Red Cross gets and stays prepared.
For more information, go to www.RoanokeValleyRedCross.org.