When people think of the American Red Cross, they usually think of two things, notes Patricia Van Volkinburg, director of the Division of Kinesiologys Adult Lifestyle Program.
They think about blood and swimming lessons.
With all of the controversy surrounding HIV and tainted blood, the Red Cross has taken a black eye on that one, Van Volkinburg admits.
A lot of effort has been made to rectify the problems. If you or a loved one has needed blood, youve said a little prayer of thanks to the folks at the Red Cross, she adds.
Almost all adults have been through swimming lessons and received a Red Cross card saying they passed beginners or life guard training.
The Red Cross does more than that, says Van Volkinburg, who has been a Red Cross volunteer since 1968 and now chairs the Washtenaw County Chapters Health and Safety Services Committee.
It also teaches a variety of classes on babysitting, first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and how to handle HIV in the workplace.
Red Cross volunteers staff the first- aid stations at Michigan Stadium and Crisler Arena during football and basketball games.
In addition, the Red Cross runs the heat bank. If a familys heat is turned off in the middle of winter because it cant pay the bill, the Red Cross takes care of it.
If a person in the military needs to be contacted due to a family emergency, the Red Cross will do it.
The American Red Cross does a lot of people kind of things. Not all of it gets publicity in the most positive way, Van Volkinburg notes.
The Washtenaw Chapter of the American Red Cross is one of more than 70 Wash-
tenaw County agencies that receive funds from United Ways fall campaign.
United Way supports the American Red Crosss community emergency services and youth-related health and safety programs, explains Charles Moertel, executive director of the Washtenaw chapter.
Last year we touched 90,000 people in Washtenaw County. That doesnt include patients who received blood products.
What it does include are the thousands of children who learned to swim in a Red Cross-based program, the 204 couples who went through the Red Crosss pre-marital education program about sexually transmitted diseases, the 50 families who received assistance after their homes were destroyed by fire, and the 8,142 people who enrolled in CPR classes taught by Red Cross volunteers.
Youth-related health and safety programs include basic first aid training in the schools and the Just Say No drug prevention/education program.
Classroom teachers use health and safety program curriculum materials produced nationally and provided locally by the Red Cross. Those materials include the popular Longfellows Whales Talesa water safety education program.
Moertel says last year the local Red Cross responded to 55 disasters in the county, including a tornado that touched down in the Chelsea area in June.
About 40 percent of the local Red Crosss revenues come from Washtenaw, Chelsea and Manchester United Ways.
The Universitys United Way campaign continues through Nov. 3. So far $254,882 has been pledged or donated.