Red Cross to host hurricane prepardness event for military personnel and families

With late August marking the peak of Hurricane Season and September hailed as National Preparedness Month, the Red Cross will be hosting a special event for military families in Central Louisiana.  At the event, military personnel and families will be able to build an emergency preparedness kit and learn about emergency preparedness.  The American Red Cross’ Services to Armed Forces will host a Ready Fort Polk Emergency Preparedness Kit event Aug. 28 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Army Community Service bldg 920, BellRichard Avenue.

Fort Polk is one of six places worldwide to participate in the grant-funded program this year.  Other locations are Germany, Korea, Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Lewis, Wash., and Fort Belvoir, Va.

The goal is to provide 1,500 Families at each location with basic elements of an emergency/disaster kit. The items that will be made available for military families at the event include:

• ARC multipurpose lantern
• Two LED flow sticks
• Two emergency preparedness drawstring bags
• Self-powered AM/FM National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio
• Personal safety pack
• Mini water storage system
• Multi-tool

Red Cross volunteer teams from across Louisiana will be will be available to demonstrate how to assemble a disaster kit and to provide community disaster preparedness information.  Other Fort Polk agencies and units will be supporting the event as well.

The event is open to anyone with a military ID: Active duty, Reserve, National Guard or retirees.

Cenla Red Cross celebrates volunteers

The American Red Cross of Central Louisiana welcomed over 100 volunteers and donors to their 2010 Annual Membership Meeting and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner held last night at their office building- 425 Bolton Avenue.

In the spring of each year, the Red Cross hosts the Annual  Membership Meeting and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner to review the organization’s current financial status,  the impact of Red Cross services, to elect new board members, and to show appreciation to all the members, people who donated time, money and  resources in current fiscal year.

The program began with a welcome by Red Cross Executive Director Leann Murphy, followed by the invocation by Dr. Joshua Joy Dara, Zion Hill Baptist Church Pastor and the Red Cross 2010 Hero Campaign Chairman.

Board Chairman Gil McKee opened the Annual Membership Meeting by welcoming the members, reviewing financial reports which reveal of  current shortage of approximately $50,000 in unrestricted monetary contributions.  He challenged members to help by inviting others to join in support of the American Red Cross.

“If 100 of us present went home tonight and called 4 friends to give just $10 a month for one year, then we would make up our shortage,” said McKee.  He also presented a motion from the Governance Committee to re-elect Cleco Executive Russell Davis for a third term  and to elect three new board members: Jacqueline Greene with the Bureau of Health Standards, Christie Wood with Gold Law Firm, and Regina Washington with Procter and Gamble.  The motion passed unopposed.

Murphy gave a brief overview of the organization’s Annual Report of the past fiscal year.  Mckee adjourned the meeting to start the volunteer award ceremony

All Red Cross Volunteers present received certificates and special pins recognizing their voluntary service.

Special Commendations were presented to more than 40 volunteers for extraordinary service to Central Louisiana:

2008-2009 Central Louisiana Volunteers of the Year Awards

Dennis Botts – Overall Volunteer of the Year

Gil McKee—Board Member of the Year

Donna Young – Health and Safety Volunteer of the Year

Chris Everett – Fundraising Volunteer of the Year

Rae Strickland – Disaster Services Volunteer of the Year

Pastor Joshua Dara – Hero of the Year

Special Commendations

Outstanding Health and Safety Volunteers

Donna Young

Patsy Boykin

Herb Boykin

Dennis Evans

Outstanding Disaster Service Volunteers

Rae Strickland

Frances Vanderlick

Richard Clark

Donna Ledet

Jo Harper

Outstanding Military Service & Support Volunteers

Renee’ Botts, RN

Danny Cannon, LCSW

Vincent and Cindy Escandel PhD
Bart Liles  LPC
Dana Carrington LCSW
Libbie Triche DSHR

Board Service Commendations

Duane Blackwell, Owner, SoSo Solutions, LLC

Randy Briggs, Chief Deputy, Grant Parish Sheriff’s Dept

Tina Coker, CNO, Rapides Regional Medical Center

Russell Davis, Vice President & CAO, CLECO

Rodney Hatch, Forester, ROM Company

James Lee, Retired, Concordia Parish School

Gil McKee, CFO, Odor-Tech

Acie Murry, Retired, Murry HVAC

Goldia Mustain, Retired

Tracy Nash, Vice President, Capital One Bank

Freddie Price, Owner, Dempsey Business Systems

Cathy Robinson, Director of Allied Health, LSU-A

Reldon Owens, Marketing Director, Bossier Group

Ben Sandifer, Retired Catahoula Parish School Board

Ann Brame Silver, Sr. Vice President, Red River Bank

Michael Truelove, City President, Peoples State Bank

Charlotte Wasmer, Owner, Wasmer Group

Hero Campaign Chair

Pastor Joshua Joy Dara

Champion Award (for raising $5,000)

~McDonald’s of Alexandria & Glenda Stock

Hero Awards (for raising $1,000 or more)

~Jeralyn Young (Avoyelles Women’s Alliance)

~ Chris Everett (Red Cross Volunteer)

~Brian Thomson State Farm Insurance Company

~ Rose Vanburen  (Zion Hill Member)

~ Noah’s Ark Learning Center (Linda Burgess)

~Healthy Living Cenla

~ Zion Hill Ministers

~ Brame Middle School

~Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Department

~Alexandria Middle Magnet

~ Bethany Fields

Hero Campaign Team Members

~Deep South Chiropractic (Dr. John Johnson)

~ Judith Williams

~ Liz Pace

~ LSUA Student Organizations

~ Zion Hill Youth Department

~ Phoenix Magnet

~ L.S. Ruggs Elementary

~ W.O. Hall Elementary

~ Zion Hill Baptist Church Team of Heroes

~Christian Love Baptist Church

~Peabody High School

~ Chancy Daigle

~ Vernon Middle School

After the award ceremony, 20 guests received door prizes provided by area businesses.

“I want to say thank you to the Red Cross staff for a fabulous Annual Meeting and evening,” said Cathy Robinson, Red Cross volunteer and board member.  “The whole evening was fun, uplifting and motivating!”

To become a member of the Central Louisiana Red Cross visit  Donate. Volunteer. Be a Hero.  Save a lif

Central Louisiana’s Red Cross celebrates opening of new facilities

By Bill Sumrall
Everything Cenla

More than 70 people attended Thursday’s ribbon-cutting for the grand opening of the newly renovated Red Cross of Central Louisiana.

The Red Cross has relocated from England Airpark to the old Cotton Brothers Bakery building at the corner of Bolton Avenue and Elliott Street in Alexandria.

“This is truly an historic moment for the Red Cross,” said Gil McKee, chairman of the board of the organization.

“This is a true community building. We built it to be a community building, we want y’all back for more than just the grand opening,” McKee said.

Prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Leann Murphy, CEO of the Cenla chapter of the American Red Cross, introduced Gene Cotton, the son of the original builder, and also introduced Stephen Owen and James Moody, the grandsons of Morgan Walker, who developed the Continental Trailways bus line also once located there.

Gene Cotton said the brothers who established the bakery hauled bread to those in Jena and Jonesville marooned by the 1927 flood, little realizing that more than 80 years later their bakery would become a disaster response center.

“I know they’re looking down with a smile on their face today and welcoming all of y’all here today for this opening, and I thank everybody who had anything to do with it, it’s a wonderful job,” Cotton said.
As James Moody stood by silently, Stephen Owen spoke for the Morgan Walker family about the establishment of the Continental Trailways bus line.

“This building represents a long life of service from the Cottons to the Walkers and now one of the greatest organizations in the world, the American Red Cross. It is with great honor, gratitude and pride that we stand here today and see the magnificent accomplishment,” Owen said.

Leann Murphy noted other well-known families and their foundations involved in reviving the site as a Red Cross center.

“This has tied probably more of the historic families of Central Louisiana together into a single project than any project that’s gone before it,” Murphy said.

“I would take a minute to try and thank everybody but I just cannot even begin to even name all the families that had a role in this,” Murphy said.

“So please know that, for whatever role you had in this, as a donor, as a volunteer, as a board member in the past … you’ve helped us put back together a building that never should have been lost and we’re so proud to be able to restore it,” Murphy said.

“Without us, though, this is just a building, it’s just a shell — it’s only when you and I join together and we put our resources and our expertise into it that this becomes the American Red Cross, so that we can help our neighbor, whether it’s down the street, across the country or around the world,” Murphy said.

Board members current and past then participated in the ribbon-cutting itself.
Afterward, Alexandria City Council President Roosevelt Johnson said that he thinks this is great for our region and Central Louisiana to see the Red Cross move into the newly renovated facility.

“This is a great expansion for this area, for the Bolton Avenue corridor — that’s something that I’m proud of,” Johnson said, also speaking as a past Red Cross board member.

Johnson also lauded an opening held earlier for the residential and commercial development at the old Dominique-Miller Livestock Market and the reopening of the historic Fire Station Number Four at Lee Street and Masonic Drive.

Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy and Pineville Mayor Clarence Fields also attended the ceremony, along with several members of their respective city councils, including Harry Silver and Kevin Dorn.

Connie Augustine, who led Cenla’s Red Cross from 1988 to 2004, said the renovation was “a dream come true.”

“It’s been needed for a long time and we’re just so thankful that all of the right things came in place at the right time with the right leader, Leann (Murphy) was able to pull it all together, and a great board of directors and volunteers in the community to support her in that effort, as they’ve always done in supporting the Red Cross throughout the years,” Augustine said.

Glenda Stock, who served on the Red Cross board as chair for six years, said anytime an organization takes over a “forgotten” building, “needless to say, there’s an incredible amount of renovation to take place.”

Stock credited Steve Ayers and Petron LLC with taking on the renovation task “at zero plus cost” to allow the project to be affordable. The Canadian Red Cross and Magna Corporation also received credit for launching the renovation by donating $1.5 million.

In addition, Stock said this marks the beginning of revitalizing Bolton Avenue. “We’re proud to kind of be the pioneer, leading edge of, really, the SPARC program,” Stock said.

Sonya Wiley-Gremillion, director of the Rapides Parish 911 Center and Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said, “The facility is outstanding, the historical value of it but then the services the Red Cross is going to be able to provide, just increases the value of it exponentially.”

Wiley-Gremillion said that, what she’s seen of the facility, it appears a lot of thought went into the layout and the floor plan, adding that it is truly “service to client concept at its best.”

Deadline to send holiday cards to troops is today

Today is the last day to send Holiday mail to troops,  according to the Central Louisiana Red Cross.

Mail your holiday greeting card to the following address:
Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box
Capitol Heights
, MD 20791-5456

Please be sure to affix adequate postage.  Cards must be postmarked no later than today, December 7.  Cards received after this date will be returned to senders.  For reasons of processing and safety, participants are asked to refrain from sending “care packages,” monetary gifts, using glitter or including any inserts with the cards.

Visit for a full list of recommended guidelines and best practices on the Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

Please don’t forget to follow these guidelines while preparing your holiday greetings!


  • Sign all cards
  • Entitle cards “Dear Service Member, Family or Veteran”
  • Limit cards to 15 per person or 50 for school class or business group
  • Bundle groups of cards in single, large envelopes


  • Send letters
  • Include personal information such as home or email addresses
  • Use glitter – excessive amounts can aggravate health issues of wounded recipients
  • Include inserts of any kind as they must be removed in the screening process

Nine Fire Cases in the Past Two Weeks….Alarming

Diana McKenzie of Harrisonburg, La., turned to the Red Cross after losing 14-years’ worth of memories and belongings, just two days before Thanksgiving.  The morning of November 24, 2009, Diana left her 21-year-old daughter and 18-month-old grandbaby at home to go visit her doctor in a town nearby.  It was cold that morning, so Diana’s daughter turned on the stove to warm their 12 x 60 trailer home.
Diana received a phone call from a friend urging her to come home immediately.  Caused by an electrical surge in the wire that ran from the outside electric pole to the stove, a fire had completely destroyed Diana’s home.  She was devastated but thankful that her daughter and grandchild escaped with only minor injuries. 
“I’ve worked like a dog my entire life,” said Diana. “After this happened, I started going into a deep depression but I can remember being uplifted by the smile and attention given to me by Lakeitha (Red Cross Caseworker), at a time that she should have been home taking care of her own family.”
As the temperature drops and concerns of higher energy bills rise, the American Red Cross of Central Louisiana urges families to take special precautions to prevent home fires.   A recent American Red Cross and National Fire Protection Association survey showed that the majority of Americans will use an alternative method to heat their homes.
Within the past month, the Central Louisiana Red Cross has seen a major increase in the number of home fire cases across Central Louisiana.  Nine families have turned to the Red Cross for emergency help after home fires in just the last two weeks.
“Whenever a family needs us, Red Cross volunteers respond but the need becomes especially distressing during the Holidays because of increased home fires” said Leann Murphy, CEO of the Central Louisiana Red Cross.  “More than ever, we need people to invest in the work of the Red Cross so we have the resources to help families when disaster strikes, even in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.”
The tragedy of a home fire devastates a family, and the Red Cross responds to meet disaster-caused emergency needs like shelter, clothes, food, or replacing life-sustaining medicines lost in the disaster.  In just the last 5 months, the Central Louisiana Red Cross has helped 56 families impacted by disaster as well as 97 military families with emergency needs.  Currently donations are $29,163 dollars behind expenses and the Red Cross has been using limited emergency reserves to continue programs and services in Central Louisiana. 
To make a donation online go to  or call 318 442-6621.  To learn how you can prevent a home fire, visit or call the Red Cross at 318-442-6621.
The American Red Cross offers common-sense tips to avoid holiday fires.
􀂃 Decorate Christmas trees only with laboratory-approved lights.
􀂃 Unplug Christmas tree lights when leaving home or going to bed.
􀂃 Do not decorate metal trees with lights.
􀂃 Do not decorate trees with candles.
􀂃 Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible material.
􀂃 Place trees away from heat sources and exits.
􀂃 Water trees daily.
􀂃 Make sure chimneys are inspected before the holidays and cleaned if
􀂃 Keep space heaters at least three feet away from bedding, clothing, furniture,
drapes and anything else combustible. Use equipment that is approved for
indoor use. Turn space heaters off if you are not available to monitor this
equipment. Remember at all times children anywhere near space heaters
must be supervised at all times.
􀂃 Don’t wear loose-fitting clothing when cooking to avoid ignition by stove
Heating and Cooking Fires:
According to NFPA reports, cooking and heating are the leading causes of home fires. The survey revealed the majority of Americans are concerned about the rising cost of heating their homes (79%), and that 48% of households will use an alternative heating source to reduce their bills this winter. Alternative heating sources include portable space heaters, stoves, ovens and fireplaces. A third (36%) of people with fireplaces reported they never cleaned or inspected their chimneys. The survey also found 23% of respondents did not consider it essential to make sure someone is home when food is cooking on the stove.
Smoke Alarms and Fire Escape Plans:
Respondents also revealed another unsafe behavior, which is disabling (37%) smoke alarms when they go off in a non-testing situation. More than half (53%) of the households surveyed have not taken any of three common actions in most home fire escape plans, which includes discussing with family members how to get out of the home, deciding on an outdoor meeting place and practicing the plan.
**American Red Cross/National Fire Protection Association 2008 survey**