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Organization's help stretches from Haiti to hometowns

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Sharon Thompson describes role of American Red Cross' local chapter

By Ben Sheroan

Whether working to support an international relief effort in Haiti or responding to the need of local fire victims, the American Red Cross' Hardin-LaRue Chapter depends on the benevolence of private contributions.

Although chartered by federal legislation in 1917, the Red Cross receives no recurring government appropriation, Sharon Thompson, director of the local chapter, told the LaRue County Chamber of Commerce's February luncheon.

The Red Cross was formed to provide disaster relief and provide emergency communications for military families. Over the years, its services have expanded to health and safety training and coordinating blood donations.

Although the local chapter has Hardin and LaRue in its name, Thompson said it covers a seven-county area from its Elizabethtown office and operates a second center at Fort Knox.

Thompson said the office is "always in need of volunteers" and welcomes contributions to replenish its resources.

The local office has coordinated with the International Red Cross relief efforts and sent $50,000 following the deadly earthquakes in Haiti. Thompson sees that relief effort as a long-term project that could result in a commitment as long as 10 years.

Closer to home, the local chapter encountered a significant test of its own with the 2009 ice storm. The Red Cross organized and manned a number of shelters. The local organization also responds to 70 house fires each year providing food, clothing, emergency medical supplies and temporary shelter for victims.