Ever since the Red Cross, based in Eugene and Portland, closed their Newport offices, it’s left a bad feeling among a lot of residents, government officials and those in the business of emergency planning and preparedness. And with the specter of a large earthquake and tsunami predicted for sometime within the lives of our younger population, that feeling has, among many, turned into a sense of being abandoned by the Red Cross.
That view was in full bloom this week before the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners. Several members in the audience who claimed to be the last vestiges of active Red Cross Volunteers said it’s probably time for the county to re-align itself with some other non-profit that is willing to be based in the county and to help run a more effective disaster preparedness and assistance plan than just something on paper.
Commission Chair Terry Thompson, himself a former Red Cross Board member for Lincoln County, was sympathetic to what the volunteers had to say. He said he too has been very concerned about the Red Cross’ pull out. Volunteer Willie Mortimer agreed, telling commissioners that the Red Cross has effectively abandoned Lincoln County, retreating to the valley and to Portland. Mortimer said that the Red Cross shows up to provide temporary shelter for victims of house fires but not much more than that.
Mortimer went on to say that the Salvation Army is rebuilding its role in the community and introduced Salvation Army Captain Matt Matsden who said the Salvation army will build a new building in Newport soon and that it remains committed to the welfare and well-being of Lincoln County. He said he would be quite willing to meet with county officials and emergency preparedness employees to discuss how the Salvation Army could fill the emergency assistance void that everyone in the room was talking about.
The commissioners set an agenda item for next Wednesday morning at 9:30am for further discussions on a possible way forward on a partnership between the county and the Salvation Army. Chairman Thompson remarked that the county has a disaster preparedness plan that contemplates a rather large role for the Red Cross that now appears vacant, and that something needs to be done to fill it.
Meanwhile, the commissioners’ position on the issue took at least one Red Cross official quite by surprise. At the Red Cross offices in Eugene, the agency’s Paula Negele said the Red Cross remains fully engaged in Lincoln County – that they have volunteers and an organizational structure in place. Negele said they have participated in a number of emergency preparedness events including those held at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds which included a recent “Get Ready” event. She said they conduct regular volunteer meetings, conduct readiness classes when asked and that they remain firmly committed to Lincoln County.
Obviously to be continued. But the discussions appear ready to evolve beginning at the next Lincoln County Commission meeting at 9:30am, Wednesday, November 5th, at the commissioner’s meeting room at the courthouse in Newport.