Jason Kneeling, executive director for the Allegheny Highlands Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Jason Keeling, executive director for the Allegheny Highlands Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Red Cross offers help close to home amidst the pandemic

BUCKHANNON – Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Allegheny Highlands chapter of the American Red Cross collected 300 units of blood locally last year.

Jason Keeling, the executive director for the chapter, presented a proclamation to the Upshur County Commission on Thursday announcing March as Red Cross Month.

The Upshur County Commission proclaimed March as Red Cross Month. Pictured, from left, are commissioner Kristie Tenney, executive director for the Allegheny Highlands Chapter of the American Red Cross Jason Keeling, and commissioners Sam Nolte and Terry Cutright.

While the Red Cross is often visible in large scale disasters, such as hurricanes, they also offer help in many other smaller situations.

“The primary services that we offer are disaster response,” he said. “It’s hurricane response — locally we have flood response — but the most common disaster we respond to is a home fire. In the immediate aftermath, we’re there to make sure people who have been affected have their immediate needs met, they have a shelter, they have clothing, food and they have any medications that they’ve lost available to them.”

Keeling said the Allegheny Highlands chapter provided services for nine families last year because they lost their homes.

“We also have our biomedical collections, our blood collections,” he said. “In this county, there were over 300 units collected last year, and it’s worth noting that the Red Cross modified some of its services to include antibody testing for COVID for any blood donor.

“We also have been collecting and distributing what’s called convalescent plasma. That is plasma collected from individuals who’ve had COVID and fully recovered, that can be provided to those who need help to recover.”

The Red Cross also provides CPR, first aid training and several services for the armed forces.

“About 45 services were provided to Upshur County residents last year, that’s for active duty and veteran populations,” Keeling said. “We have a couple of different tasks, but the one I usually highlight is what’s called our emergency communications.

“We’re responsible by the U.S. Department of Defense, if there is a service member who’s deployed to another area of the country or the world, and they have an emergency locally with their family, we’re responsible for verifying with the military that yes there is a stateside emergency or a local emergency with their family and that they should be released for a period so they can come back and tend to matters. We had 45 cases last year in this county where we assisted in such a way.”

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