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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 28, 2010

Red Cross will pass the hat

By Caryn Kunz
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Events like this previous Hats Off collection from motorists will be part of Red Cross Month, as will shopping and an online auction of trips, a paddleboard and more.

Photo courtesy of Hawaii Red Cross

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Go to www.hawaiiredcross.org to donate or volunteer. Call 739-8109 for credit card donations or send a check to the American Red Cross, Hawaii State Chapter, 4155 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96816.

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Tomorrow marks the start of Red Cross Month, and the Hawaii Red Cross plans events throughout March to raise money, awareness and volunteers for the organization. On tap are a Hats Off donation drive, an online auction, and a shopping fundraiser at Kahala Mall.

"We want to increase awareness and appreciation for what our volunteers do in helping us help the community," said Red Cross Hawaii CEO Coralie Matayoshi.

While most people associate the Red Cross with large-scale disasters, Matayoshi points out that the local chapter responds to everyday emergencies in Hawai'i about once every three days.

"We're there within two hours of any fire, and of course there are floods and other things that happen here in Hawai'i," Matayoshi said. "We operate 24/7, 365 days a year, so we have to be ready for anything at any time."

In the wake of the American Sāmoa tsunami disaster in September, the American Red Cross sent 80 volunteers there, 15 of whom were from Hawai'i. The volunteers worked to provide not only immediate needs like food and shelter, but emotional support as families buried loved ones.

Matayoshi said Red Cross-trained volunteers are valuable not only for their service abroad, but for their skills at home.

"It's important that we train people so that they can deploy," she said. "Then when they come back, they have all that experience to help out in our local communities."

The Hawaii Red Cross trains more than 33,000 people each year through free workshops covering CPR, first aid, nurse aide skills, family caregiving, lifeguarding, water safety, baby sitting and pet first aid. The organization also offers free summer swimming lessons.

In a lesser-known role, the Hawai'i chapter also provides extensive support to military service members and their families. The Red Cross facilitates emergency communication between deployed Hawai'i soldiers and their loved ones, runs the entire volunteer program at Tripler Army Medical Center, and provides psychological first aid training for military families before, during and after deployment.

Because the Red Cross is not a government agency, all of its services are made possible through donations and volunteer efforts.

The Hawaii Red Cross will hold its first-ever online fundraising auction, at www.hawaiiredcross.org, this month. Bidding runs March 8 to 31, with different donated items featured each week. Items up for grabs include trips, hotel stays, a new car, restaurant and golf certificates, and a stand-up paddleboard.

During the weekend of March 12 to 14, volunteers will collect donations in hats during the annual Hats Off event. On March 13, off-duty firefighters and military service members will participate at various locations throughout the state, and volunteers will be at all Walmart locations state-wide throughout that weekend.

On March 27 to 28, the Viva La Diva event allows shoppers to earn four HawaiianMiles from Hawaiian Airlines for every dollar spent at Kahala Mall that day, with one mile going to the Hawaii Red Cross. Those who donate all their earned miles to the Red Cross are eligible to win a Neighbor Island trip.

Matayoshi hopes that the March events will encourage the public to get involved with the Red Cross in Hawai'i by signing up for a training course, making a donation or becoming a volunteer.

"I think that we are often taken for granted," she said. "This is a good time to focus on the critical needs that the Red Cross serves in our community.