Orange County has had a Red Cross chapter for 91 years and is now embarking on a first-local fund-raising.

“It was a hard thing for our board to admit we have to do fund-raising. This year, there’s no other option,” said Chapter Director Janie Johnson.

For nearly a century, the Orange Chapter of the American Red Cross has operated on grants from the Orange County United Way, plus contributions from the national Red Cross and individual contributions.

The national organization is cutting back on money to local chapters and recently had laid-offs on the national staff, Johnson said.

“It’s the same with every other organization,” Johnson said. “Sine 9-11, donations have one down.”

The local United Way has kept its yearly contribution goals, but more non-profit groups are getting money from United Way. Also, the Red Cross is now spending more money on gasoline and utilities, like a household, Johnson said.

So the Red Cross Orange Chapter is currently having a “Heroes” competition with local volunteers collecting donations from friends and family. Each of the volunteers is trying to raise at least $1,000.

And in August, the Red Cross will have a benefit golf tournament. Johnson said more fund-raising plans call for a black-tie gala next year.

Most people think of the Red Cross as the group that comes to an area to help after a major disaster like Hurricane Rita. But the local chapter has on-going programs at all times.

One of the programs is helping families after a house fire. Johnson said the number of house fires has increased in the past couple of years because of damage left over from Hurricane Rita in 2005.

The storm winds of more than 100 mph shook houses for hours, causing unseen wiring damage and cracks in fireplaces, leading to fires, she said.

Fire departments sometimes call the local Red Cross when the houses are still burning. Red Cross workers go to the fire and begin helping and comforting the families.

“Imagine having only what’s on your back and what’s in your car,” Johnson said.
The Red Cross helps the fire victims find a place to stay and get clothes to wear. Johnson said each family member gets two sets of clothes, “one to wear and one for the wash.” The group helps the victims, if needed, get back on their feet until an insurance payment comes. And for those without insurance, the Red Cross works with Orange Christian Services to help the family set up housekeeping in a new residence with items like sheets, blankets, pillows and towels.

Also, the local Red Cross chapter has a number of traditional education classes, like CPR, First Aid and water safety, which includes lifesaving lessons and swimming lessons on all levels, from beginners to advanced levels.

The Red Cross works with Entergy for Project CARE, which helps senior citizens pay utility bills.

Plus, the local chapter is active in disaster relief throughout the region. This past weekend, Johnson and workers from Orange were helping in the flooded areas along the Sabine River north of Newton County.

Johnson and the Orange Chapter also worked for months helping in East Texas after the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia on Feb. 1, 2003.

Johnson pointed out that the Orange Chapter has seen savings since moving to its new building on Interstate 10 nearly two years ago. The chapter does not have the maintenance costs it did on its previous building, which was almost 50 years old. In addition, the group has storage space for its trucks and large items and does not have to pay to rent storage.

And when Orange has a major disaster like a hurricane or flood, the national organization sends help. “The Red Cross is there when you’ve had a really bad day,” Johnson said.

The Orange Chapter accepts individual donations, or people may donate to a volunteer in the “Heroes” fund-raiser. Information is available at, Donations may also be sent to the chapter at 3901 I-H 10 East, Orange TX 77630.