CLARKSBURG -- In times of need, the Harrison County Chapter of the American Red Cross has been there for area residents. Now it needs a helping hand.
For nearly 50 years, the chapter was located in a brick, three-story home on South Oak Street, a facility the agency outgrew years ago.
"Whenever we had multiple classes going on, we would have to beg space from other places," said Jim Minutelli, executive director. "We also would have to rent space to set up a disaster headquarters, like we did at the Anmoore Fire Department when we had flooding in the area last year," he said.
A search for a better facility has ended with the purchase of a distinctive two-story building at 718 W. Pike St., the former home of People's Hospice and later the sales headquarters for Maplewood Community.
To help pay for the $300,000 mortgage, the organization is beginning a capital campaign to solicit donations from both businesses and individuals, according to Robert Upton, a board member who is serving on the fund-raising committee.
"Our building was over 100 years old and outdated for our requirements. Now we can consolidate all the services we provide into one location," Upton said.
Along with the capital campaign, the South Oak Street house will go on the market to help pay off the mortgage. Minutelli said the chapter hopes to raise at least $245,000 during the campaign.
The chapter gets about $57,000 a year in support from the Harrison County United Way, which goes toward meeting its $165,000 operating budget. The remainder of the budget comes from public and private donations.
"We want to pay off the building to help free up money for our day-to-day expenses, but we don't want any one to take away from their regular donations to the Red Cross to give to this campaign," he said.
Minutelli has been executive director of the Harrison County chapter for nearly two years, long enough to head up two flood disaster relief efforts in the surrounding area. Since the late 1990s, the Harrison chapter has had oversight of five other counties, including Lewis, Upshur, Randolph, Barbour and Doddridge.
"Operating in all those areas and trying to work out of our old building made things difficult. Also, the old building was not handicapped accessible, so it wasn't a place where everyone could give blood or take a class," he said.
Along with disaster relief, such as helping families with immediate needs following a house fire, the Red Cross offers health and safety classes required by state or federal regulations before employment
It's those classes that are vital to a community's economy, according to Don Hamm, the former executive director and a member of the capital campaign committee.
"You can't drive a school bus without a First Aid card or open a swimming pool without a lifeguard certification. With all the health and safety classes it offers, the Red Cross really helps to make a community's economy run," Hamm said.
For information on the campaign or on classes, call the Harrison County Chapter of the American Red Cross at 624-7689.
Assistant City Editor Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at email@example.com