John Howell Sr. 3/29/13

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2013

When the home of Priscilla Bridges’ family burned in January, they counted among their blessings that no one was hurt.

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Her daughter left the home that Thursday, leaving her grandmother alone. Her daughter had been gone for five or 10 minutes when she discovered she had left her money behind, Bridges said.

“She called back home to my mom and asked her if she would look on the table,” Bridges said. “That’s when my mom saw the fire.”

By the time her daughter had driven back to the home on Springport Road, she found the living room filled with flames.

“They called me; I was at work,” Bridges continued.

By the time Bridges arrived, fire fighters were cooling the ashes. One gave Bridges the contact information for the American Red Cross (ARC).

“They helped us a lot, and we were able to buy clothes and food,” Bridges said. The debit card given to the family by the Red Cross also allowed them to replace medicines lost in the blaze.

The Red Cross would also have provided lodging, the victim continued, but all Batesville hotels and motels were booked that weekend because of the UKC Coon Hunt and Show at the Civic Center. Instead of accepting the more distant lodging that the Red Cross offered, “we stayed with a friend,” she said.

When ARC Northwest Mississippi Chapter Manager Jennifer Coleman contacted Bridges about allowing the newspaper to contact her about using her story, Bridges said, “Anything I can do to help.”

Others can help by donating to the “Heroes for the American Red Cross” campaign to help The Panolian raise $1,000 during March. It’s as easy as going to an Internet link: Or bring your donation to The Panolian, 363 Highway 51 North, Batesville, MS 38606.

The Red Cross through its Northwest Mississippi chapter provided assistance like that provided to the Priscilla Bridges family totaling over $33,000 in Panola County last year. In the 17 northwest Mississippi counties served by the chapter, they assisted over 400 families in 303 local disasters.

In additional to providing assistance following both local and large-scale disasters, the Red Cross trains volunteers to be prepared when disasters strike. The organization offers free training in First Aid, CPR, AED, swimming, lifesaving and water safety — the Northwest MS chapter alone trained some 2,710 people in health and safety courses.

Further, Red Cross provides emergency communications between members of the armed forces and their families. Again, last year alone, the NW Mississippi chapter assisted 516 local military members and their loved ones.

It is a daunting task, mostly driven by your donations. And of the amount collected in donations, more than 90 cents of every dollar goes directly to services — administrative costs are kept to a minimum.

Join us by making a donation to the Heroes for the American Red Cross campaign.