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Red Cross hosts military resource fair
Red Cross
Volunteer Dave Brown provides veteran Air Force senior airman McKyla Kirby information about services available to her through the American Red Cross at a resource fair held on Thursday at the Stanislaus County Office of Education Peterson Center. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Everyone knows the American Red Cross responds to disasters, providing emergency shelter, food and medical services to those in need. But few know the Red Cross is also a key support organization for America’s servicemen and women and their families.

On Thursday, the Stanislaus County office of the Capital Region Chapter of the American Red Cross hosted a military family emergency preparedness and resource fair to reach out to local service members and their families.

“This is something that’s really needed in this community,” said Debbie Calcote, ARC emergency services coordinator for Stanislaus and the Mother Lode, about Thursday’s resource fair. “We have a lot of veterans and soldiers and a lot of them don’t know what resources are available.”

McKyla Kirby of Ceres came by the resource fair to take advantage of the free cardiopulmonary resuscitation course coupon the Red Cross was providing veterans and their families.

“I was really surprised people were so willing to help out,” Kirby said about the Red Cross volunteers.

The former Air Force senior airman said she ran into a lot of trouble trying to access services when she returned home in 2005.

“It seemed no one really cared about the military,” Kirby said of her past experiences.

Getting veterans, like Kirby, the services they need is what the Red Cross is all about, said ARC regional manager Rebecca Ciszek.

“They are proud to serve their country, but sometimes too proud to ask for help,” Ciszek said. “We want to serve them, as they have served us.”

The Red Cross provides a variety of services for military personnel and their families.

While service members are deployed, the Red Cross is responsible for relaying emergency messages to them from their family members 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The Red Cross confirms a medical emergency affecting a local family member and then relays the information to the military commander who then makes the decision whether to grant the service member an emergency leave.

The Red Cross also attends pre-deployment and re-integration briefings to provide military members and their families information to help them transition into deployment and back home again.

Oftentimes, the Red Cross is seen at airports giving returning service members the welcome home they deserve. And once home, the Red Cross is there to help fill the gaps with emergency financial aid.

“They served our country and now they have to go to a food pantry; that can be difficult for them to tackle,” Ciszek said. “They often wait a long time to ask for help.”

For more information on the services available to active military members, veterans and their families through the American Red Cross, visit or call 523-6451.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.