Red Cross facilities are top-notch and multi-purposed

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CULLMAN – The new Beech Center has been a great asset to the Cullman County Center for the Developmentally Disabled (CCCDD), but it is also the new home to the Cullman Red Cross. The tornadoes of April 2011 destroyed the previous building. Fortunately, a union was formed that has proven to be mutually beneficial for all.

“It is actually a 7,000 square foot community storm facility,” said CCCDD Executive Director Terry McGill. “And the Red Cross rents the space from us. Red Cross is our post storm agency, and our community shelter is a pre-storm.”

The shelter is large enough to house close to 400 occupants. It has 2-ft, thick reinforced concrete walls that are strong enough to withstand massive amounts of wind and abuse. It is also a certified safe room by FEMA.

While the Red Cross volunteers are not tied to all uses of the building, they will help out when needed. McGill explains how the shelter works when the area is in use for severe weather.

“Basically what happens is when the Cullman County EMA says there is a tornado coming or it’s freezing, they will call Chief of Police Kenny Culpepper,” McGill said. “And he will supply a police officer, a fireman and an EMS worker. When it is in use as a warming station, the city will assign someone to come watch the place. Red Cross volunteers will help us with that from time to time.”

The Red Cross’ new facilities have been a dream come true to the team of volunteers who work there on a regular basis. The CCCDD has given a stable place for the Red Cross to house equipment and offer top-notch care to the residents of Cullman, according to Denise McClendon.

“I wasn’t a volunteer when the tornadoes came through,” she said. “As I understand it though, it was a very confined space. As far as the cots and supplies, everything was in storage units all over town. So when it was time to rebuild, the CCCDD came to us and said that they wanted to work out a shelter into the design of the building, and that they wanted to team up.”

The shelter is a wide-open room, but the Red Cross has designated certain segments for different uses in the event of an emergency. The large storage space in the back ensures that all supplies are close at hand when needed. Large and surprisingly lavish bathrooms come equipped with showers and are handicap accessible. The half kitchen allows the team to store some perishable food and put plates of food together should the need arise.

The Red Cross currently has 24 total volunteers and board members, with 12 of those being very active in the group. They are always looking for more people to help take care of the needs of Cullman and surrounding counties. To get updates on shelter openings for storms or warming stations, you can check out the Cullman EMA at Facebook.com/CullmanCountyEMA as regular updates are posted there. You can also call the Cullman Red Cross for more details on openings or ways you can help or volunteer at 256-734-0921.

The Beech Center and Red Cross (basement level) is located at 1803 Beech Avenue Southeast, Cullman, AL 35055.

Chelsea Sparks can be reached by email at chelsea@cullmansense.com.