published Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Red Cross program helps Chattanooga children be prepared for emergencies

Aubrey Read, left, and Jamiah Flanagan, 11, decide how to decorate pillowcases during the Pillowcase Project hosted by the American Red Cross on Monday at the Brainerd United Methodist Church. The project taught girls from Girls Inc. of Chattanooga to learn how to be better prepared for disasters.
Aubrey Read, left, and Jamiah Flanagan, 11, decide how to decorate pillowcases during the Pillowcase Project hosted by the American Red Cross on Monday at the Brainerd United Methodist Church. The project taught girls from Girls Inc. of Chattanooga to learn how to be better prepared for disasters.
Photo by Shawn Paik.
  • photo
    Lovelei Pulliam, 10, decorates her pillowcase during the Pillowcase Project hosted by the American Red Cross on Monday at Brainerd United Methodist Church. The project taught girls from Girls Inc. of Chattanooga to learn how to be better prepared for disasters.
    Photo by Shawn Paik.
    enlarge photo

A group of Chattanooga schoolchildren now are equipped with pillowcases, making them more prepared for an emergency than the average kids on the block.

The Red Cross' new Pillowcase Project was launched in Chattanooga on Monday at Brainerd United Methodist Church. The project uses pillowcases to teach students in grades three through five how to prepare for a disaster.

"What makes the Pillowcase Project so wonderful is that it combines something that children love with something that children need," said Michelle Hankes, regional chapter executive for the Red Cross of East Tennessee, in a news release.

Project funding is provided by a grant from the Walt Disney Co., and students are given pillowcases with pictures of their favorite Disney characters. They color their pillowcases while learning how to prepare for and respond to disasters.

"It's a pillowcase, not for sleeping, but for preparation," said Benjamin Prijatel, regional communications director for the Red Cross.

Each child is told to take the pillowcase home and fill it with the crucial supplies that are listed on it. Kids will fill their pillowcases with items such as water, a flashlight, batteries and a blanket.

"I can't live without my special bunny," Olivia Dodd, 8, said about what's in her pillowcase.

Prijatel said the program combines education with interactive fun.

"Getting kids excited about something makes them retain so much more. The kids will be excited and want to share what they learned with their families," he said.

The Red Cross has done a couple of these Pillowcase Projects in the tri-cities area and was in Cleveland, Tenn., last week.

The program now is being offered to kids involved in partnerships with the Red Cross, and organizers hope it will expand into area schools.

"A lot of people in Chattanooga have not heard about the Pillowcase Project, but in two or three years, every parent of an elementary school child will have heard of what we are doing," Prijatel said.

Staff photographer Shawn Paik contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6592.

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