Red Cross celebrates new operations center

      NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- March is American Red Cross month and the Lowcountry Red Cross Chapter is kicking off the month with a grand opening.

      The Lowcountry Chapter officially opens the doors to a new, more than 10,000 square foot facility located next to City Hall in North Charleston. The expanded operation space will give the Red Cross an opportunity to assist in not only preparedness and response phases of disasters, but also in recovery.

      "This new building is going to help us with an expansion of our services -- this new building is taking our disaster services one more step," said Louise Welch Williams, the regional CEO of the American Red Cross. "It's always been about preparedness and response but now with the new building we can expand our building to meet recovery."

      The new operations center will feature more rooms for Red Cross volunteers to assist clients after disasters.

      "Wehave a full service kitchen, we have a shower which we never had before," said Gary Gardner, a six-year volunteer. {}

      Most recently, the Lowcountry Red Cross provided 24,000 meals to citizens after the February ice storms.

      "People need help after the disaster so this new building let's us expand that service," Welch Williams said. "We have room for volunteers, we have room for overnight stays -- it is expanded capacity to help with our growing community and to make sure the Red Cross is here for another 100 years."

      The original Lowcountry American Red Cross charter dates back to 1910.

      Officials also celebrated by hosting a Red Cross blood drive.{}

      "Mymother has had to have blood," said Gina Benton, when asked why she was donating. "I've also had a transfusion and I also work forthe American red cross as a collections supervisor."

      Monday evening, the building was dedicated to Anita Zucker and her family. Officials also offered a tour of the new facility after the ceremony.