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March is Red Cross Month

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March is Red Cross Month, and the Massachusetts Region asks people to be a hero for families in the Commonwealth by becoming a volunteer, learning lifesaving skills, giving blood or donating to #help1family on Red Cross Giving Day, March 27.

"During Red Cross Month, we are proud to recognize our volunteers who make up more than 90 percent of our workforce providing hope and urgent relief to families in need every day," said Lloyd Ziel, chief communications officer for the American Red Cross in Massachusetts. "These heroes are our neighbors who give blood, save lives with skills like first aid and CPR, or provide care and comfort to families devastated by crises like home fires. We honor our volunteers and ask you to join them and make a difference."

More than 75 years ago, March was first proclaimed Red Cross Month in 1943 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to raise awareness of the organization and its humanitarian mission. All U.S. presidents since Roosevelt have designated March as Red Cross Month to recognize how the American Red Cross helps people across the country and around the world through its workforce powered by more than 90 percent volunteers.

Red Cross volunteer Anne Williams of Middleborough has worked with home-fire victims for more than 10 years, guiding them through the difficult next steps in recovery. Williams offers comfort to those who have lost their home and much of their personal belongings.

"I talk with people experience terrible grief. When people lose photographs in a fire, it's often a huge emotional lose and one of the hardest things to replace. I always advise people to have their friends and family share photos with them, in an effort to make things whole again for them. The small things make such an enormous difference in the recovery process," she said.

Every eight minutes in the United States, the Red Cross connects with a family who has lost everything to a home fire or other disaster — the roof over their heads, their clothes, their most cherished possessions. This past year was no exception — and the need continues today.

Last year, Red Cross volunteers helped millions of people reeling from a second consecutive year of record wildfires, hurricanes, tragic shootings and other large disasters across the country. More than 300 volunteer heroes from Massachusetts responded to deliver urgent relief and care in people's darkest hours. Local volunteers assisted hurricane victims in the Carolinas and Florida, as well as fire victims in multiple locations in California. Red Cross volunteer heroes worked around the clock to deliver urgent relief and care in people’s darkest hours.

This winter, home fires continued to upend lives — when there's often an increased risk of home heating and cooking fires. Since Dec. 1, local volunteers assisted more than 320 families affected by home fires in Massachusetts.

Learn more about how you can help by visiting the website:

* Become a volunteer:
Help families affected by disasters and install lifesaving smoke alarms to keep neighbors safe from home fires. In some areas, you can also provide emergency assistance for military members and veterans, or help reconnect families separated by international conflict. Go online.

* Give blood: Make an appointment to donate lifesaving blood or platelets online.

* Learn lifesaving skills: Register for a class to learn first aid, CPR and other skills online.

* Make a financial donation: On March 27 — American Red Cross Giving Day — donate online, uniting with thousands of people like you to help families during the first devastating hours of a disaster. Your gift can provide hope and urgent relief, like food, shelter and other essentials, for families who need it most. 

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Estate Plans Can Help You Answer Questions About the Future

Submitted by Edward Jones

The word "estate" conjures images of great wealth, which may be one of the reasons so many people don't develop estate plans. After all, they're not rich, so why make the effort? In reality, though, if you have a family, you can probably benefit from estate planning, whatever your asset level. And you may well find that a comprehensive estate plan can help you answer some questions you may find unsettling – or even worrisome.

Here are a few of these questions:

* What will happen to my children?
With luck, you (and your co-parent, if you have one) will be alive and well at least until your children reach the age of majority (either 18 or 21, depending on where you live). Nonetheless, you don't want to take any chances, so, as part of your estate plans, you may want to name a guardian to take care of your children if you are not around. You also might want to name a conservator – sometimes called a "guardian of the estate" – to manage any assets your minor children might inherit.

* Will there be a fight over my assets? Without a solid estate plan in place, your assets could be subject to the time-consuming, expensive – and very public – probate process. During probate, your relatives and creditors can gain access to your records, and possibly even challenge your will. But with proper planning, you can maintain your privacy. As one possible element of an estate plan, a living trust allows your property to avoid probate and pass quickly to the beneficiaries you have named.

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