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RED CROSS OFFERS GIFTS THAT CAN SAVE LIVES

Nancy Smegelsky knows the importance of learning first aid and being prepared for emergencies. After all, she is director of emergency services for the Niagara Falls Chapter of the American Red Cross.

But her brother, Niagara Falls native Richard Neubauer, who now lives in Orlando with his wife, Janet, got a firsthand look at the importance of first aid when the Neubauers were on vacation in Sheboygan, Wis., over the summer.

Mrs. Neubauer swung into action when a farmer caught his hand in a machine while making hay near a house where the Neubauers were staying. Her first-aid training, required in Florida because she works with young children, enabled her to assess the man's injury and apply the tourniquet that saved not only his hand, but his life.

That's why Neubauer is getting a gift certificate for a first-aid class for Christmas from his sister, Ms. Smegelsky.

"He called me and was going on and on about it," said Ms. Smegelsky. "And the more I thought about it, the more I thought he should have this training too. I told him, 'You really should take this,' and now he'll have a chance to do it."

The Niagara Falls chapter of the Red Cross sells a variety of items that might not be at the top of everyone's Christmas list, but could actually save a life.

Like its counterpart in Orlando, where Ms. Smegelsky purchased the certificate for her brother, the Niagara Falls chapter sells gift certificates for its classes. The classes include first aid, baby sitting, and training in how to do cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on adults and children, as well as for the professional rescuer.

The chapter at 719 Ashland Ave. also sells four types of first-aid kits.

The family size kit contains bandages, antiseptic towelettes, sterile pads, dressings, and a rescue blanket, used to keep a victim warm while they await an ambulance or other first aid, said Jennifer Curry, administrative assistant in the health and safety office at the Red Cross. The kit also contains a cold pack and bag to safely hold hazardous materials, such as those that have been exposed to blood.

The kit usually sells for $29.95 but is on sale for $27.95, she said.

The second size, the personal kit, sells for $10 in a bag with a sewn-on strap to attach to a belt, or for $19 if packed in a waist pack, she said.

The personal kit contains bandages, gauze pads, safety pins, antiseptic swabs, gloves, tape, scissors and tweezers.

The pocket pack, sold for $2.50, is "something good to carry in your purse," Ms. Curry said. It contains medicated pads for insect-sting relief, antiseptic towelettes and gauze pads.

But the most important part of all the first-aid kits might be the instructions they contain, Ms. Curry said.

"When an emergency occurs, they would have this on hand and be able to take care of the situation. The directions are self-explanatory and go step by step, and would help a person better handle the situation when they are under pressure."

Diana Chu, an accounting assistant for the Red Cross, is sold on the idea of first-aid kits as gifts, especially for youngsters going away to college. She has bought two kits as graduation gifts.

"The kids who are going away to college can take the first-aid kits with them," she said. "It's for the parents, too, so they won't worry so much about an emergency. I think it's useful, especially when the kids are going to be several hundred miles away."

Two booklets, one sold for $5 and the other for 75 cents, outline steps to take in case of an emergency, including how to give first aid to someone who is bleeding or has been burned, Ms. Curry said.

The Red Cross hasn't forgotten those other important members of the family -- pets. The office sells a book on first aid for injured cats and dogs, Ms. Curry said, with topics ranging from how to approach an ill or injured pet to how to give an animal cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

That book, which is about 100 pages long, sells for $10.

The Red Cross office is open this week for Christmas purchases on Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to noon on Christmas Eve.

And this isn't the final holiday for which the Red Cross would like to suggest a first-aid kit or safety class. Next up is Valentine's Day. "Get your sweetheart a first-aid kit," said Ms. Curry.