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People learn life-saving skills
Attendees at the Red Cross’ free CPR class practice evaluating situations using mannequins Saturday morning at Brenau University. - photo by Robin Michener Nathan

Some four dozen people spent their Saturday morning learning skills that someday could save a life, thanks to a free class offered by the local American Red Cross chapter.

The Northeast Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross held its annual CPR Saturday this weekend at Brenau University’s Fitness Center as part of American Red Cross Month. Instructors demonstrated the steps to adult CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as first aid.

"I’m really passionate about making the community a safer place to live. I love people to be empowered," said Patti Dixon, an American Red Cross instructor trainer who taught both classes Saturday morning.

Ron and Patti Collinage of Gainesville said they attended to learn CPR for their own good and the good of those around them. Patti Collinage said she works in a nursing home and that knowing CPR would make her feel better.

"I wish we could do more (free classes)," said Beverly Walker, community relations officer for the Northeast Georgia chapter of the American Red Cross. "We have expenses. We don’t make revenue off our classes."

Members of the local chapter have been holding a free CPR class once a year for at least 15 years. A free class is offered in each of the 13 counties across North Georgia that make up the local chapter. Four of the counties are holding a free class in March, including Hall County.

The Red Cross relies heavily on sponsors and advertisement to be able to offer the class free of charge each year. A month before the class, Walker sends out flyers, advertises on the chapter’s Web site and contacts companies that require CPR training for employees. Walker said the average free class draws around 50 people.

The class teaches adult CPR and first aid and all participants are tested on the information to receive a CPR certified card and a wallet-sized booklet that reviews the information. Walker said that the free class offers the same instruction as the paid class.

"The goal is to make people prepared," Walker said.

Dixon said she never has had to perform CPR on a person, but has dealt with first aid and choking emergencies. Dixon said she has never has had to perform CPR because she made sure to acknowledge the emergency and respond to it quickly. This is a practice that she teaches in class.

"I help them to prepare to respond to an emergency," Dixon said.

Each class Dixon taught Saturday morning was two hours long and included short videos and true stories to relate the emergency procedures to real-life situations.

Dixon’s course was taught with high energy and lots of class participation. The class practiced emergency responses, including the Heimlich maneuver for choking victims and CPR for unconscious and conscious adult victims. Warning signs for heart attacks were also discussed, as well as tips to help someone who is having a heart attack.

The 9 a.m. had 25 people and the 11 a.m. class had 21, all of whom became certified in adult CPR.

James Elliott, also of Gainesville, learned CPR two years ago. He came to the free class on Saturday to renew his CPR skills.

"I just want to know about it to help out," Elliott said.

Regular community CPR classes teach adult, child and infant CPR and first aid. The classes are held the third Saturday of every month and cost $55. The class is seven and a half hours long and includes quick response tips to emergencies, including heart attacks.

The American Red Cross of Northeast Georgia will hold two more free CPR classes this month, March 22 in Blairsville and March 29 in Young Harris.

For more information on the CPR course as well as other classes offered by the Red Cross, visit

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