Get Involved: American Red Cross
Volunteers with the St. Louis Area Chapter of the national humanitarian relief organization not only react in times of peril, but also help prevent them.
With a celebrated history of responding during some of the world’s most harrowing disasters, the American Red Cross and its network of volunteers have become an iconic representation of humanitarianism. Since its establishment in Washington D.C. in 1881 by legendary nurse Clara Barton, the American Red Cross has grown to a nationwide network of more than 700 chapters and 36 blood services regions.
St. Louisans Saving Lives
The St. Louis Area Chapter’s earliest twinkle of existence sparked in 1884 when Barton visited the city after a Mississippi flood, but it wouldn’t be until 1917 that the St. Louis Area Chapter would be officially chartered. Since its inception, the St. Louis Area Chapter has been involved in efforts such as emergency response, disaster prevention, blood services and community relations and education.
Although Red Cross volunteers are perhaps best known as the brave men and women who are some of the first on the scene in the aftermath of disasters such as earthquakes, floods, fires and hurricanes, there’s a side of the Red Cross that many don’t know much about. The Red Cross’ health and safety as well as emergency preparedness education programs help everyday citizens learn skills such as first aid, CPR and lifeguarding. Other programs such as babysitter training, HIV/AIDS education, disease prevention and workplace safety provided by the Red Cross serve to empower people with skills and knowledge that can help save lives.
Add to these the many health fairs and community outreach efforts the St. Louis Chapter engages in each year, and it becomes clear that the American Red Cross’ mission is just as focused on the preventative as it is the reactionary—and volunteers are at the hear of that mission. “We have more than 1,350 active volunteers with the American Red Cross St. Louis Area Chapter,” says Regional Chief Executive Officer Cindy Erickson. “In addition, a number of community groups partner with the Red Cross for spontaneous volunteer projects.”
Since its founding, the American Red Cross has been a volunteer-based humanitarian relief agency, and it’s without question that the St. Louis Area Chapter depends on volunteers, who collectively touch the St. Louis area community nearly 400,000 times each year.
No matter the level of time commitment volunteers are able to give, the St. Louis Area Chapter has a way for individuals and groups to plug into their Network. “We are excited to celebrate the second year of Club Red, our young professional network,” says Erickson. “Once volunteers get involved with the Red Cross, they start looking for additional ways to help out. In fact, we have volunteers who [help] in over seven different job areas.”
According to the American Red Cross, only two in every 10 Americans have reported that they feel prepared for a major disaster. Volunteers who want to feel empowered during times of turmoil can take a Red Cross preparedness education course. These folks learn important response techniques, act out potential disaster scenarios and learn what it takes to be victim advocates. These are the volunteers who were on the scene helping after events such as September 11, Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti.
In addition to the legions of caring and oftentimes fearless volunteers, the American Red Cross St. Louis Area Chapter and others like it around the country are sustained by voluntary donations to local, national and international relief funds. These donations help neighbors in the St. Louis area and people across the globe who need food, water and shelter after disasters. This money also helps the Red Cross’ effort to keep military families connected during emergencies and supported with counseling and assistance to our nation’s veterans.
For more information on the St. Louis Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, log on to redcrossstl.org.
Photo credit: Photos courtesy of the American Red Cross St. Louis Area Chapter