Volunteer power is an awesome force

“The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.​”

By Doug Bardwell, an American Red Cross volunteer

December 13, 2019- Thousands of people’s lives are affected by disasters each year, and those same lives are also affected by relief and comfort from the American Red Cross.

Following a disaster, when life is at its lowest, the American Red Cross is often the first with:

  1. an encouraging word
  2. a hug
  3. financial assistance
  4. a safe place to stay
  5. meals and snacks
  6. a caseworker to help recovery
  7. any or all of the above

Since this isn’t a graded exam, we can share the answer: G.  Throughout the year, locally, nationally, and internationally, the Red Cross is often the first humanitarian association people ever encounter after a disaster.  Responding to a hurricane earlier this year, a survivor told me, “I’ve been through four hurricanes in my life, and the Red Cross is the only organization that has been there to help me after each one.

Doug Blog

During fiscal year 2019, more than 150 volunteers from Northeast Ohio deployed to relief operations resulting from disasters such as Hurricane Dorian, flooding caused by Tropical Storm Imelda, and multiple wildfires in California.

While hurricanes aren’t a concern in Northeast Ohio, we’ve certainly had our share of other catastrophes. Locally, the Red Cross responded to 979 local disaster events, the vast majority of them home fires, resulting in the distribution of $810,086 in financial assistance to help individuals begin the path to recovery.

In addition to local disasters, we served almost 2,500 military members, veterans and their families with critically needed support while those servicepeople were deployed. Local program staff and volunteers also delivered the “Get to Know Us” briefing to more than 3,200 military recruits and their family members.

Finally, the region’s Biomedical Services collected 145,531 units of blood that resulted in the distribution of no fewer than 436,593 life supporting blood products to more than 50 medical facilities in Northeast Ohio.  These blood products helped patients across Northeast Ohio recover from a variety of medical conditions, including some that were life threatening.

Nationally, the results are even more staggering.  During the 60,000-plus disasters that the Red Cross responds to each year, we

  • Served over 1.1 million meals and snacks with our partners
  • Distributed over 354,000 relief items
  • Made over 92,000 contacts to support health, mental health, spiritual care and disability needs
  • Provided over 79,000 overnight shelter stays with partners
  • Provided emergency financial assistance to nearly 376,000 people for disaster needs like food and lodging.

Most important to remember, is that all this assistance requires two critical ingredients: donations from our cherished donors and a volunteer workforce.

Despite a mandate from the government to respond to disasters and to support our military, no federal funding is generated.  Operating funds come from the generous donations of American citizens and organizations.  For more information on donating, please visit our donations page.

And, 90% of the Red Cross workers are volunteers, almost all of them are part-time. Some respond to disasters once a year, some monthly and some only when a local disaster occurs near their home. If you have a couple hours, a day, or more, see if there’s a volunteer opportunity you’d like to perform. These days, you don’t even need to leave home to volunteer, with some of the digital opportunities available.

Photo by Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

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