March is the month we recognize the American Red Cross for all it does, as we have since President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed it so in 1943: “I request that during that month our people rededicate themselves to the splendid aims and activities of the Red Cross.”
Those activities are constant and myriad. The organization, founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, says that it provides assistance to someone in need every eight minutes. Its care is focused in five critical areas: Americans affected by disaster; support for members of the military and their families; blood collection, processing and distribution; health and safety education and training; and international relief and development.
In the greater New York region, which includes Long Island, the Red Cross responds to an average of seven emergencies each day. They range from fires and floods to building collapses and more. Its services are available to all of the 2.8 million people in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Red Cross blood drives supply more than 40 percent of the blood and blood used by medical patients in the U.S. When disaster strikes, the organization’s famous logo is one of the most recognizable signs of relief for those affected. Its training helps turn ordinary citizens into people capable of saving lives. Its services have expanded to include civil defense, CPR and automated external defibrillator training, HIV and AIDS education and post-disaster emotional care and support.
The Red Cross has worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency since 2006 to help government agencies and community organizations plan and coordinate emergency efforts and provide food, shelter and family reunification services for people in areas hit by disasters. When those government agencies have proved to be unprepared for storms or other fast-developing crises, it is the Red Cross that puts its skin in the game by helping to fill the gaps.