Every day our American Red Cross teams work hard to provide moments of hope to patients in need of lifesaving blood products—even during a pandemic. Last year, we faced a significant amount of uncertainty with unprecedented challenges, yet the commitment from our employees, volunteers and blood donors was astounding and enabled us to continue our lifesaving mission. While I hope that 2021 will bring better days, it is clear were a still in the midst the pandemic as reports of increased COVID-19 cases continue.
Unfortunately, as the number of COVID-19 cases surge, so does the need for convalescent plasma– causing the Red Cross to distribute more convalescent plasma products in the last month than any other month during the pandemic. With hospital distributions for this product increasing about 250% since October, we now have a shortage of this potentially lifesaving plasma.
Today, I wanted to share a brief story about one of our own Red Crossers. As we all know, health emergencies don’t pause for holidays, game days or a pandemic—as Zachary Alsobrooks, one of our Red Cross collections specialists in Nashville, Tenn. learned firsthand. He tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced how convalescent plasma can help save lives. After a persistent 102-degree temperature and drastic changes in his breathing, he was admitted to the hospital where his condition escalated quickly to the intensive care unit.
“It progressed into the worst I have ever felt in my life,” he said. When Zachary’s vitals became unstable, he was placed on a respiratory machine and convalescent plasma was ordered to assist him. Though much of his hospital stay was a blur to him, Zachary recalls the joy that poured from the nurses when the convalescent plasma was delivered. Familiar with the type of plasma bags and donor identification numbers used, he knew right away that this plasma was from a Red Cross donor.
After receiving the convalescent plasma, Zachary shared that his condition immediately began to improve, and he was released from intensive care 72 hours later. Now, he is committed to giving his own plasma to help others battling the virus, as soon as he is able. “If I can make someone else feel like I did, I will come back at least once a week to give until my antibodies test negative,” he said.Share your health during National Blood Donor Month and throughout the New Year
As we all welcome the start of a new year and kick off National Blood Donor Month, the Red Cross needs all eligible individuals—especially those who have recovered from COVID-19— to roll up a sleeve and share their good health with patients in need. January is National Blood Donor Month because it coincides with one of the most difficult times to maintain a sufficient blood supply for patients and this year is no exception.
If you are eligible and feeling well, please make an appointment to give blood, plasma or platelets today. I recognize that not everyone is eligible to donate blood and encourage all those who are ineligible to refer friends and family to donate blood in their place or share the need on their social media platforms.
You can give back to your community right from home.
The holidays can be a stressful time for a lot of people, but for at-risk communities and those in need, this time of year can be especially difficult. That’s why many people choose to lend their time to volunteering over the holidays. In fact, most nonprofits see a surge in volunteerism every year from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. “The end-of-year holidays have always been a time to reflect and give back to the community and those in need,” says Jennifer Bennet, the director of education and training at Volunteer Match. “And while the activities are a little different this year, the need is greater than ever.”
It should go without saying that volunteers are needed year-round, not just during the holidays. But if you’re looking for a way to do something meaningful during your time off, you can volunteer your time and resources this year while still being safe in regards to coronavirus (COVID-19). There are also plenty of opportunities that allow you to give volunteering a try right from home.
Here’s how you can safely volunteer this holiday season, according to experts.
How to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Deliver pre-prepared meals.
“In years past, one of the most popular holiday volunteering opportunities were serving meals to people in need,” Bennett tells us. This year, many parts of the country are going into stricter shelter-in-place orders, and restaurants and businesses are furloughing workers again, which makes the need even greater.
A safe and effective alternative to the usual, according to Bennett, is delivering prepared meals and assembling meal boxes for neighbors in need. “[This] might be the most important need this holiday season,” she says, as food insecurity is on the rise. Of course, delivering meals is a form of in-person volunteering, so make sure that you and your family feel comfortable following any policies nonprofit organizations have in place regarding PPE and social distancing. According to Bennett, there are thousands of meal prep and delivery opportunities on VolunteerMatch, so you can search and find one that’s a fit for you.
2. Support students through online mentoring and coaching.
Tons of students and teachers across the country have had to adjust to online schooling, which has not been easy. To accommodate the growing needs of students, Bennett tells us that many organizations have transitioned to be able to offer their services and support online. “Supporting students through mentoring and coaching is a huge need right now, and volunteers can mentor or tutor on a specific subject or general homework help, offer assistance to those who are at-risk or have special needs, and even help tutor students studying to get their GED,” she says. All of these opportunities are completely online, and the majority of the companies will set you up to work one-on-one with a student by providing academic support using video conferencing software. It’s a safe and easy way to give back that will make you and the student in need feel good.
3. Lend your professional skills to help a non-profit.
While nonprofit organizations are doing their best to adjust to the influx of needs brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, many of them are struggling with the new virtual model of work and fundraising. According to Bennett, “Just a few hours of time and expertise can make a huge difference for a struggling nonprofit organization. Many organizations need help adapting to remote work, creating a strategic plan for navigating the pandemic, or planning remote fundraising events.” Check-in with your local organizations to see what they might need or use an online service like Volunteer Match to find one that aligns with your skills. From graphic design to strategy planning, your skills could make a noticeable and long-lasting impact.
4. Donate blood.
“During the holiday season, it can be a struggle to recruit new volunteers and blood donors, says Sara Ruiz, volunteer engagement associate at the American Red Cross. But, as she explains, “disasters and the need for blood don’t take a vacation.” According to Ruiz, the biggest volunteer need right now is for blood collection and delivery support. The Red Cross collects and distributes about 40% of our nation’s blood supply, and the need for blood is constant—from cancer patients to women experiencing difficult childbirths to patients battling COVID-19. Volunteers can have a huge impact by either becoming a Blood Donor Ambassador (someone who welcomes visitors to Red Cross facilities or blood drives and takes their temperature before they enter) or a Transportation Specialist, someone who delivers lifesaving blood products from Red Cross distribution facilities to hospitals using a Red Cross-owned vehicle. These are both great ways to volunteer if you feel comfortable doing so in-person, while wearing proper PPE and maintaining social distancing, of course.
“The Red Cross also offers opportunities to help via phone or computer like becoming a Digital Advocate and sharing helpful blood drive info on social media. The key is to volunteer in any way you can: whether that’s in your neighborhood or from your own couch,” says Ruiz.
5. Join a disaster action team.
“2020 has been a relentless disaster year, so we’re also asking people to volunteer to help people get through crises,” Ruiz tells us. According to her, The Red Cross Disaster Action Team assists with 60,000 home fires each year, as well as other local and national disasters. As such, caring and compassionate volunteers are always needed to do things like getting aid into the hands of families who lost their home to a fire and providing comfort to people fleeing natural disasters. “Much of this work has transitioned to be delivered virtually,” says Ruiz. So you can even do this from home.
6. Write a letter to someone in need.
Writing a note to a person in need is one of the easiest ways you can volunteer your time, without ever having to leave home. Plus, you can feel good knowing your small effort might brighten someone’s day. Organizations are looking for people to write letters to patients or senior citizens in hospice, to people with special needs, and to meal delivery clients who might need a quick check-in. Either way, you can find an organization you feel passionate about and make writing a letter a family activity.
“The holidays are a great time to get out—or stay home!—and give volunteering a try,” says Bennett, “But most of these opportunities to give back and help others will still be important on and after January 2nd. Nonprofit organizations would love to give you an opportunity to continue to support them after the holidays are over.”
More than 60 new volunteers are urgently needed to assist blood donation services operated by the American Red Cross throughout Tucson, AZ., and surrounding areas of Pima County.
The demand, brought on by an increase in blood donations and attrition of existing volunteers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, threatens blood collection operations during the busy holiday season.
“The Red Cross is reaching out to the public, including civic organizations and schools, to help fill a critical need for not only blood but for volunteers to help coordinate blood collections,” said Jason Benedict, Regional Donor Services Officer for the Red Cross region that includes Arizona.
“The volunteers, which we call ‘Blood Donor Ambassadors,’ help facilitate a smooth blood donation experience for the donor as well as the blood collection staff,” Benedict said. “We invite anyone who is interested in learning more to visit the Red Cross’ volunteer site (www.redcross.org/volunteer).”
Bo Kipp, a Tucson-area Blood Donor Ambassador for the past three years, said the job is simple, yet particularly important to the Red Cross’ blood collection services. As the title implies, such volunteers welcome would-be donors at collection sites, ensure paperwork is completed and then provide nourishing drinks and snacks after blood is collected.
“The technicians are so appreciative when there are volunteers,” Kipp said. “Everything runs much smoother. It can cut up to 20 minutes from the donation process.”
Red Cross officials said blood donations are increasing partly because the blood donation process includes a free screening for COVID-19 antibodies. The presence of such antibodies generally indicates that a donor had a previous COVID-19 infection.
But while numbers of donors have grown, the ranks of existing Blood Donor Ambassadors have decreased. Officials say a number of volunteers, many of whom are retirees, have limited their involvement due to the pandemic.
Initially, Kipp did the same thing after her sons expressed concerns for their own children’s safety because grandma was a Red Cross volunteer. Eventually, she said, such worries dissipated because volunteers wear masks and other personal protective equipment and are not involved with actual blood collection.
“I feel very safe volunteering,” she said. “It doesn’t take hardly any time. But the rewards are enormous. It’s given me confidence and it’s good for my mental and physical health. I’m ever so thankful for that.”
Your gift supports the many urgent needs of the American Red Cross.
Coping with record-breaking disasters during the coronavirus pandemic, families spent more nights in emergency lodging in 2020 than any other year over the past decade.
Altogether, the Red Cross provided more than 1.3 million overnight stays with partners this year for people like Sabrina Allen, who sought refuge from a hurricane with her family at an emergency hotel shelter. There, Red Cross volunteers worked with her to secure a hospital bed and other essentials for her two daughters with special needs.
“People I didn’t even know adopted my family,” she said about the support. “They are my guardian angels.”
Learn more about how Red Cross disaster volunteers helped people like Sabrina in this infographic.
VOLUNTEERS DELIVER URGENT AID Representing more than 90% of the Red Cross workforce, volunteers are the backbone of our lifesaving mission. In 2020, many saw their own homes devastated by disasters — yet still answered the call to help. They included volunteer Linnea Dunn, who supported her community during a Red Cross wildfire response when the blaze destroyed her home.
“When you’re in the middle of something like that, there’s nothing you can do but sit there,” she said. “With the Red Cross, I could at least do something helpful. Just being with people who care and are active and are doing something, it really helped my mental health.”
This year, volunteers also quickly adapted to continue delivering help safely during COVID-19. As the pandemic escalated, most of the 70,000 people who joined our volunteer ranks this year stepped up to fill mission-critical positions, such as disaster shelter and health workers, and blood donor ambassadors and transportation specialists. Volunteers also maintained a constant presence in communities through other lifesaving services too:
Helping home fire survivors: This year, volunteers have helped more than 223,000 people across the country after home fires. Working with local fire departments, they connect with families by phone or video call, offering a sympathetic ear and linking them to available support, such as a place to stay and emergency financial assistance.
Supporting military and veteran families: For deployed or separated military families, support during COVID-19 has been critical — as evidenced by an increase in calls this year to the Red Cross Hero Care Network, which facilitates emergency communications among loved ones during a family crisis. In addition, volunteers sewed more than 66,000 face coverings for military installations, veterans’ hospitals and military families in need; provided comfort kits for quarantined military families; delivered virtual courses on topics like stress management during COVID-19; and engaged twice as many military caregivers online since the coronavirus became a pandemic in March.
Teaching lifesaving skills: Health care and other essential workers rely on Red Cross health and safety courses — adapted with public health protocols like social distancing and online offerings — so they can continue helping on the front lines. Virtual learning has been vital for people of all backgrounds during the pandemic, as the Red Cross saw enrollments double this year for online courses, including new COVID-19 ones for safe work practices and psychological first aid.
Delivering international aid: COVID-19 knows no borders — and as part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, we’re helping in vulnerable communities. The American Red Cross has deployed seven disaster responders in a remote capacity and contributed more than $4.3 million to support activities like health and hygiene promotion, case detection, and surveillance and contact tracing in the global fight against the coronavirus. We’ve also helped add “hygiene hubs” and installed extra handwashing facilities in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
BLOOD DONATIONS REMAIN ESSENTIAL In 2020, Red Cross blood drive cancellations tripled compared to the year prior — mostly due to COVID-19. Since March, over 50,000 blood drives were canceled as the pandemic forced schools, businesses and community organizations to close, impacting over 1 million blood donation appointments.
Blood donation is an essential service, and everyone’s well-being is our top priority. The Red Cross follows the latest public health guidelines and has put additional precautions in place to ensure everyone’s safety.
This pandemic has also caused the Red Cross to adapt its collections to include plasma from COVID-19 survivors to potentially help those battling the virus recover. Since April, more than 35,000 COVID-19 survivors have rolled up a sleeve to donate plasma — many of whom are first-time blood donors. Their donations have enabled the Red Cross to ship about 91,000 units to hospitals across the country treating COVID-19 patients.
HOW YOU CAN HELP As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, this continues to be a time to help one another:
Donate: Make a symbolic gift at redcross.org/gift. A donation of any size makes a difference.
Give blood: If you’re healthy and feeling well, your blood donation can make a lifesaving difference for a patient in need. Visit RedCrossBlood.org to schedule an appointment today.
Togetherness may look and feel drastically different for many families during this holiday season. However, the Hopkins family is thankful to continue to embrace the familiar tradition of blood donation with the American Red Cross.
“Everyone’s holidays are different. The world is different. We can only make the most of each day,” said Diana Hopkins.
As the coronavirus pandemic wears on into the holiday season, the ongoing support of existing and new blood donors is critical. Mike and Diana Hopkins have no plans to discontinue this lifesaving act of kindness that brings great comfort and joy to patients in need.
Help Save Lives on Black Friday
Since 2014, the Hopkins have come together with their five sons the day after Thanksgiving to give back through blood donation. “It began when Diana heard a commercial for a blood drive on Joy FM radio. She thought giving blood was a clever idea and a way for us to be in the fanfare of Black Friday without just buying stuff,” said Mike. They eat pizza and watch shoppers hunt for bargains after donating.
“Giving blood has been a regular part of our lives for a long time. I’m proud that we’ve gotten our children into the habit,” said Mike.
Volunteer donors are the only source of blood for patients battling disease and facing the unexpected. As part of an effort to provide plasma for patients battling coronavirus, the Red Cross is testing all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies. Whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may now help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions.
Eligible individuals are urged to make an appointment to donate now using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
A Heartfelt Thank You to Blood Donors
During this challenging year the Red Cross is extremely grateful to have witnessed the best of humanity in new and existing blood donors who have stepped up to give throughout this pandemic. These individuals have not only helped support patients in their community, but also family and friends across the nation who worry about loved ones recovering from accidents, surgeries and chronic illnesses.
As a thank you for helping to meet the need for blood donations, through Dec. 15, Suburban Propane is offering blood, platelet and plasma donors a chance to win an Outdoor Living Experience, powered by Propane, to enable a lucky winner to enjoy socially distanced celebrations with family and friends this holiday season. The prize includes a propane-powered pizza oven, fire pit, outdoor heater and stipend towards propane.*
COVID-19 Blood Donation Safety
Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.
All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.
Volunteer/Writer/Photographer American Red Cross, Arizona-New Mexico Region
Convinced he was dying of COVID-19, Daniel lay in a Tucson hospital bed and dreamed of hearing his mother’s voice one last time. But it seemed impossible. She lived 9,200 miles away in Burundi. Had she survived the political chaos that made Daniel and his family refugees? Did she know he was deathly ill?
Luckily, answers soon reached Daniel thanks to the American Red Cross’ International Services division and its Restoring Family Links (RFL) program.
“I was so happy to hear that voice,” he said recently through an interpreter. “What the Red Cross did was impossible. If not for the Red Cross, I would not have been able to connect with her. It was a very good thing they did for me.”
Reconnecting with far-flung family members might not be the first service that comes to mind when folks think about the Red Cross. For more than a century, the humanitarian organization has provided help during emergencies, conducted blood drives and assisted members of the armed forces.
But RFL plays an important role as well, especially as migration, armed conflicts, natural disasters and the ongoing pandemic result in a growing number of separated families throughout the world. The free service helps ease or eliminate the uncertainty and suffering that comes with losing track of loved ones.
“It’s all detective work,” said Elissa Maish, a Tucson-based RFL volunteer who helped reconnect Daniel with his mother and other family members this past summer. “I think it’s amazing, really. We’re the only ones in the world with anything like this.”
RFL is an international program that includes the American Red Cross, the Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross. And its roots trace back some 150 years to the Franco-Prussian War, when the ICRC gathered data on the whereabouts and fate of French prisoners.
According to Wikipedia, the three organizations working together in 2012 handled some 279,000 family messages, 227,500 phone calls and reunited more than 2,300 children with their families. However, the Red Cross is not involved with the more recent family reunification issues at the U.S. border.
In Daniel’s case, it took weeks of calling known family members and – sometimes through an interpreter – asking questions and looking for leads. The trail took Maish and others on a path through a brother-in-law living in Tanzania and, finally, a pastor in Burundi who knew how to reach Daniel’s mother.
Daniel, whose full name is not being used to protect his identity, was finally able to communicate with his mother through a special Red Cross telephone service and conference call. Although he ultimately survived his bout with the coronavirus, he learned that his mother was very ill.
Jared Oppelt, who directs RFL and International Services for the Red Cross’ Arizona-New Mexico region, said his division is organized under the Red Cross’ Services to the Armed Forces (SAF). But most of the reconnecting work involves services to refugees and migrants and gets done by volunteers like Maish.
“Like the other departments at the Red Cross, we depend on volunteers to fulfill our department’s mission,” Oppelt said. “Elissa is uniquely important to our department because she has been involved in RFL for many years. She’s the heart of our department and her work drives us forward.”
Many folks share Oppelt’s opinion. In 2018, Maish was presented with the Red Cross’ International Humanitarian Service Award for her work in reconnecting families. A Red Cross volunteer since she retired in 2000, she’s been known to log hundreds of volunteer hours each year helping refugees such as Daniel.
“I am so grateful to be able to do this,” she said. “It’s interesting and meaningful. I often imagine what it would be like if combatants came into my town and my family disappeared. It’s so remote from my experience. But there’s so much work to be done. I just keep going.”
The American Red Cross of Arizona and New Mexico is hosting its inaugural run for the Holiday Hustle Virtual 5k. This 3.1-mile virtual run will begin Saturday, November 21, 2020, ending Monday, November 30, 2020. A virtual run means you choose your course and time to run or walk – your place, your pace. Proceeds from the virtual run will contribute to the mission of the Red Cross of Arizona and New Mexico. By participating in this virtual 5K, 100% of your donation directly benefits your local #RedCross.
#Emergenciesdontstop and neither does the #RedCross. Your participation will enable the Red Cross of Arizona and New Mexico to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from local disasters, big and small, while our volunteers are working tirelessly aiding communities impacted, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. All participants who pledge $25 or more to their Holiday Hustle 5K fundraiser effort will receive a race t-shirt! Don’t forget to share your accomplishment on social media. Please be sure to use #GiveWithMeaning on all your posts. We can’t wait to see you all in your race t-shirt!
Connect and join a diverse group of people across the region and around the country! Here at the American Red Cross, we see social media as a way for us to help people carry out the Red Cross mission every day. You can connect with us and other Red Cross supporters on the social networking sites you like to spend time on Facebook: RedcrossNM AmRedcrossArizona Twitter: RedcrossAZ – RedcrossNM Instagram: redcross.az.nm
Preparing for emergencies is a little different this year, but the three necessary action steps remain the same for everyone: Build a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed. Assemble two kits of emergency supplies (a stay-at-home kit and an evacuation kit) and a one-month supply of prescription medication. Include personal hygiene items, cleaning and disinfectant supplies, and cloth face coverings. Some supplies may be hard to get due to the pandemic, and availability may worsen in a disaster, so start gathering supplies now.
We have all seen or heard reports of major emergencies in the news. From hurricanes to floods, wildfires, not to mention home fires, and severe weather and power outages, unexpected disasters can impact large numbers of people for days at a time. Emergencies can happen anywhere – at home, at work, or at school – and everyone must take action to prepare for emergencies in case the unexpected occurs.
September is recognized as National Preparedness Month and it’s a perfect time for everyone to get their household and their family ready for emergencies. Take time now to consider your family’s plan and make any needed updates before you should have to utilize it.
The Red Cross encourages everyone to take three easy action steps during National Preparedness Month:
Build a kit – Build an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you if you must evacuate. Include items such as water, non-perishable food, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, first aid kit and medications. A kit should include three days’ worth of non-perishable food and water, as well as digital copies of important documents and a mobile phone charger for your vehicle.
Make a plan – Talk with members of your household about what to do during an emergency. Plan what to do in case everyone is separated and choose two places to meet—one right outside the home in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire, and another outside the neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate. Your plan should include a point of contact out-of-town for everyone to communicate with.
Be informed – Know what kinds of emergency situations may occur where you live, where you work, and where you go to school. Be familiar with the emergency plans at your workplace and/or your school. You should contact and stay in touch with your local emergency management agency to get essential information on specific hazards to your area, local plans for shelter and evacuation, ways to get information before and during an emergency, and how to sign up for emergency alerts if they are available.
Other Preparedness Tips
Be aware of the people in your life who may have special needs. Emergencies can happen at a moment’s notice with little or no warning. People with mobility issues, learning disabilities, and hearing and visual impairments can create specific needs that individuals need to address to be able to respond to an emergency. The Red Cross offers a guide for special needs emergency preparedness.
Get trained in First Aid and CPR/AED so you’ll know what to do in an emergency if help is delayed.
Download the free, all-inclusive Red Cross Emergency App, along with the Monster Guard App to help children get prepared. Children and adolescents are especially vulnerable during disasters and emergencies. Naturally, we want to protect our children from experiencing anxiety and distress. The Red Cross has resources that can help both you and your children manage emotions and deal with the anxiety that emergencies may cause.
The American Red Cross exists to provide compassionate care to those in need. Our generous donors, volunteers, and employees share the mission of preventing and relieving human suffering here at home and around the world, through five key service areas.
Blood donations, help for disaster victims, support for military families, first aid training, and caring for the world’s most vulnerable people. That’s quite a broad list of services. But it’s only the beginning of what’s accomplished every day in the U.S. and internationally by the American Red Cross.
Consider these numbers:
• 35,000 – People who work for the Red Cross in the U.S.
• 70,000 – Disasters the Red Cross responds to annually across the U.S.
• 150,000 – Military families assisted annually.
• 500,000 – Volunteers who help provide Red Cross services across the county.
• 4,000,000 – Folks who donate blood to the Red Cross each year.
• 15,000,000 – People who receive Red Cross training services annually.
• 100,000,000 – Average number of people helped annually around the world.
Here’s another number: 5, as in the “Five Lines of Service,” a sort of outline of how the 139-year-old organization is structured, how it provides all those services and how anyone who seeks assistance or is interested in working or volunteering for the Red Cross can find what they need.
The Red Cross’ Five Lines of Service include:
• Blood collection, testing and supplying
• Disaster assistance for those impacted by fires, floods or other events
• Services to the Armed Forces and their families
• International Services for those in need worldwide
• Training first responders and others to save lives
The five areas of service are directed by trained, experienced professionals in each of the 50 Red Cross regions across the U.S. And, in the case of the Arizona-New Mexico Region, most of those folks live and work in the Phoenix or Tucson area.
Jason Benedict, Regional Donor Services Executive, lives and works in Tucson, where the region’s major blood-donor and biomedical facilities are located. The Tucson operation, combined with others across the country, supply up to 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply. Blood collection is one of the most important Red Cross services and usually is what people think of first when they hear the name “Red Cross.” But the line of service Benedict oversees is also crucial because it provides a constant revenue stream that the non-profit organization uses to reinvest in people and technologies. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has dealt a blow to both blood collection and the revenue stream. Benedict wants to remind donors, businesses, and others who typically support donor services that their help remains critical. “Approximately 80-percent of blood donations take place in businesses and schools, many of which have closed their locations during the pandemic,” Benedict said. “With no known end date in this fight against coronavirus, the Red Cross needs the help of our partners and the generosity of volunteer blood donors to help stock hospital shelves in the weeks and months to come.”
The second line of service, disaster assistance, is run in the Arizona-New Mexico Region by Beth Boyd. The regional disaster officer splits most of her time between Flagstaff and the region’s headquarters in Phoenix. Boyd oversees a staff of about 15 paid employees and some 1,100 volunteers. Together, they support individuals and communities throughout any disaster “cycle,” which includes preparing, responding, and recovering. They train through community preparedness programs, install smoke alarms and, of course, respond to disasters ranging from house fires, hurricanes, and wildfires. The disaster assistance folks, who responded to 1,132 home fires during the fiscal year 2020 alone, are always on the lookout for new volunteers, especially in light of a pandemic-driven increase in need. “We are blessed in this region to be home to many retirees who are able to dedicate time to the Red Cross,” Boyd said. “We are recruiting. If you are healthy and feel comfortable deploying into communities that are affected by disasters during the pandemic, then reach out. We have a spot for you!”
The third line of service is known as Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) and in the Arizona-New Mexico Region, it’s overseen by Regional Director Jose Rodriguez. He works out of Phoenix and oversees four employees and more than 140 volunteers. SAF provides much assistance to current and former members of the military as well as their families. Services range from emergency communications between deployed personnel and their families back home, workshops on dealing with the pandemic and other issues, and helping veterans adjust after completing their service. As with other lines of service, SAF has seen an increase in demand during the pandemic. Rodriguez pointed out that many more volunteers are needed and that some positions, such as caseworkers and workshop facilitators, are being handled by people working from home. “The Red Cross was created initially to support our Armed Forces,” Rodriguez said. “They’re a very important and critical community group. We owe them a great deal for their sacrifices.”
International Services is the fourth line of service operated by the Red Cross. Rodriguez, who heads up SAF, also oversees International Services. The division serves those in need worldwide, including refugees who have resettled in the United States but need help getting established and on the road to success. “Arizona has a very large refugee population,” Rodriguez said. “Reconnecting them with their loved ones and helping ease their transition to normal life in the U.S. is a very needed and sought humanitarian service that we’re proud to provide.” International Services also involves cooperative efforts with related organizations around the world such as the Red Crescent Society, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Together, they help people in more than 30 countries with projects ranging from disaster management to emergency health and education.
The final line of service, Health and Safety Services, is supervised by Creed Wilson. He’s based in Arizona but actually oversees 25 paid staffers and training services throughout Arizona, Utah, California, Nevada, and Hawaii. Communities across the country are safer because of all the training provided by the Red Cross. As stated earlier, some 15 million people receive lifesaving skills and preparedness training annually. And that includes training in first aid, CPR, how to use defibrillators, and how to prepare for disasters. “The Red Cross’ mission is to prevent and alleviate human suffering,” Wilson said. “We help students obtain life-saving knowledge and skills designed to keep you prepared in the event of an emergency. And we offer classes for the public as well as private classes for companies that wish to train their employees.”
That’s a brief overview of how the Red Cross does what it does each and every day. If you’re in need of services or are interested in working or volunteering for the Red Cross, here are some handy resources to get you started:
• Frequently asked questions about the Red Cross (https://www.redcross.org/faq.html) provides quick links to career opportunities, blood donations, how to get help, and lots more.
A thunderstorm is considered severe if it produces hail at least 1 inch in diameter or has wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding, and high winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages.
Know the Difference
Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning – Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property.
Every year people are killed or seriously injured by severe thunderstorms despite advance warning. While some did not hear the warning, others heard the warning and did not pay attention to it. The information in this section, combined with timely watches and warnings about severe weather, may help save lives.
Before Thunderstorms and Severe Weather
How to Prepare for Thunderstorms
Learn about your local community’s emergency warning system for severe thunderstorms
Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household
Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail
Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm
Make trees and shrubbery more wind resistant by keeping them trimmed and removing damaged branches
Protect your animals by ensuring that any outside buildings that house them are protected in the same way as your home
Consult your local fire department if you are considering installing lightning rods
Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.
If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.