Bloodmobiles usually come to mind when people think about the American Red Cross, but the nonprofit institution does much more than collect thousands of units of that life-sustaining substance, also regularly rendering aid following emergencies, natural disasters and structure fires.
Life-saving first aid instruction and training also is offered, teaching people how to correctly administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use automated external defibrillators. Classes also focus on water safety, producing freshly minted lifeguards to protect swimmers and prevent drownings and renewing their certificates.
Trained volunteers offer assistance to members of the armed forces, military veterans and their families, while others provide free crisis counseling through the Red Cross Virtual Family Assistance Center for grieving families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Joe Biden proclaimed March as Red Cross Month, continuing a tradition started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943. It’s worth noting that the tax-exempt, charitable organization’s workforce is made up of 90% volunteers.
There were more billion-dollar disasters in the United States during 2020 than any other year on record, and the Red Cross was there. Almost 200 years since the birth of founder Clara Barton, March remains dedicated to everyone who continues to advance her legacy, and serves as a time for others to join the effort to care for people in need.
So far this year, Red Cross volunteers have provided emergency shelter, food and other assistance following disasters like tornadoes and February’s record onslaught of winter storms, which blanketed some 70% of the continental U.S. with snow, ice and historically low temperatures. The severe winter weather forced the cancellation of Red Cross blood drives in more than 30 states, impacting more than 20,000 blood, platelet and convalescent plasma donations in February.
This spring, meteorologists are also predicting a potentially volatile severe weather season: For the third year in a row, April could be a very active month for storms in the Midwest and South, and the West could see early drought conditions and heat waves.
Last year, more than 70,000 people across the country became new Red Cross volunteers largely to support urgent disaster and essential blood donation needs. In addition, thousands of COVID-19 survivors — many new to blood donation — rolled up a sleeve to give convalescent plasma and help patients battling the novel coronavirus.
Here are some ways you can help:
• Support disaster relief efforts at redcross.org.
• To give of your time, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday for most-needed positions and local opportunities.
• If you’re healthy and feeling well, make an appointment at redcrossblood.org. Your donation can make a lifesaving difference for a patient in need.
• Take a class in skills like CPR and first aid to help in an emergency at redcross.org/takeaclass.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that it’s also National Kidney Month. An estimated 37 million adults in the U.S. are estimated to have kidney disease — and most aren’t aware of it. Kidney disease causes more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer. 33% of adults in the U.S. are at risk for kidney disease — that’s one in three people — especially if they have one or more of the five risk factors: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and a family history of kidney failure.
Giving blood and registering as an organ donor are ways to truly give the gift of life.