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When someone says charity or non-profit organization, the American Red Cross is often one of the most thought of organizations on the list. From the Red Cross mission statement, “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.” We are going to go into more detail about the history of the American Red Cross and specifically, their work.

The American Red Cross was founded on May 21, 1881, in Washington D.C. by Clara Barton. While on a visit to Europe during the Civil War, Barton first became aware of the Red Cross network. Upon her return home, Clara campaigned for a Red Cross in America and once approved, she went on to lead it for 23 years. During her time with the American Red Cross, they began their first disaster relief efforts, both in the US and overseas.

Due to the sudden start of the war, the Red Cross grew rapidly from its original purpose of providing nursing programs, water safety, and first aid. They staffed hospitals, ambulances and were able to recruit 20,000 registered nurses to serve the military.  During the influenza outbreak of 1918, Red Cross nurses were responsible for the battle against the virus. Once the war was over, they focused on helping veterans and developed their education programs from home care, safety, and many others.

During the second World Ward, the number of nurses enrolled in the military increased drastically to 104,000. The Red Cross prepared care packages, shipped supplies and collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces. Once World War II was over, they were able to become the “first nationwide civilian blood program” while still providing services to the armed forces throughout Vietnam, Korean and Gulf wars.

Today the American Red Cross is made up of supporters, staff, and volunteers. With the constant development and need for this organization, they’ve continued and expanded their services to include helping people that have been affected by disasters in America, supporting the military and their families, education and training on health and safety, international services and blood collection and distribution. The American Red Cross is always looking for volunteers looking to get involved in many aspects of the organization. You can help make a difference in many lives, but your involvement.