13 Little Known Facts About American Red Cross. This post is sponsored by the American Red Cross. All opinions are my own.
13 Little Known Facts About American Red Cross
For me, the American Red Cross was always in the back. I knew about their blood drives and their life saving classes (to be honest I probably had a few eye rolls when I had to renew those 8-hour classes in my nurse days). Sure, we would also donate whenever a disaster struck. But it was never an organization that was at the forefront of my mind.
Then I visited American Red Cross headquarters in Washington D.C. Curious but also cautious, I kept waiting for the proverbial “shoe to drop.” But after 2 days listening to the mission, the people and the countless acts of compassion I walked away feeling completely changed. This organization is so much more than blood drives, disaster relief or classes. It’s about the fundamental principle of people helping people.
As irony would have it, as I type this post Hurricane Dorian is aimed directly at my house. A potential catastrophic Category 5 hurricane beyond my personal comprehension, I currently sit with the real possibility that the Red Cross may be more than just a humanitarian organization that I donate to. The fear that I may actually become the recipient is real. With so much unknown lying ahead of this Florida disaster, I hold onto hope. I hold onto love from my family and friends. And I hold onto faith that the American Red Cross will be there.
But there’s much MORE that this organization does for people around the world. And we never hear about these unsung heroes. We never get to hear those stories. I learned so much in my 2 short days. And it’s time to uncover why the American Red Cross (ARC) is unlike any other humanitarian organization out there. And why we ALL need to do more to help. 13 Little Known Facts About American Red Cross – I had no clue. Did you?
Disaster Relief Efforts Are 24/7
This is the first thing that I think of when I hear the name American Red Cross. Hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism. Quickly deploying people and resources into disaster areas to aid victims – this is how I picture this organization. Search and rescue. Shelters. Hot meals. Medical aide. When a disaster strikes, a sea of people wearing the familiar red cross logo is what I envision. Responding to major disasters in the U.S. and abroad, American Red Cross and their 53 U.S. regions respond to over 62,000 disasters a year.
But did you know that they’re constantly monitoring for disasters? After visiting the Disaster Operations Center in Fairfax, Virginia, we got a taste of what that truly looks like every day. Ready to dispatch at a moment’s notice, these workers are planning, brainstorming and monitoring from this center. Hurricane Dorian – I know they’re following the track, holding teleconference meetings and preparing for dispatch right now.
They Need Your Blood, Yesterday
I was pretty familiar with the Big Red Bus. I used to go with my mom to watch her donate blood. You may be familiar with the American Red Cross efforts to obtain and distribute life saving blood products to hospitals across the nation. This organization handles over 40% of the nation’s blog products. A pretty hefty size. To date over 4.9 million units have been collected from over 2.8 million donors. But here’s what I didn’t know, and what shocked me.
- Blood product processing takes 3-5 days. When a disaster occurs (think major trauma event like a shooting) – the blood donations that come pouring in after a disaster are most likely NOT going to the victims. That means the donations that occur on the regular, they’re THAT much more important during times of crises.
- The need for blood products is CONSTANT. In fact, every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
- But on average, only 3 out of 100 people donate.
- And the average donation age is 53 years. Not to knock my elders (y’all are amazing), but where are the young and healthy people? Donation age starts as young as 16 years old. And while there’s other criteria that need to be met, I’m sure that we could bring down the average age.
- 83% of donors are Caucasian. Do you know how many Asians are donating? 3.8%. OUCH.
I admit, I’m at fault too. I need to be donating blood, even despite the fact that I hate needles. Maybe you can’t physically donate blood. There are other ways to get involved – like organizing, volunteering and hosting a blood drive for starters. The point is – this should be a priority.
Home Fires Are the #1 Disaster Response
One of the most surprising facts about American Red Cross? Of all of the disaster relief efforts every year, the #1 disaster response is always home fires. On average, 3 to 4 home fires are being responded to every day. Every. Single. Day. And you know what? I hadn’t even heard of the National Home Fire Campaign. Not once. I was embarrassed to be hearing of this amazing service ARC provides to families for the first time. Here’s how American Red Cross is doing more to prevent and respond to home fires.
- First person response – ARC person on-scene in 60-90 minutes assisting families with food, water, shelter, medicine and comfort kits.
- Follow up response – working with case workers for longer term assistance.
- Prevention with the Sound the Alarm Program – volunteers installing free smoke alarms in targeted communities. To date over 1.8 million smoke alarms have been installed in over 773,000 homes. 627 confirmed lives have been saved thanks to the smoke alarm installation. (If you’re in need, you can get a free smoke alarm too at GetASmokeAlarm.org.)
- Pedro the Penguin Pillowcase Project – educating over 1.3 million kids in schools on fire safety and fire escape planning for the family.
They Train Millions with Life-Saving Skills
Saving lives. Have you taken an American Red Cross babysitting class? Or a CPR course? Or maybe you’ve had a few advanced skills training like I have for medical personnel – like a PALS certification or AED training. The American Red Cross offers numerous accredited life-saving skills classes online and in the classroom to help train individuals to respond in an emergency. And perhaps, save a life. Because of my Red Cross training and kit in my car, I was able to save a man’s leg after a devastating motorcycle accident. Because of the 5 million people trained so far, perhaps they saved a few lives too.
They Care About Our Military
While not a government agency, 1.7% of the ARC budget is government funded to provide services to our military and their families around the world. Strong ties from the beginning (think Clara Barton and the Civil War), the military has had an active role in ARC history. Whether actively deployed or retired veteran, the Red Cross supports our armed forces through a variety of different actions:
- Emergency communication between service members and families
- Volunteer support, comfort, therapy, and critical services in military hospitals
- Emergency travel during deployments. In fact, the ARC is the fastest way to get a service member home.
- Veterans appropriation services for everything from homelessness to mortgages
In short, wherever our military is, the American Red Cross is there too.
They Reconnect Families
When crisis occurs, many families are at risk of being separated. Migration, international turmoil, natural disasters, emergencies – chaos can tear families apart for days, weeks, years. Working behind-the-scenes, the American Red Cross aims towards bringing these families together in a program called Restoring Family Links. Through this free and confidential service, American Red Cross workers and volunteers search for these missing family members with the sole mission of being able to reconnect them together again. To hear the stories, see the embraces, and feel the relief of finally being found – I was truly moved by this little-known American Red Cross program.
Their Long Term Recovery Efforts Are Exactly That, L O N G
Disaster relief efforts go beyond just the immediate response. You don’t hear much about the ARC longer term recovery work. Just this year in 2019, the Red Cross will finally close the long term disaster recovery efforts for the Oklahoma Bombing. That’s 24 years ago. The American Red Cross stays to help long after the media coverage dies down.
And that’s here at home and aboard. Whether it’s microloans to farmers, installing solar panels on schools or providing long term assistant grants to disaster victims (such as the ongoing support for Hurricane Harvey victims right now), ARC assesses each disaster and allocates funding and efforts to best recover the trauma area to be more resilient and safer.
And speaking of aboard, the American Red Cross is only a small fraction of what is happening worldwide. ARC is a part of a federation of 190 different country Red Cross Red Crescent teams around the world to help people, regardless of their race, background or political climate. Refugees, asylum seekers, human trafficking survivors, vaccination efforts, disaster relief and so many other efforts are being done worldwide thanks to the ARC. Just think how much our support is helping GLOBALLY.
The American Red Cross Building Offers FREE Tours
I’ve been to Washington D.C. countless times, and each time I discover a new place that I love. The American Red Cross headquarters was one that I have never seen, located in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The beautiful architecture of this historical building was beyond what I had imagined. Chiseled out of white marble with winding regal staircases, gorgeous gardens, and Tiffany stained glass windows, you would think that you are walking into a church. But inside is the rich history of the ARC, with exhibits, artifacts (from founder Clara Barton and beyond) and even a free tour with a historian on Wednesdays and Fridays. I encourage you to visit this piece of American history on your next Washington D.C. visit. I can’t wait to bring my kids.
They’ve Got an App for That
Technology and social media are an integral part of what they do. It’s not surprising that American Red Cross has tons of FREE and great apps to help you and your family. I personally love the First Aid app, a must-have for any babysitter!
- Emergency: Alerts – live alerts in severe weather with safety tips, tracking, shelter locators and more for the most common natural disasters – Hurricane, Earthquake, Tornado, Flooding
- First Aid – expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hands. Videos, step by step tips, hospital locator and more
- Blood Donor – schedule and manage blood donation appointments, complete RapidPass line skipper, track your blood donation from donation to delivery, unlock rewards
They’re 100% Transparent with Their Business Practices
90 cents of every dollar. I went in skeptical. After all, the American Red Cross is a business. There’s money involved. There are employees to pay. 90 cents to every dollar? Seemed more like a dream stat than a reality. 2 years ago, this may have been a different story. $209 million in debt when CEO Gail McGovern took over.
Today, ARC is no longer in debt. In fact, there’s a $46 million net operating margin now. Because so much of the funding relies on the generosity of donors, the ARC strives to always be transparent about their efforts and 100% truth telling about their spending. It seems impossible that such a large company with a $2.7 billion budget and 20,000 employees could stay afloat on the “generosity and resilience of the American people.” But for an organization to still be thriving since 1881, the kindness of people never stops astounding.
People truly care. And because of the care entrusted to the ARC, every dollar, every effort, every decision is carefully considered, calculated and discussed so that funding is always striving towards preventing and alleviating human suffering, scoring 100% transparency and accountability on the Charity Navigator.
The Volunteers Are Everything
The heart of the American Red Cross – the volunteers. 90% off the American Red Cross workforce is volunteers. Does that statistic surprise you? It shocked me. While I certainly knew about volunteer opportunities, I never would have guessed a number that high. 90% is so telling how important the “work” is for the more than 372,000 volunteers who say yes, they can help. These American Red Cross volunteers are giving the most important gift in such a busy world – time. There’s no “small job,” as the volunteer and employee lines blur in this unique work environment. And every minute of time donated can mean something so much bigger to the people being helped. I have so much to say about the volunteer efforts, but stay tuned for more details in another post.
Their Mission Is Always #1
But if there was one thing that I heard over and over during this trip, it was the focus on the mission. Everything that American Red Cross does flows through this mission. The employees know it by heart. In fact, they LIVE it – all of the people we talked to having been on the front lines.
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.
The point of these Little Known Facts About American Red Cross? Is that there’s so much going on every single day that this organization is hands-on involved and doing the mission – preventing and alleviating human suffering. So much that we don’t even see or hear about. It was an eye opening experience. I was floored by all of the work that this organization is doing daily – but none of this would be possible without the generosity and support of people like you and me.
The American Red Cross needs us – with our giving hearts and giving spirits. Whether it’s your time, your money, your physical BLOOD, sweat and tears – we can all do more to support this mission. We should do more. We HAVE to do more.