This post is sponsored by the American Red Cross who hosted me for an event at their headquarters. – All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Last month, I packed my bags and hopped on a plane bound for Washington DC. I joined 13 other socially influential moms from across the country invited to visit the headquarters of the American Red Cross.
Since this event was sponsored, I had some concerns that my time with the Red Cross folks might feel like an “infomercial.” I was pleasantly surprised to experience just the opposite. Sure, they wanted to speak to all the wonderful things they do, but they were also prepared for challenging questions and open discussions.
Many of us came with some reservations. Thankfully, the folks at the top are well aware that the public has some concerns. We asked hard questions and discussed not only the improvements the American Red Cross has made thus far, but also their plans for the future.
10 New Things I Learned From The American Red Cross
While my visit was just a little over 24 hours, I learned much more than I expected about the American Red Cross. I thoroughly appreciated the transparency and honesty from everyone I met in the organization.
#1 Volunteers are the true “champions” at The American Red Cross
I was surprised to learn that only 10% of the organization are employees. The other 90% are volunteers. These amazing volunteers give so much of their time and expertise to helping the Red Cross succeed.
American 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.
American Red Cross VisionStatement
The American Red Cross, through its strong network of volunteers, donors and partners, is always there in times of need. We aspire to turn compassion into action so that…
- …all people affected by disaster across the country and around the world receive care, shelter and hope;
- …our communities are ready and prepared for disasters;
- …everyone in our country has access to safe, lifesaving blood and blood products;
- …all members of our armed services and their families find support and comfort whenever needed; and
- …in an emergency, there are always trained individuals nearby, ready to use their Red Cross skills to save lives.
These are ordinary folks doing extraordinary things.
#2 The Red Cross is NOT a government organization
While the Red Cross does have a unique relationship with the US Governement, they are not a federal agency and do not receive federal funding on a regular basis. The goal is to remain neutral and impartial without a political agenda. I was relieved to learn this, especially in the often heated political climate we currently have in the US.
With that said, I realized that the American Red Cross can’t do it all. They are part of a team effort with the communities they serve. They help mobilize local resources to help meet their goals to alleviate suffering as much as possible.
During a crisis, human beings need help to stay safe and sustain life, no matter what their nationality, cultural background or citizenship status. When an emergency happens, the Red Cross is going to deliver help to whomever needs it and as part of its humanitarian mission, the American Red Cross will feed, shelter, and provide emotional support and other assistance without regard to race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or citizenship status. The Red Cross is a charity, not a government agency and individuals who have disaster caused needs do not need to be American citizens to access Red Cross services.
#3 They help with domestic disaster relief on a daily basis
When you think of the American Red Cross, large disasters like hurricanes, floods and earthquakes probably come to mind. While you’d be right that they provide tremendous help during these events, they also deal with local disasters every single day. Last year, the American Red Cross responded to 62,000 disasters, the most common being house fires
#4 They want to help prevent home fire casualties
The American Red Cross and its partners have launched the Home Fire Campaign to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires. Through the Sound the Alarm campaign volunteers have installed 100,000 free smoke alarms in at-risk communities across more than 100 cities. At the event, we learned about the program and did some hands-on practice to install smoke alarms.
The Red Cross also runs The Pillow Case project teach elementary school kids to work with their families to check smoke alarms, discuss fire safety and create a family escape plan.
#5 Disaster relieve efforts can last for years
After the main disaster may seem over, the people at the American Red Cross stay hard at work. They turn to helping people recover and addressing lingering community needs.
Working together with community leaders, government and relief agencies, we organize and execute recovery strategies that include:
Providing emergency financial assistance in the immediate aftermath of a disaster
Distributing financial assistance for households that need extra help in the long-term
Providing grants for community-based recovery services
#6 They Work Beyond our Borders
Did you know that the Red Cross is part of the largest humanitarian network in the world. Their teams provide relief and hope in nearly every corner of the globe. There are over 190 Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations throughout the world. From Latin America and Africa to Asia and Europe, the American Red Cross helps people in some of the world’s most at-risk communities.
#7 They Want You to Know Their Numbers
The finances of the American Red Cross have a bit of a tainted past. It was the top concern of those in attendance. President and CEO, Gail McCovern was prepared to tackle the issue. She shared how the organization has made it a priority to be transparent with how they allocate donated funds. Some important statistics:
- 90 cents of every dollar goes to providing care
- They have an operating margin of $46 million dollars
- They score 100% for transparency on Charity Navigator
#8 They Want YOU to be Prepared for Emergencies
Have you ever watched a disaster on TV and wonder, “what would I do?” The Red Cross wants to be sure you know how to be prepared. I received a personal emergency preparedness kit and realize how unprepared we are at home. I’m making a point of getting my family “Red Cross Ready.” Wondering what you should put in your own emergency kits? Check out the Emergency Preparedness site for recommendations. You can also buy a variety of prepackaged emergency supplies.
In addition to the information you’ll find on their webite, the American Red Cross also has a number of useful apps to help be prepared and know how to react in certain life-threatening situations. If you live in a region prone to weather related disasters, their app can give you up-to-date information. There are currently 9 apps to help with everyting from floods to tornadoes, pets to help for military families.
#9 They are Always Ready to Mobilize
During the second day of our visit, we took a field trip to the Disaster Operations Center (DOC). There we learned that folks are constantly monitoring news and weather to be steps ahead of potential disasters when possible. It truly is a central command center. Each morning the DOC employees from across the country attend a check in briefing. In times of disaster, folks are calling in right from the front lines. We sat in during a quiet time. With Hurricane season around the corner, the director advised that everyone take some time to themselves before. He said, “I have a feeling that September is NOT going to be a quiet month.”
10# Blood Drives are Still a Top Priority
Did you know that someone in the US needs a blood transfusion every 2 seconds? The American Red Cross helps provide 40% of the blood in this country. Through nearly 3 million volunteers they collect nearly 5 million units of blood each year. In addition to blood, folks can donate plasma and platelets.
If you are squeemish about giving blood, I recommned you at least try it once. If that is still beyond your comfort zone, there are other ways to help. You can help coordinate a blood drive or serve as a welcome ambassador for folks donating blood.
The American Red Cross needs YOU!
I’ve signed up to become a new volunteer in a number of capacities. I’ll be sharing more about what I’m up to in another post coming soon. Check out RedCross.org to find out how you can donate your time too.