Published October 20, 2015
Volume 23, Number 10

The American Red Cross Responds 24/7 on the Strength of

its Volunteers

American Red Cross

By Jay Hipps

The American Red Cross is well known both domestically and internationally for providing disaster relief services, health and safety training and education, and blood. When disaster strikes, whether in the form of a residential fire, an earthquake, or some other malady, the Red Cross is a reliable responder.

While the organization is familiar to most people, there is one big misconception about it: “We are almost entirely volunteer driven,” says Olga Crowe, Disaster Program manager for Alameda and Contra Costa counties. “On the disaster services side, we are 93 to 97 percent volunteer driven, which means that only three to seven percent are paid staff and the rest are volunteers.”

For example, almost all of the hundreds of people affiliated with the Red Cross serving displaced residents after this summer’s California wildfires were altruists, not paid staff. “I think it’s very important that people know that because we are always in search of qualified, interested people who are able to volunteer their time,” adds Crowe. “There are a lot of businesses that comp people their vacation time when they go to respond or volunteer with other organizations. We are always looking for opportunities like that.”

Crowe explains that there are opportunities closer to home as well. “PG&E is currently helping us with a grant for our Home Fire Preparedness Campaign which allows us to go into homes in underserved neighborhoods and install smoke alarms. (This program) is near and dear to us because we can really see the difference that it makes in our communities. In the last year alone, we know of at least 15 cases where people were saved because of the smoke alarms that we installed.”

There are also opportunities for those who want to contribute financially. “Money helps us directly to help both effected clients and displaced clients from disasters like these recent California fires or on an ongoing basis where people are displaced from events like house fires. We respond in local communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it’s all done by volunteers,” says Crowe. “On average, I believe it’s 91 to 94 cents on the dollar that goes directly to disaster relief, with just that small amount going to administrative costs.”

Finally, the organization also depends on blood donors. “Blood services is a huge part of what the Red Cross provides nationwide,” says Crowe. “Every healthy person in America can donate blood once a month, with no detrimental effects to their health.” The organization is even available to set up on-site blood drives at businesses or community centers. “If the company wanted to do a preparedness event along side that, we can add elements like that, too.”

For additional information, to contribute, or to find out about volunteer opportunities, access the American Red Cross web site at redcross.org. Donations of $10 may also be made by texting “Red Cross” to 90999.


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