Local Red Cross chapter’s community involvement goes beyond blood drives

This is part of a weekly series that highlights the organizations or people behind the Foundation’s funds

In the 27 years that Virginia Brown has been executive director of the American Red Cross-Centre Communities Chapter, a lot has changed. But the community’s need for life-saving medical services hasn’t.

“The American Red Cross helps people where help is needed most,” she said. “These services are vital because they save lives.”

The mission of the American Red Cross is to help people to prevent, to prepare for and to respond to emergencies, Brown said.

The local chapter, which has been in existence since 1917, meets these goals through three programs. The first of which, and the one they’re probably known best for, is collecting blood, which is used for transfusions and patient therapy in local and regional hospitals.

They also train local residents in CPR, first aid, water safety, lifeguarding, babysitting and use of automated external defibrillators, with the goal of enabling people to care for others until professional help arrives.

“We have a variety of courses designed to help people learn lifesaving skills, so they can come to the assistance of a family member, a co-worker, or even somebody on the street who collapses,” Brown said.

The third program involves emergency services and disaster relief. The Red Cross responds to residential fires and other natural disasters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They provide immediate financial assistance to help people replace clothing, food, medication and other necessities after a disaster, and they contact military men and women serving abroad if a family emergency happens while they’re away.

“We’re helping people who have lost everything to recover from a very traumatic event in their life and get back to a situation of normalcy,” Brown said.

Though most Americans will be celebrating Mom this Sunday, it’s also World Red Cross Day. Recent disasters like earthquakes in Japan and Haiti have highlighted that the Red Cross doesn’t just provide help in the United States. Brown said the fact that the Red Cross is an international organization and the fact that it has neutrality and impartiality policies make it a unique organization.

“During a battle, the Red Cross has always been the organization that will provide help regardless of what side you’re on,” she said. “We help all people.”

The local Red Cross chapter benefits from three Centre County Community Foundation funds:  The American Red Cross Fund, as well as the Maude Freeby Fund for the American Red Cross and the Kathryn K. and Roy D. Shoemaker Charitable Trust Fund, the last two of which were set up by donors who wanted to create a way to donate to their local Red Cross chapter in perpetuity.

“All of that money goes to support the local programs and services that we provide to people,” Brown said.

About 1,600 people volunteer at the local chapter, and almost 17,000 units of blood were collected locally last year, but the organization is always in need of more volunteers and more donors. For more information about how to get involved, check out the American Red Cross-Centre Communities Chapter website, and like them on Facebook.


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