By Patty Flowers
Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross – Wisconsin Region
I recently read a book titled The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. The Johnstown Flood is still considered to be one of the worst disasters in our nation’s history and it was the first big disaster that sixty-seven year old Clara Barton responded to with all the might of the American Red Cross she had established just eight years earlier. As I read about her arrival with 50 doctors and nurses, I realized how shocked she must have been by the sheer size of this disaster. She had been to several other smaller disasters across the country but this one was truly her first major disaster.
Reading how they quickly established medical tents, shelters, kitchens, and even built two-story hotels for the homeless from local lumber; I was overwhelmed by the comparisons I can make to today’s Red Cross. Clara declared the Red Cross was there to stay in Johnstown until they were no longer needed which is the same as our call to action today. She spent more than $500,000 on blankets, food and other supplies with money she had raised from the American people – imagine how much money that was in 1889! She executed a house-to-house search to find the people who needed help and we do the same today in 2017.
So much is different from 1889 to 2017 but the fundamental principles of the American Red Cross live on. I am so proud to be following in that little five foot tall woman’s footsteps doing things on a much smaller scale than her. Thank you, Clara Barton, for caring for all; for standing up for everyone’s right to have emergency aid; and for working so hard to bring hope to so many! I promise we will continue to do your good work!
How did you celebrate March is Red Cross Month? What are your reflections with how far the Red Cross has come since the 1880’s to now? Share your stories with us!
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