The American branch of the Red Cross was founded in 1881, in Washington, D.C., by Clara Barton. The American Red Cross received their first Congressional Charter in 1900 and the second in 1905. The most recent version of the charter, May 2007, restates the traditional purposes of the organization, which includes giving relief to and serving as a medium of communication between members of the American Armed Forces and their families, and providing national and international disaster relief and mitigation.
The mission of the American Red Cross is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
Locally, the Northwest Iowa and Northeast Nebraska branch of the American Red Cross is led by executive director Tammy Lee. The branch is located at 401 Douglas Street, Suite 101, in Sioux City. They can be reached by phone at (712) 252-4081, or through their website at www.redcross.org.
The branch offers services for the counties of Buena Vista, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Dickinson, Emmet, Humboldt, Ida, Kossuth, Lyon, Monona, Osceola, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Sac, Shelby, Sioux, O’Brien, Webster, and Woodbury in Iowa; Cedar, Cummings, Dakota, Dixon, Madison, Pierce, Stanton, Thurston, and Wayne in Nebraska; and Union in South Dakota.
“The three main things we need are time, blood, and money. More than 90 percent of our work is done through volunteer efforts. We’re 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply, today. It’s important that we have a safe and available supply of blood at all times. We often think of it in times of trauma, but today there are also more routine surgeries where blood may be needed, cancer treatments where platelets are needed. That makes our biomedical services department a critical piece not only in need of blood but also people. And it takes money in order for us to be able to do all of this,” said Tammy.
She continued that they partner with area organizations to put on local blood drives during the year.
“We partner with Norm Waitt YMCA every three months for blood drives here in Sioux City. We’ll have one coming up October 24th, and then another drive in December at the Y. We also just recently had a drive at Western Iowa Tech, and will be having one at the Hard Rock soon,” stated Tammy.
If donating blood is a way you’d like to help out, Tammy advised calling 1-800-RedCross with any questions or concerns a person might have as far as being eligible to donate blood. RedCrossblood.org is also another reference point for information on donating blood.
“You need to be at least 110 pounds, healthy, and have hemoglobin of a certain level,” explained Tammy, as far as some of the basic criteria in order to be able to donate blood.
If you would reference RedCrossblood.org, and then put in your zip code, the site can let you know when and where blood drives will be taking place in your area.
People also think of the American Red Cross in times of disaster, such as the hurricanes part of our nation are coping with at this time.
“We’re always in need of medical personnel. So if you’re an RN, LPN, or an EMT and want to donate your time and talents, we are always in need of that,” said Tammy.
If a person would want to donate time, and be trained to assist with medical needs, the Red Cross would need availability as far as your time.
“We’d need to train you for volunteer work you’d be doing, and then if the need is there, a two week deployment to the area needing help. At the moment, we are assisting with the needs in Florida after Hurricane Evan with help sheltering people. That type of work isn’t for everyone. There were more than 50,000 homes that suffered major damage or were destroyed in the hurricane, so this is a need that will continue to the end of the calendar year,” said Tammy.
In order to volunteer for the American Red Cross, be it in a medical type situation, or any other volunteer needs, a person will need to consent to a background check. Once that is cleared, then they will require training for the types of services they will be providing which could take a few weeks, and then to be deployed to where they are needed.
“You won’t be put into any situation that you aren’t comfortable with doing. Some people may not want to travel, so they could help out locally. We’ve assisted with numerous fires. We partner with the Goodwill, so they may be able to assist us with vouchers so that people can get clothes or dishes if they’ve lost everything. Mental health providers are a significant piece of the work we do,” stated Tammy.
She went on to state, that a person having gone through a disaster may be resilient in the fact that they have a place where they can stay, and financially they may be in a stable position. But it may not be until after the initial impact of the disaster has hit them that they realize they may need help.
“There’s been more than one occasion that families have been fortunate enough to make it out safe after a fire, but they’ve lost a pet in the fire. Days later the follow-up care maybe that they just need someone to talk to in order to work through the grief of losing their pet. They just need someone to talk to and listen to them, and we can assist through that with our volunteers, too,” said Tammy.
Mental health issues are also taken seriously to follow up with their deployment teams, volunteers and staff members.
“When you’re a volunteer and you’re working with people who are impacted by life changing circumstances that affects you as a person as well. So we have our disaster mental health folks that also work with our internal workforce checking in and making sure they are ok after returning from a deployment. During a crisis, in the heat of the moment, you have all that adrenaline, the rush of trying to help and get things done. It’s not until weeks later, feelings that were suppressed may rise to the surface, and you need to deal with them. We provide that type of support for our workforce and volunteers,” said Tammy.
Tammy has been involved with the American Red Cross for more than 20 years now, and stated that watching the progression of their mental health care for their organization has been amazing.
“It’s one of the things that we do that I really appreciate. That follow-up after a disaster is one of the key things that we do today. Maybe you can’t travel, or getting a call at 2 a.m. to help with a disaster just isn’t your thing. But you’re willing to call and talk to people during the day, and visit with them to see how they are doing in the recovery process, finding out if they have additional needs they hadn’t anticipated, we can use those skills,” stated Tammy.
Tammy said that it isn’t uncommon for the Red Cross to work with people who have retired, but are still interested in finding ways to serve their community.
“They may want to roll up their sleeves to help donate blood, or assist at a blood drive taking information, or checking on people. Sometimes they want to get involved doing work that had nothing to do with their careers from earlier in their lives. Maybe they just want to help serve food. We can use those skills,” said Tammy.
Money is another way to help with the American Red Cross. Ninety cents from every dollar donated to the American Red Cross goes directly to their volunteer efforts and expenses.
“It takes roughly $1800 to send down a deployment team to an area, $800 to train volunteers, and $170 to maintain a volunteer through a year of service. It takes money to be able to train our volunteers, hotel rooms for them to stay in areas, food, and travel expenses,” Tammy stated listing various costs the organization has to maintain.
If you’d be interested in donating to the American Red Cross, or volunteering, please go to www.redcross.org. Locally, you can reach them at (712) 252-4081.