This community exemplifies Red Cross spirit

When neighbors help neighbors in emergencies, it’s something to celebrate. That’s why every U.S. president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has declared March as Red Cross Month.

The Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross has served this community so long, 91 years, and so well that it is easy to overlook the fact that its services are performed largely by volunteers and are supported through the generosity of people, businesses and other organizations right here in our area. Thanks to their collective giving of time, talent, financial and material support, our chapter is able to “be there” when disaster strikes, and that’s more than a statement, it’s a commitment.

While tornadoes and hurricanes make the headlines, the more than 700 Red Cross chapters across the country respond to “silent” disasters, like home fires, about 74,000 times every year. Our Snohomish County Chapter receives an emergency call-out an average of every four days.

Thanks to community support, we are always ready and able to respond to disasters whenever and wherever they occur in the county or across the country … like the severe flooding in Western Washington late last year when we opened a shelter in Lynnwood and helped displaced people with not only temporary shelter, but with food and clothing. Our community’s financial response of $43,000 to Red Cross for helping them and those in the heavily hit southwestern part of our state was a significant testimonial to Snohomish County’s spirit of neighbors helping neighbors.

Recent history also documents the Snohomish County Chapter’s readiness in the hundreds of local Red Cross volunteers who declared their availability to provide disaster relief services for those on the Gulf Coast who suffered the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. That same spirit of readiness was shown in the chapter’s sending Red Cross volunteers to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in 2001.

We are a safer community in Snohomish County because Red Cross is dedicated to helping residents prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Our community is also a safer place because Snohomish County residents have received Red Cross training in lifesaving skills like first aid, CPR, and the use of AEDs (automated defibrillator devices).

We are also a unique resource to members of the military community and their families through our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) office, a branch of the chapter located at Naval Station Everett. Whether in need of emergency assistance in communicating an event from a family member to a service member on duty away from home, obtaining verification of emergency leave information, seeking help in securing emergency financial assistance, or needing help getting a referral to another agency, Red Cross is available to any member of our armed forces and their immediate family 24/7.

What makes all these achievements worth celebrating is that each is truly a gift given by a member of this community. The Red Cross is nothing more, and nothing less, than the goodwill of our neighbors, coming together in one place.

Although the Red Cross has a long history of working with the government, and providing support to military families, it is important that people remember that Red Cross is not part of the U.S. government nor does it receive funding from the U.S. government. Our organization was chartered by Congress in 1905, the Snohomish County Chapter in 1916, but we are not a government agency. All Red Cross services are provided free of charge, and are only made possible through the generous gifts of the American people.

I can’t think of a better way to express Red Cross’s commitment to the American public than through the words of President Ronald Reagan in his 1987 proclamation of March as Red Cross Month:

“No one can predict when the next river will flood or the next storm will hit. No one can foresee the next threat to the nation’s health. What is predictable is that we will face such threats and emergencies, and that the American Red Cross will be there to offer help and hope.”

So when you see a Red Cross supporter give him or her a pat on the back this month. If that person is you, stop by and let us give you one.

Chuck Morrison is executive director of the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

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