American Red Cross

American Red Cross

Every eight minutes, the Red Cross helps a family that has lost everything to a home fire or other disaster – the roof over their heads, their clothes, and their most cherished possessions. Each time, it is the start of a new story, one in which fear turns into hope, and despair turns into determination.

When our volunteers arrive on scene, often in the middle of the night, families are standing on curbs, watching their homes burn, in shock, too stunned to think about where to go or what to do. We comfort them – giving out hugs, blankets, coffee, and anything that brings solace – and we begin guiding them through their next steps.

No matter what the size or scale of the disaster, our volunteers provide: food to prevent hunger; a safe place to sleep; relief items including toiletries and clean-up kits; referrals to long-term assistance; and financial assistance to meet additional immediate needs. Last fiscal year, the Red Cross assisted 348 families who lost their homes to disasters in West Michigan.

In addition to responding to single family events, the Red Cross is prepared to respond to disasters affecting entire communities. On August 20, 2016, severe storms ripped through the region spawning several tornadoes that caused damage in Kent, Ottawa, Allegan and Van Buren Counties. In the aftermath of the storm, the Red Cross distributed 462 clean-up kits, rakes, and tarps to families to assist with the clean-up and served 807 meals and snacks to people working to repair their homes and communities. Sixty-four Red Cross volunteers also provided direct assistance to 155 community members hit hardest by the storm, supporting them with over $15,000 in direct assistance.

Someone in America dies in a home fire seven times each day.

Although home fires rarely get media attention, for the affected family, it is a life-changing tragedy. The Red Cross will always stand ready to assist families in need, but our work must begin before a spark ignites. Through investments in preparedness and the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross aims to save lives, diminish injuries and reduce the number of families who are forced from their homes because of fires.

The goal of the Home Fire Campaign is to reduce the number of fire deaths in the U.S. by up to 25 percent by October 2019. To accomplish this, the Red Cross will canvass area homes with fire preparedness education, conduct home visits, and install smoke alarms in homes that do not have them. Since the launch of the Home Fire Campaign in October 2014, the Red Cross has installed 2,216 smoke alarms and replaced 198 batteries in 713 homes in West Michigan and has confirmed 111 lives saved to date across the country.

Every day across America, men and women answer our nation’s call to serve in the United States Armed Forces. These heroes and their families assume great responsibility and face challenges unique to military life, including multiple deployments, separation from loved ones and risk of injury and death. We cannot eliminate these difficulties, but we can ensure that military members, veterans and their families never face them alone.

Since the days when Clara Barton tended wounded soldiers on Civil War battlefields, it has been the mission of the American Red Cross to care for service members. While our role has evolved to meet the changing needs of America’s military, our founder’s legacy endures, as the Red Cross is beside our heroes from the day they enlist, throughout their military careers and beyond.

Through our continuum of care, the Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to, the challenges of military service. Last year, the American Red Cross assisted 340 service members and their families in West Michigan through our Services to the Armed Forces program, including:

Emergency Services: When significant family emergencies occur, the Red Cross is a gateway to a network of comprehensive assistance. The U.S. Department of Defense relies solely on us to obtain verified reports of family events, such as births, illness or deaths, enabling service members and their commanders to assess the need for the service person to return home. We also help identify and provide access to resources, including financial assistance, in response to a family’s emergency needs.

Building Family Resiliency: The Red Cross works to strengthen families’ capacities to cope with the unique demands of military life. This is achieved through briefings on services; mental health, preparedness, health and safety courses; health-care job-certification training; and volunteer, networking and support opportunities—all delivered in local communities across the nation and on military installations around the globe.

When 5 year old Mikayla was diagnosed with a brain tumor, her parents Sasha and Chris were moved by the kindness of others. People were caring. People were thoughtful. And many were willing to give blood as a way to help seriously ill children like Mikayla. Mikayla endured more than 85 weeks of chemotherapy and thanks to the volunteer donors who gave the blood she needed, Mikayla always had the blood and platelets she needed for ongoing care. Sometimes, in between doctor visits, Mikayla asks her mom to stop by the American Red Cross. It’s a time, her mom says, when Mikayla can say thank you to blood and platelet donors for helping to save her life. And it’s a time Sasha can say thank you, too, by making appointments for her and Chris to give.

The need for blood is constant, and because blood and blood products are perishable and cannot be manufactured, these resources must be continually replenished. Our community plays a vital role in meeting this ongoing need through blood drives. Throughout the Great Lakes Blood Region, the Red Cross hosts over 4,000 blood drives, collects blood from 136,000 volunteer donors and delivers nearly 60,000 units of blood and blood products to hospitals and cancer treatment centers in the surrounding region each year.

For many people – newborn babies, mothers, accident victims, heart and cancer patients and many others – community blood drives and the ability to process and transport blood are truly a matter of life and death. For patients needing lifesaving blood, there is no substitute.

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