Red Cross to celebrate 123 years of service in U.S.

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

  
On Friday, the American Red Cross will celebrate 123 years of service to the United States.
   According to the American Red Cross' Web site (www.redcross.org), the organization was founded by Clara Barton and a circle of acquaintances on May 21, 1881.
   "Barton first heard of the Swiss-inspired International Red Cross Movement while visiting Europe following the Civil War. Returning home, she campaigned for an American Red Cross society and for ratification of the Geneva Convention protecting the war-injured, which the United States ratified in 1882."
   Barton, a Civil War nurse, served as the head of the Red Cross for 23 years. President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Congressional Charter which requires that the Red Cross provide services that address "the sufferings caused by pestilience, famine, fire, floods, and other great national calamities, and to devise and carry on measures for preventing the same," according to a Red Cross Calendar of Disaster Services. Barton resigned from the Red Cross in 1904.
   Shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912, The RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg, killing 1,513 passengers and crew members. Red Cross aid was $157,000 ($2.9 million in 2003 dollars), according to the Calendar of Disaster Services.
   On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked airplanes and attacked the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. A third hijacked plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Thousands of people were killed or injured. The Red Cross relief effort involved 57,000 relief workers, including nearly 55,000 volunteers. The workers provided extensive aid to survivors and rescue and recovery workers. The Red Cross received donations from the public exceeding $1 billion. As of April 1, the Red Cross had spent $832 million on grants and services, and the relief effort is still ongoing.
   Bridget Hurt, coordinator of the American Red Cross in Carter County, says she believes in the work of the organization. "I believe in what they do," Hurt said. "I believe in what they do for communities and for mankind. Red Cross provides emergency services and disaster relief to people 24/7."
   In light of 9-11, Hurt says the work of the Red Cross is extremely important. "It's very important to be prepared for disaster. No matter what the disaster is, a terrorist attack, flooding, a house fire that you hope never happens, it's always important to be as prepared as you can be."
   Hurt hopes the local Red Cross will grow. "I hope to see us continue here. There is a proven need for the Red Cross in Carter County," she said.
   The Red Cross in Carter County currently has about 50 volunteers who are very active in the community. "These volunteers consist of health and safety instructors, life guarding instructors, disaster volunteers, and clerical volunteers," Hurt said.
   The Red Cross in Carter County is "a service delivery unit, operating under the wing of the Kingsport/Hawkins County Chapter," Hurt said. "We're here to provide the community services."
   For more information about the local Red Cross, call 542-2833.