Red Cross: A history of service

Red Cross volunteer John Huttick prepares to deploy as part the organization's disaster relief team.

The American Red Cross was founded on May 21, 1881, by Clara Barton, making this year the organization’s 140th anniversary.

The organization received its first congressional charter in 1900. The federal government continues to rely on its staff and volunteers to provide services to American armed forces and their families, and provide disaster relief nationally and worldwide.

Each March is Red Cross Month.

It’s a great time to consider its impact and ways to help.

Peter Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Rivers Chapter, which covers the central Susquehanna Valley region, said the organization will internally be recognizing their volunteers. In addition, on Wednesday, National Red Cross Giving Day, individuals are encouraged to make donations at to help support the Red Cross’s mission. A number of businesses are providing matching funds for the special drive. According to Brown, donors can choose from a number of different options for how they want their money to be used.

“Honoring donor intent is a really important thing for us,” he said.

“PA Rivers Cabaret and Cuisine”, will be held at 7 p.m. April 15 as a one-hour virtual fundraiser and gala. The event will include an auction, and a highlight of the Red Cross’s mission work, recognition of some volunteers, and a time to “have some fun”, Brown said, with the “Roaring 20s” theme.

It’s a great time to celebrate, according to Brown.

“We’re all starting to feel a little more hopeful around things starting to open up (following a year of COVID shutdowns). We’re hoping, sometime later this year, to being out there and doing things out in the community hands-on, the way we prefer to work.”

This special month and anniversary year is also a good time for staff and volunteers to reflect on why they do what they do.

Edna Reinard has served with the Red Cross for 39 years and is currently in the role of Disaster Program Specialist for Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Montour and Columbia counties. What has kept her involved with the organization for so long?

“It’s knowing when you go to bed at night, that you have made a difference in someone’s life,” she said. “We have got the greatest volunteers anywhere. I cannot speak highly enough of our volunteers just in our local area. No matter what we need, they’re there, because they want to help.”

She currently oversees an estimated 78 volunteers in disaster response alone.

Brown, who has a banking background, served with the Red Cross as a volunteer in the Lehigh Valley for nearly 14 years before joining the staff eight years ago.

“I felt myself getting more and more connected to the mission,” he said, “seeing the impact of home fires and how the Red Cross could help, hearing stories of volunteers who had deployed to hurricanes.”

“It was the best career decision I’ve ever made,” he said. “It’s every bit as demanding, challenging and frustrating.” But, “It’s a lot easier to put my head on the pillow at the end of the day.

“I’m passionate about helping people,” he added, “and I love working with our volunteers. It’s a real blessing to be here.”

The Pennsylvania Rivers Chapter of the American Red Cross is part of the 61-county Greater Pennsylvania Region, and serves Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, Schuylkill, Northumberland, Columbia, Montour, Union, and Snyder Counties.

Volunteers are always needed. Some of the most immediate needs are for donor ambassadors at blood drives. They are also in need ofpmore bilingual volunteers.

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