By Carl Manning
On a cold night, a Kansas City apartment building catches fire and residents flee with little more than the clothes on their backs. American Red Cross volunteers soon are there to help them. A young girl, one of the residents, keeps occupied with crayons and paper while Red Cross volunteers talk to her parents. Eventually, she walks up to one of the volunteers and presents a card. On the outside is written “Thank You Red Cross” and on the inside “I can’t repay you so I made you this card.” The card is framed at the Red Cross’ Greater Kansas City chapter to remind volunteers why they do what they do.
Helping People in KC and Around the World
Helping people is what drives the Red Cross, not only in Kansas City, but throughout the world. For Kansas City, it started in 1914 when the chapter received its first charter signed by Woodrow Wilson. By the end of World War I, the Red Cross had become the major national humanitarian organization it is today and the Kansas City chapter was well on its way to its first century of community service.
During the war, the Red Cross nationally had up to 8 million volunteers and 24,000 nurses enrolled for military service. But it came with a price – 400 Red Cross men and women became war casualties, including one nurse from Kansas City.
In Kansas City, volunteers in white aprons with red crosses over their dresses operated the Red Cross canteen at Union Station in downtown Kansas City for soldiers and sailors going and coming. Volunteers also kept busy with such chores as rolling bandages and knitting sweaters and socks for those fighting in the muddy trenches of Europe.
Over the years, the Red Cross underwent numerous changes but its core mission remained unchanged – to prevent and alleviate human suffering during emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers.
But none of that would be possible were it not for the generosity of donors since the Red Cross, while chartered by Congress, receives no government funding. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in its humanitarian services and programs.
Red Cross volunteers in the Kansas City area most often respond to house fires and natural disasters such as tornadoes, flooding and winter storms. But their work isn’t limited to the Kansas City area.
When major disasters strike like Super Storm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina, Kansas City volunteers are sent to bolster the ranks of the Red Cross.
There are other areas for the Red Cross such as providing emergency communications for military families – a vital link between those overseas and those at home. It also provides health and safety services for the community and collects and distributes life-saving blood products.
Home Fire Prevention Campaign
Last year, the Red Cross began the Home Fire Prevention Campaign, a national initiative to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent in five years. Volunteers, working with the Kansas City Fire Department and other community partners, go into selected neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms. Those wanting a free smoke alarm should call 816-841-5242 and leave their name, address, callback number and a brief message, and a Red Cross volunteer will be in touch about installing the alarms.
The American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City serves 15 counties in Missouri, including Bates, Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clay, Henry, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Pettis, Platte, Ray, Saline and in Kansas the counties of Johnson and Wyandotte.
The Greater Kansas City operation is part of the American Red Cross Western Missouri Region that includes 62 counties. The other two areas of the Region are the American Red Cross of Northwest Missouri that includes 15 counties in Missouri and three counties in Kansas, and the American Red Cross of Southern Missouri that includes 29 counties in Missouri.
If you would like to volunteer or donate to the mission of American Red Cross, please call 816-931-8400 or visit us online at www.RedCross.org.
The Pillowcase Project
In a program sponsored by Disney, the Red Cross is taking The Pillowcase Project to children in the Kansas City area. Children in grades 3 through 5 learn about certain local hazards, practice how to stay safe and share what they’ve learned with friends, family and loved ones. For more information or to schedule a presentation, contact Kathleen Wilmes at 816-841-5286 or email her at email@example.com.