Centennial Flashback: Local Volunteers Alleviate Suffering at International Disasters

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Throughout the Red Cross Month of March, the Red Cross Los Angeles Region is Celebrating its 100 Years of Service with a series titled: Centennial Flashback.  This will be a historical snapshots about the Red Cross L.A. Chapter in action during the past 100 years

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By Barbara Wilks

Former L.A. Chapter Historian

Over the years, the L.A. chapter and region has sent many hundreds of trained volunteers and paid staff to help fellow Americans affected by major disasters of all types in all parts of the country.

 In the past, however, American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles disaster workers also have accepted difficult assignments in many other countries of the world and U.S. territories to help families and individuals who have been devastated by the loss of their homes and belongings and, sometimes, the ones they love.

Probably the first chapter representative to travel outside the chapter to provide relief to the suffering was Bowen McCoy, the first chapter manager and father of past chapter chair, Buzz McCoy.  Twice during WWII, he was called upon by the national organization.  His first assignment was to do civilian relief in England, the second to take charge of Red Cross operations in the Pacific Theater.

 In 1960, Director of Disaster Services Ed Russell went to assist victims of an earthquake in Chile that registered 9.5 on the Richter Scale, the largest ever recorded in human history.  In later years, many other chapter people left Southern California to help. Marco Beteta, a district manager, was assigned several times to assist victims of earthquakes in such places as Honduras and Peru. Later, devastating typhoons that struck Guam, took volunteer nurse Jacqueline Green, public affairs workers, Jim Kalivas and Carol Miller, and Eldon Bush and Sharon  Counselman-Keith, both former directors of Emergency Services, to that island nation to help.  Volunteer Victor Bolanos served in Guatemala after a major earthquake. Volunteer Bill Alley helped famine victims in Somalia and also served in Russia and Azerbaijan.

You have read about a number of others in previous columns.  Public Relations Director Ralph Wright in the Ethiopia famine.  Assistant Disaster Director Ron Elliott in Hong Kong to help set up a Vietnamese refugee tracing program.  Fred Samuels, Al Panico, Pat Snyder, Mitzi Rodriguez and Ron Farina in Mexico after the Mexico City earthquake. Angela Tabar in Columbia after a volcanic eruption.

 It takes a hardy person to accept and carry out a disaster assignment in a foreign nation or a U. S. territory, but our local disaster workers are well trained and have had many opportunities right here at home to practice.

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