By Jarrett Barrios, Los Angeles Region, CEO
Every year since 1943, the President of the United States has declared the month of March as Red Cross Month. But how did this come about?
When the United States entered World War II in 1941, the war effort placed additional financial demands on the Red Cross. The fundraising grew because the public understood these demands on our organization, but after discussions with President Franklin D. Roosevelt—the national Red Cross honorary chairman is always the sitting president—a decision was made to boost fundraising efforts by having a special month dedicated to the Red Cross. So it came to be that March was officially proclaimed to be Red Cross Month.
In less than six weeks, the Red Cross reached its goal, and by June 1943, donations totaled nearly $146 million. Roosevelt called it the “…greatest single crusade of mercy in all of history.”
Then, as now, the Red Cross was powered by our dedicated volunteers and our generous donors. Throughout the decades, the month of March grew to become a special time, where now, the entire country comes together to celebrate the hard work our volunteers do throughout the year—as well as participating in a united fundraising effort to meet our organization’s financial needs.
In Los Angeles, there is a whole lot to celebrate this March. The many disasters over the past few months have asked a lot of our organization. Over 400 Los Angeles Region Red Crossers deployed to these events—a record for our Region.
The entire Red Cross was stretched to respond in these disasters. In responding, the huge majority of the response work was performed by our volunteers. In one example, Red Cross emergency response vehicles were driven 2.5 million miles to deliver food, relief supplies and offer support to people in need—and 91 percent of those 2.5 million miles were driven by Red Cross volunteers!
This month we celebrate our work, our donors and our volunteers. As you are out and about, be on the lookout for some familiar faces. Six of our local Los Angeles Region volunteers will be featured on digital billboard ads at LAX and in Westfield Malls. On the evening of March 28th, keep your eyes on The U.S. Bank Tower, the City of Beverly Hills City Hall, the pylons at LAX, the Ferris wheel at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier and the Petersen Automotive Museum—all which will light up in red in honor of our amazing Red Cross volunteers.
Many of our Los Angeles County communities are also recognizing our work. Long Beach, Cerritos, City of Los Angeles, Temple City, El Monte, Monrovia, Altadena, Torrance, Signal Hill, Lakewood, Artesia, Paramount, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills will be joining our national efforts in officially proclaiming March as Red Cross Month!
Because March is Red Cross Month, this year we want your efforts as year-round volunteers to inspire other people across the country to become a hero too—to give blood, to become a volunteer or to make a financial donation. In fact, with the tradition started by Roosevelt in 1943 in our minds, we in Los Angeles want to ask you to do two Red Cross actions. Join us in supporting families impacted by disaster on Giving Day, March 28. Your donation can help provide hope and urgent relief such as food, blankets and other essentials to people who need it most. And, sign up this month to volunteer with our Sound the Alarm campaign, volunteering one of your Saturday mornings between April 21 and May 12 to install smoke alarms and help save lives. The specific dates and locations for Sound the Alarm events are: Compton – April 21, Sylmar/San Fernando – April 28, South Los Angeles – May 5 and East Los Angeles – May 12.
Jarrett Barrios is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region.
To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit RedCrossLA.org