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
By Barbara Wilks
From April 19-25, the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles will observe National Volunteer Week, a time for recognizing those who give their time to support the humanitarian services of the Red Cross.
The chapter has had many committed and devoted volunteers over its almost 93 years of existence. Many have given thousands of hours of service, some every weekday as if it were a paid position. Others have been leaders, helping the chapter to grow. The list is long, and it is difficult to select only a few to mention.
Two chairs of the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles Board of Directors have led the chapter through important periods in its history. Gurney E. Newlin was first elected chair in 1917, but resigned the next year to take an American Red Cross post in France during WWI. In 1941, he was elected chair again and led the chapter through the critical years of WWII. Following Newlin was William T. Sesnon, who served from 1945 to 1949, during which time he helped establish the chapter’s civilian Blood Services and served as its voluntary director.
A later chair, Frederick G. Larkin, was instrumental in forging the agreement that made Southern California Red Cross chapters partners in the annual United Way Campaign (then known as the United Crusade).
One of the chapter’s “unsung” volunteers was Harry T. (Pappy) Phillips, who spent three to four hours every day at the former service center in South Gate, then taught CPR classes in the evenings and on Saturdays. One couple, Helen and Dave Mencher, were DAT members and on the scene of disasters day and night. They also served as coordinators of disaster volunteers at the chapter and district level. Hazel Gordon volunteered more than 10,000 hours at the VA Outpatient Clinic in downtown Los Angeles.
An example of real devotion to her volunteer service was Mrs. Emmet (Pat) Patterson. Although she was 89-years-old in 1975, 34 years after she became a Red Cross volunteer, she still arrived at 6:30 a.m. at the chapter every weekday to perform her duties as Food Preparation Unit Chair. She and her group started each day in the kitchen of the 1200 S. Vermont Ave. chapter headquarters by sorting and packing cookies, juice and other refreshments to be served to donors at the daily bloodmobile visits. Then she would prepare lunches and dinners for bloodmobile staff and volunteers who worked through mealtime. The group also prepared food for special luncheons at the chapter and meals to be served during disasters.
It’s safe to say, the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles is most fortunate to have had so many outstanding volunteers over the years. They make the chapter a leader in the community and in the American Red Cross.