By Nikhil Bhambri, Red Cross volunteer
After thirty years in West Los Angeles, the American Red Cross celebrated the opening of its new regional headquarters with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in downtown Los Angeles earlier this month.
The move provides a more centralized location to better serve all of Los Angeles County, but the Red Cross has a long history in this area. The first Red Cross chapter in Los Angeles was founded in 1916 at the Alexandria Hotel, just two miles from the current location.
A lot has happened in 104 years. The Red Cross lent support to members of our armed forces – initially in World War I and again in World War II and proudly carries on this tradition of service to veterans to this day. It also responded to the many earthquakes and other natural disasters that affected the region over the years, dating back to the devastating Long Beach Earthquake of 1933, and as recently as last month when it assisted Southern California residents rattled by the Ridgecrest earthquakes.
As I arrived at the opening celebrations, the atmosphere was one of exhilarated anticipation and the speakers did not disappoint.
Noel Anderson, National Vice President of Humanitarian Operations for the Red Cross, proudly stated how in this past year 157 lives were saved thanks to Red Cross efforts in the United States alone, and an additional 600 worldwide.
Miguel Santiago, California State Assemblymember for the 53rd District, appreciated that the Red Cross calls the heart of Los Angeles home and acknowledged its indispensable role at times of disasters.
Karen Baker, California Volunteers Chief Service Officer, captured the spirit of the Red Cross mission when she described its hospitable new home as a “magnet for people,” and its power in providing a wide safety net. “If the California dream is for everyone, we must work to make it accessible to all,” she added.
Jarrett Barrios, Red Cross LA Chief Executive Officer, echoed that sentiment, then gave special thanks to Red Cross employees and city officials for their vital contributions to the acquisition of the new building. Successive speakers reaffirmed Red Cross’s commitment to provide relief to all in need, “Down the street, across the country, and around the world.” Attributing the organization’s success to its neutrality, independence, and staunch commitment of its volunteers, Barrios emphasized, “We do not ask who you are, or where you are from. We ask what you need and how we can help.”
Amy Taper Bolker of the S. Mark Taper Foundation spoke about her family’s long history with the Red Cross, then was joined onstage by members of the McCoy family and others, to cut the ribbon using scissors provided by none other than Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. With the building officially opened, visitors were offered a tour of the sky blue two-story structure, which stands out from its commercial surroundings.
It was clear that the new headquarters was designed with efficiency and improved communication in mind: the open floor plan accommodates drop-in volunteer work stations, as well as technological improvements including high-definition 24-by-8 foot display screens for digital disaster monitoring to facilitate an effective response.
On entering the building, visitors were greeted by a large tile mosaic of the Red Cross symbol (donated by Emser Tile), a reassuring reminder of the organization’s commitment to its lifesaving mission from the heart of Los Angeles to the communities of Southern California and beyond.