By Jarrett Barrios, Los Angeles Region CEO
Perhaps the biggest secret at the American Red Cross, the Service to Armed Forces & Veterans team helps active duty, guard and reserve, retired military, and their families with an amazing range of services. As a “program,” American Red Cross SAFV volunteers and staff have been helping for over a century. American Red Cross services for veterans dates back to World War I and remains consistent with the spirit of our congressional charter. Today, the Red Cross is proud to maintain our commitment to the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, offering confidential services to all Service Members, veterans and their families by connecting them with local, state and national resources through our network of chapters in communities across the United States and offices on military installations worldwide.
Local Red Cross offices, like ours, develop and maintain relationships with key community partners year round. This is because veterans and their families rely on the Red Cross to help them identify their needs and connect them to the most appropriate resources for vital services that range from responding to emergency needs for food, clothing, and shelter, referrals to counseling services (e.g., financial, legal, jobs, mental health), information on veterans cemeteries and burial benefits, and other resources that meet their unique needs.
Our work with service members and veterans is nothing short of remarkable. Since 9/11, the Red Cross has served more than 1 million military families nationally—91% of which has been accomplished through the hard work and dedication of our volunteers. Last year, volunteers in the Los Angeles area assisted a local veteran who needed help with housing. She came to the Red Cross homeless, living in her car. Using our vast network of connections with local service providers, we were able to help her find assistance through U.S. Vets. Now, only one year later, she owns her own home in Las Vegas and is working for Amazon!
Additionally, our Veterans History Project gives veterans the opportunity to share their personal service experiences on video. After our Service to the Armed Forces and Veterans volunteers capture local veteran’s stories on-camera, the information is sent to be archived at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The stories of our local veterans are a road map to future generations, detailing war and service memories for time-less preservation.
Recently in Los Angeles, however, we’ve begun branching out a bit to engage our partners. Los Angeles area employers, veteran service organizations, Guard and Reserve leaders, and veterans now join together quarterly for the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region’s Armed Forces and Veterans Advisory Group. Created by SAFV Director Lauren Duncan and Red Cross Los Angeles Region COO David Englin, himself a veteran, this group meets for round table conversations about issues effecting the military and veterans.
Next week, thanks to the generosity of Wells Fargo, the Task Force’s quarterly meeting will focus on strengthening and sustaining employees who do “double duty” by deploying as members of the National Guard or Reserve. These two positions are key components of America’s Armed Forces, and employers’ support for deploying employees is critical to the programs’ success. Our goal as facilitators will be to connect current employees of active National Guard and Reserve members with programs and resources available to members of the Armed Forces across the Los Angeles community.
Every day of the week, SAFV helps veterans with needs that would otherwise be unmet. We thank our volunteers for giving us this reach, and our friends who have underwritten the expenses to operate this program.
How to Contact the Red Cross for Assistance and Volunteer Opportunities
For information and assistance, veterans and their families in the Los Angeles Region should contact Lauren Duncan at (310) 445-9945 or Lauren.Trosclairdunc@redcross.org. And, if you are interested in volunteering with our Service to the Armed Forces and Veterans team, please also contact Lauren Duncan.
Jarrett Barrios is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. But, above all, Jarrett Barrios is a humanitarian with more than 20 years experience helping people in need throughout the United States and Cuba.
To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit RedCrossLA.org.