A History of Helping Others

By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska

The American Red Cross was established in Washington D.C. on May 21, 1881 by Clara Barton. Barton was inspired by the Swiss International Red Cross Movement when she visited Europe after the Civil War.

Clara Barton (1821-1912). American philanthropist, was born in Oxford, Massachusetts. In July 1881, The American National Association of the Red Cross, with Miss Barton as president, was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia. The following year the Government ratified the Treaty of Geneva. Miss Barton held the position of president of the American Red Cross until 1904. She died at Glen Echo, Maryland, on April 12, 1912.

Barton led the Red Cross for 23 years in the United States and during that time, the Red Cross conducted its first domestic and overseas disaster relief efforts, and aided the United States military, along with assisting with peacetime relief work as part of the International Red Cross Movement. Prior to the First World War, the Red Cross introduced its first aid, water safety and public health nursing programs. During the worldwide influenza pandemic of 1918, Red Cross nurses came forward to help combat the virus. To read more about the history of Clara Barton and the founding of the American Red Cross, visit: www.redcross.org/museum/history/

Our local Red Cross of Alaska was established in 1917. The Alaska Region has a long, rich history of providing vital, life-saving programs and services. We responded in the aforementioned devastating flu pandemic of the 1920’s, World War II, and the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964, to name a few. In 1964, Governor William A. Egan designated the American Red Cross as the official relief agency to provide emergency assistance to Alaskans affected by disasters. If you would like to learn more about our history in Alaska, please visit https://www.redcross.org/local/alaska/about-us.html.

Fast forward through a long history of helping others to today, year 2020. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Red Cross continues to stand strong in helping those in need throughout the world, because emergencies don’t stop, even during a global pandemic. The current focus is on keeping staff and volunteers safe from COVID-19 while continuing to assist those in need during disasters of all sizes. Communities across Alaska and around the country count on the Red Cross for help every day – and supporting those communities is at the heart of what we do. Our work never stops, and we remain focused on delivering our lifesaving mission each day.

Red Crossers from our Mat-Su Valley territory support public health providers at COVID-19 testing sites across the Mat-Su Borough in April and May, 2020.

If it were not for Red Cross workers from all walks of life that step up to assist our humanitarian organization by implementing strategies to their fullest capacity and collaborating with partners, volunteers and entire communities, individual efforts to help people in their time of need would be an incredible hardship and an unbearable sight to witness.

Nationwide, the Red Cross also continues to offer many of the same safety and preparedness courses that were offered during its early years like first aid and water safety, along with a few extra courses that accommodate our evolving society like babysitting, life guarding, Automated External Defibrillator (AED), home fire safety, and workplace safety preparedness courses.

Thank you to all that have given in some capacity to the Red Cross over the course of our history as a humanitarian organization. If you would like to volunteer for the Red Cross of Alaska, please contact us at 907-646-5401 or visit redcross.org/volunteer.

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