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American National Red Cross

Q: What does the American Red Cross do?
A: The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization, led by volunteers, that provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. The Red Cross Heartland Chapter serves more than 85,000 people each year in Douglas, Sarpy and Cass counties in Nebraska.

Q: When and how did the Red Cross get started in the United States? The Heartland Chapter?
A: Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross on May 21, 1881. A volunteer who cared for soldiers during the Civil War, she became deeply committed to ensuring that the U.S. government ratified the Geneva Conventions and established an organization in the United States that would alleviate human suffering. The Heartland Chapter came into existence on April 1, 1917, four days after the start of WWI.

Q: How many people work for the American National Red Cross? The Heartland Chapter?
A: There are 30,021 paid staff members and 1.3 million volunteer staff nationwide. In the Heartland Chapter there are 30 paid staff and 1,505 volunteer staff.

Q: Is the Red Cross a U.S. government agency?
A: No. The U.S. Congress chartered the American Red Cross to provide emergency-related services to members of the U.S. armed forces and disaster relief services to victims at home and abroad. Although all Red Cross chapters are obligated to provide such services, the organization functions independently of government.

Q: How is the American Red Cross funded?
A: The Red Cross is an independent, not-for-profit volunteer organization that relies primarily on the generosity of Americans for support. In addition to seeking individual donations, the Red Cross Heartland Chapter raise funds in cooperation with the United Way of the Midlands.

Q: How much of the money the Red Cross spends is used to help people?
A: Ninety-two cents of every dollar donated to the Red Cross is spent directly on programs and services services that help people. The real value of every donated dollar becomes magnified by the fact that the ratio of paid Red Cross workers to volunteers is approximately 40 to 1.

Q: Who runs the American Red Cross?
A: Red Cross policy is set by volunteer leaders at both the national and the local levels. Local volunteers help determine what Red Cross services and programs are provided, basing decisions on community needs. An all-volunteer Board of Governors sets national Red Cross policies under which chapters operate. The Heartland Chapter policy is set by a 38-member Board of Directors composed of community leaders who help support local Red Cross activities.

Q: How do people volunteer to help carry out Red Cross local and national disaster relief activities?
A: People who wish to volunteer should call their local Red Cross chapter. In Douglas, Sarpy and Cass counties, call the Heartland Chapter, (402) 343-7700.

Q: What is the difference between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Red Cross?
A: The Red Cross responds immediately to all disasters, meeting the needs of families for temporary shelter and emergency supplies such as groceries and medicine. Its services are consistent with its formal mission as a humanitarian organization that helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. FEMA, other hand, responds only after a presidential declaration of disaster is made. For example, in fiscal year 1992, the Red Cross responded to more than 60,000 disasters; FEMA responded to fewer than 50. Some of the work that FEMA does involves community recovery, such as rebuilding bridges, roads and public buildings.

Q: How many disasters occur annually in the United States? In the Heartland Chapter?
A: The Red Cross responds to more than 60,000 disasters per year, including hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, civil disturbances, transportation accidents, and fires. Fires are the most frequently occurring disaster in Heartland Chapter. Last year the Heartland Chapter assisted 894 victims of fires, providing them with the means to pay for what they need most: groceries, clothing, temporary housing, emergency home repairs, transportation, basic household items, prescription medicines and tools.

Q: Is the blood supply safe?
A: The nation's blood supply is safer today than it has ever been, and is as safe as modern science and medicine can make it. A person cannot contract the AIDS virus by donating blood. The risk of contracting a blood borne disease through transfusion pale in comparison to the risks of not receiving a transfusion. The chance of contracting the virus that causes aids from a blood transfusion (one per every 225,000 units of blood) are less than having a fatal reaction to anesthesia during surgery (one out of every 15,000 to 30,000 persons), and an adverse reaction to penicillin (one out of every 30,000 persons). Contact Midwest Region Blood Services at (402) 341-2723 for more information.

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