I am in Baltimore attending the National Convention of theAmerican Red Cross. Having been a volunteer with this organization for a number of years, I decided it was time to get a closer look at the inner workings and national leadership that fuel the spirit of the thousands of volunteers that are the American Red Cross.
Despite the negative press that has sometimes dogged the ARC, the spirit of giving, sharing, and compassion is paramount and visible at every level in the organization. And, it is especially apparent with the people the ARC is partnering with to develop ways to meet the challenges of the future. These partners include sports celebrities, other outreach organizations, youth and students from high schools as well as colleges, and multi-ethnic groups.
The ARC has aproud history of volunteerism having been founded by Clara Barton in 1881 as a way to deliver care to soldiers at war. Since that time, congressional charters have solidified its role in American culture and it has become a symbol of the good in the American spirit--the spirit of giving and of charity.
If you have not looked at the ARC recently, you might be surprised to know that it has a congressional mandate to provide relief services to those in need when disaster strikes but it has no funding other than through the fund raising efforts of its staff and volunteers. Approximately 95% of people that make up the Red Cross are volunteers--either full or part time volunteers--who give of their time, resources, and effort to provide what is needed.
The culture of the Red Cross and its mission of compassion spans not only American soil but also reaches across the globe through the International Red Cross, providing vaccines to children in Africa, and tsunami relief to those devastated by the loss of loved ones and homes in the far east.
If you want your spirits lifted, talk to a Red Cross volunteer in your community and you'll find that the Red Cross not only provides disaster relief but also teaches life saving skills such as CPR and water safety.
And, very importantly, while our troops are at war, doing the bidding of our government on unfamiliar soil, the Red Cross provides alink of communication and resources to soldiers and their families.
The Red Cross also has a Holocaust Survivor's tracking unit that has helped many people find out about their loved ones and finally have closure after decades of not knowing.
To those who have never experienced a natural disaster or a medical emergency, the Red Cross might seem like a distant thought. But for anyone who has been touched by the dedication of one of these volunteers and the warmth they bring to their mission, the work this organization does can be life changing.
As one speaker said,the volunteers are not paid not because they are of no value, but because they are priceless.
And as the American Red Cross says: change a life today, starting with your own. Look around and see what difference you can make in the lives of those around you in times of need. You will probably find that the life you change most profoundly is your own.