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American Red Cross

American Red Cross Facts

Founded May 21, 1881 by Clara Barton...

The American Red Cross is a $2.3 billion corporation providing relief to victims of disasters and helping people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Led and supported by more than 1.3 million volunteers, the American Red Cross is one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world.

American Red Cross Activities:

Blood, blood products and tissue services. The American Red Cross is the nation's largest supplier of blood, plasma and tissue products in the United States. The Red Cross supplies almost half of the nation's blood supply by working with more than 4.5 million donors and 3,000 hospitals through its national network of 37 blood regions. In addition, the Red Cross supplies one-quarter of the nation's tissue for transplantation through its network of 15 tissue centers nationwide. The Red Cross operates one of the world's premier blood research facilities, the Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences, based in Rockville, Md., where Red Cross researchers are engaged in cutting-edge research to develop the next generation of blood products and services. Each year, the Red Cross invests more than $20 million in research activities at the Holland Laboratory and in the field. This commitment to research and development allows the Red Cross to oversee dozens of scientific research projects, both basic and applied, that have the potential to improve the safety, purity and efficacy of blood.

Disaster planning, preparedness, education, mitigation and relief. Chartered by Congress to provide voluntary relief during times of disaster, the Red Cross is America's premier disaster relief agency. During major disasters, the Red Cross is responsible, under the Federal Emergency Response Plan, for providing mass care and emergency assistance to victims. All Red Cross disaster assistance is provided free of charge, funded by the generous contributions of the American people.
      In 1997, the Red Cross provided immediate response to more than 61,000 domestic disasters. In 1998, the Red Cross responded to 239 major disasters, 64 of them Presidentially declared -- including Hurricane Georges, the single most expensive disaster in the Red Cross's 117-year history. During a five-week period this fall, the Red Cross handled the largest number of simultaneous major disasters in its history. The Red Cross responded to these major disasters by opening more than 2,100 shelters housing 192,000 individuals, and providing 3.3 million meals. Red Cross chapters also presented disaster preparedness information to millions of Americans throughout the year.

Emergency communications and assistance to members of the Armed Forces and their families. The Red Cross is chartered by Congress to provide communications services to the military. Especially during deployments, the Red Cross is often the only point of contact between members of the armed forces and their families. Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services (AFES) delivers 1.4 million emergency messages each year--one every 22 seconds--for active duty service people and their families. In 1998, more than 600,000 individuals and their families were assisted by AFES, including nearly 490,000 active duty servicemen and women and their families.

Health and safety services, including CPR, first aid, aquatics and water safety, and HIV/AIDS education. In 1998, nearly 12 million people enrolled in life-saving Red Cross health and safety classes. The Red Cross currently offers more than 80 different health and safety courses to the public. 2.5 million people received direct health services from the Red Cross in 1998, including treatment for minor injuries at first aid stations, immunizations and blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.

International disaster relief and preparedness, tracing, support for international humanitarian law, and national society development and capacity building. American Red Cross International Services worked with the national societies of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in some 175 nations to provide relief and humanitarian aid to those in need in 1997 alone. Through a comprehensive global communications network, the American Red Cross helped locate, reunite and exchange messages between people separated from their loved ones because of war, civil disturbance or natural disaster.

Volunteer Resources. More than 1.3 million people volunteer with the American Red Cross nationwide. The ratio of Red Cross volunteers to paid staff is approximately 44 to 1.

Local community service programs. Red Cross chapters across the country provide a variety of local services to millions of individuals, including transportation for the elderly and disabled, and special youth-at-risk and youth leadership programs.

National Facts at a Glance

    Number of Red Cross chapters:    1,294
    Number of Blood Services regions:   37
    Number of Tissue Services centers:   15

    Volunteers:   1.3 million
    Paid staff:   32,500

The Red Cross is not a government agency and relies on the generosity of the American people for support. An average of 92 cents of every dollar spent by the Red Cross goes to programs and services to help those in need. The annual budget for the American Red Cross is $2.3 billion.

*Based on Fiscal Year 1998 data.