With the Nation’s spotlight on the American Red Cross during the month of March, which is Red Cross Month, there is no better time to recognize this vital organization.
The Red Cross responds to approximately 70,000 disasters in the United States every year. These disasters range from house fires that affect a single family to hurricanes and earthquakes that impact millions.
The Red Cross provides food, shelter, relief supplies, and comfort to those in need 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their mission is accomplished through a vast network of generous donors and dedicated volunteers and employees.
The American Red Cross National Headquarters is located in Washington, D.C., where it was established in 1881 by pioneer teacher, nurse, and humanitarian Clara Barton. Locally, the Red Cross of Camden and Burlington Counties is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ.
The local chapter serves 1 million people as part of the South Jersey Region which is comprised of four chapters—Jersey Coast serving the counties of Ocean and Monmouth; Southern Shore Red Cross serving the counties of Atlantic, Cumberland and Cape May; American Red Cross of Camden and Burlington Counties serving the counties of Camden and Burlington; and South Jersey serving the counties of Gloucester and Salem.
The American Red Cross of Camden and Burlington Counties is under the direction of Camy Trinidad. Camy has been with the Red Cross since March 1, 1976. After 37 years with the organization, she has worked in every capacity — from Director of Volunteers to Public Relations Specialist to Fundraiser. “I still love working with the volunteers, interacting with the media, and raising funds for the organization, so the mission of the Red Cross reaches local residents,” says Camy.
The local Chapter touches hundreds of lives every day. Its mission is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. The chapter’s volunteers and staff handle numerous disasters, primarily single and multi family fires that leave many homeless in the course of a year. Its “Disaster Action Teams” assisted over 700 individuals in 2012, including persons who were displaced because of Superstorm Sandy, some of whom were evacuated from devastated
areas of Ocean County.
Natural and human-caused disasters can strike suddenly anytime and anywhere so it is important to prepare for these and other emergencies. “Every family should be prepared to sustain itself in times of disaster for at least three days or more. That means having enough bottled water, non-perishable foods, pet food, first aid kits, medicines, and other necessities on hand to shelter in place with your family. The Red Cross has numerous printed materials available to help families prepare for emergencies,” says Camy.
“These are challenging times for everyone, not only the Red Cross, but also most non-profit agencies,” she says. “Our main challenges are recruiting more volunteers and blood donors, and raising sufficient funds to provide our 24/7 response to emergencies. The public’s biggest misconception about the Red Cross is that it is a government agency. It is not. It does not receive government funds for its work,” Camy says. “The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.”
Although the Red Cross is not a government agency, it is an essential part of the response when disaster strikes. The Red Cross works in partnership with other agencies and organizations that provide services to disaster victims. Providing life-saving blood and blood products to patients in a key component of the Red Cross’ mission.
“We are fortunate to have a Blood Donor Center in our Pennsauken facility. Blood and blood products are collected seven days a week,” says Camy.
The American Red Cross is the largest single supplier of blood and blood products in the U.S. Each year, nearly 4 million people donate blood through the Red Cross, helping to provide more than 40% of America’s blood supply. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day. A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood. More than 1 million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily during their chemotherapy treatment.
Many life-saving medical treatments and procedures involve blood transfusions and would not be possible without a safe and reliable blood supply. The blood type most often requested by hospitals is Type O. Type O-negative blood (red cells) can be transfused to patients of all blood types. It is always in great demand and needed in emergencies before the patient’s blood type is known and with newborns that need blood. But it is often in short supply as only 7 percent of people in the U.S. have O-negative blood type.
Since platelets have a shelf life of just five days, it is imperative that there are enough platelets on hand to meet the needs of hospital patients across the country.
Increasing diverse blood donor recruitment is critical to the future of our Nation’s blood supply. The Red Cross is implementing initiatives throughout the country to increase the number of blood donors in diverse communities and raise awareness of the need to give blood. The Red Cross also works to find rare blood donors to meet the specialized needs of patients.
The Red Cross makes blood available to any patient who needs it. Patients are not required to find donors to replace the blood they use (a practice common in Europe and some U.S. blood banks) allowing the patient and their family to focus on recovery.
Eighty percent of blood donations given to the Red Cross are collected at mobile blood drives. “We are encouraging businesses, schools, and groups in the community to schedule blood drives at their sites and to visit our blood donor center where they can donate platelets and red blood cells used in the treatment of cancer patients, burn victims, and those with other health issues,” says Camy.
Donating blood is a safe process. A sterile needle is used only once for each donor and then discarded. Blood donation is a simple four-step process: registration, medical history and mini-physical, donation and refreshments. The actual blood donation typically takes less than 10-12 minutes. The entire process, from the time you arrive to the time you leave, takes about an hour and 15 minutes. Each donation can help save up to three lives.
The organization plays a leading role in protecting the safety of donors and patients and increasing the availability of blood. It has been among the first to help develop and implement testing for infectious diseases including HIV, hepatitis B and C, and West Nile virus. It is frequently the single major contributor to clinical trials to improve blood safety.
The American Red Cross relies heavily on volunteers. The organization empowers ordinary people – high school students, factory and office workers, business executives, parents and grandparents, and people from every walk of life — to perform extraordinary acts of service in the face of emergencies.
Volunteers share one thing in common – a generous spirit and desire to give back to their community and help others. According to the Red Cross, blood donors report feeling a sense of great satisfaction after making their donation. Why? Because helping others in need just feels good.
Camy shares, “I am supported by a wonderful all volunteer Board of Directors. The women and men on the Board are intensely passionate about their work; they organize events, raise funds, provide feedback on our service delivery and help with identifying others who may be interested in service.”
The Red Cross is the nation’s leading provider of health and safety courses, such as CPR, First Aid, and Lifeguard training. Each year, more than 9 million Americans participate in training programs that include first responders, educators, babysitters, and people who want to be prepared to help others in an emergency. “We hold First Aid, CPR, and other lifesaving classes in our Pennsauken facility. We recruit and train volunteers, provide disaster preparedness and resiliency education programs for groups and individuals, and assist members of the military and their families with emergency communications and social services. Some of my staff are Chapter-based, others are regional, covering as many as four chapters in South Jersey.”
With regards to the military, the Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans, and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to the challenges of military service. Emergency communications, training, support to wounded warriors and veterans, and access to community resources help an average of 150,000 military families and veterans annually.
For more information on donating blood, volunteer opportunities, or to make a tax-deductible donation, contact the Camden and Burlington Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross at 856-365-7100 or visit redcross.org. As seen in Camden County Woman and Burlington County Woman