In the year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, tens of thousands of Americans have stepped up to address the needs of those reeling from the pandemic as well as record-breaking disasters across the country.
Americans experienced more billion-dollar disasters in 2020 than any other year on record, and for many, the pandemic compounded the trauma and financial strain of disasters: struggling families needed help quickly and faced more hurdles to recover, as increased anxiety exacerbated many health and mental health needs.
“The past year has taken an enormous toll on families, and that’s why our trained volunteers are more critical to our mission than ever before,” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. “Through our lifesaving work, people are coming forward to care for each other when help can’t wait. During Red Cross Month in March, we honor this humanitarian spirit and ask you to join us by making a financial donation, giving blood, volunteering or taking a class to learn lifesaving skills.”
In addition to responding to disasters, Red Cross volunteers are supporting local communities across the country as they distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Depending on local needs, our work may include setting up vaccination sites, collecting information from people being vaccinated, and providing water and snacks for medical staff and those waiting to be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Red Cross volunteers who are medical professionals may also be working with local authorities to help give vaccinations if their state licenses permit them to do so. Additionally, volunteers are helping to vaccinate U.S. service members on bases around the globe and are active in U.S. veterans’ hospitals.
For nearly 80 years, U.S. presidents have proclaimed March as Red Cross Month to recognize Americans participating in its lifesaving mission — one that is powered by a workforce that is made up of 90% volunteers.
So far this year, Red Cross volunteers have provided emergency shelter, food and other assistance following disasters like tornadoes and February’s record onslaught of winter storms, which blanketed some 70% of the continental U.S. with snow, ice and historically low temperatures. The severe winter weather forced the cancellation of Red Cross blood drives in more than 30 states, impacting more than 20,000 blood, platelet and convalescent plasma donations in February.
This spring, meteorologists are also predicting a potentially volatile severe weather season: For the third year in a row, April could be a very active month for storms in the Midwest and South, and the West could see early drought conditions and heat waves.
How to help
During our annual Giving Day on March 24, you can help ensure that families don’t face emergencies alone, especially during the pandemic:
- DONATE: Support our Disaster Relief efforts at redcross.org/GivingDay. A gift of any size makes a difference to provide shelter, food, relief items, emotional support and other assistance.
- VOLUNTEER: Many people feel isolated during the pandemic. Support your own mental health and give back to others by connecting with communities in need through volunteering. Visit redcross.org/VolunteerToday to see our most-needed positions, including virtual opportunities.
- GIVE BLOOD: If you’re healthy and feeling well — especially those with type O blood — please make an appointment at RedCrossBlood.org. Your donation can make a lifesaving difference for a patient in need. As a thank you, those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma March 15-26 will receive a Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.
- LEARN LIFESAVING SKILLS: Sign up to take a CPR and first aid class, so you can be prepared for an emergency, at redcross.org/TakeAClass. Online options include our Psychological First Aid for COVID-19 course, which covers how to manage stress and support yourself and others.