The American Red Cross is one of the many sister organizations of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society. It is a humanitarian association formed in 1881 to help victims of war, and other natural and man-made disasters. After 127 years of providing successful services to mankind, it has become the largest voluntary organization in the USA. From its inception, this organization has aided people during the times of emergencies.
The American Red Cross was formed by Clara Barton. Born in Oxford, Massachusetts, she was a school teacher and government official, who worked as a nurse for wounded soldiers during the Civil War. It was established on May 21, 1881, with Clara Barton as the first President of the organization.
The first major service provided by the society was to the victims of the Great Fire of 1881 in Michigan. In the following years, this small association constantly worked and organized various relief programs for the destruction caused by various natural calamities such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, etc. It also aided the American military during the Spanish-American War.
By 1914, there were 107 segments of the Red Cross serving in different parts of America. However, the major development of the Red Cross organization took place during World War I. It is reported that 20 million Americans joined the Red Cross organization, and 3,864 sections were formed to aid and support the victims of war. It sent many ambulances, first aid equipment, hospital staff, water, and more than 20,000 nurses to help the military. Monetary aid came in from every corner of the country. The Junior Red Cross was established during this time, wherein youngsters got an opportunity to serve their nation.
The society continued working for the betterment of victims even after the war. It helped in rebuilding lives of those who had lost their families, and provided free education to orphans.
During World War II, along with the services to the US military, the ARC also aided the allies of the country, and the civilian victims of war. It sent food packages and conducted a blood collection drive, sending 13.3 million pints of blood to save lives of the soldiers. This blood collection drive has been continued, and today, the ARC is known for supplying blood across the country.
It provides training to its volunteers to help families, friends, and neighbors during times of crisis, like floods, earthquakes, plane crashes, terrorist attacks, etc. It has extended its horizon to a variety of areas, such as biomedical research, teaching civil defense, and educating people about various life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS. Most importantly, it provides emotional support and care to the ill and distressed.
The American Red Cross is an autonomous organization, and is tremendously supported by people of the country, through donations.