The Red Cross remembers September 11

By Renee Palagyi, senior program manager, Disaster Cycle Services

Note from the Regional CEO: As we begin this day, 9/11—Patriots Day, I can’t help but remember the 3000+ people who perished on that fateful day 19 years ago.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the countless first responders and others, including Red Crossers, who sacrificed to render aid to those in need.  I’m sure we all remember where we were when we heard the news of the attacks on our nation.  As I think back to the people I called immediately, my wife & my mom, I encourage all of us to take a moment today to call those same people, if they’re still with us, and just tell them how much they mean to us.  Thanks for all you do!!  Please stay safe and well–enjoy your weekends.  Best regards…Mike

September 11, 2020- Today marks the 19th anniversary of one of the most infamous tragedies in American history: September 11, 2001.

Following the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, along with Flight 93, the American Red Cross did what the Red Cross does when individuals are in need: support first responders, provide the world class Red Cross comfort and help individuals get back on their feet.

Immediately, the Red Cross:

  • Activated 6,000 Red Cross volunteers
  • Opened 13 Red Cross shelters
  • Sent disaster mental health workers to shelters, crash sites, airports and hospitals
  • Set up a mental health hotline
  • Opened respite centers for firefighters, police officers, port authority workers and others
  • Received 1 million calls on the blood donation line (the previous record in one day was 3,000 calls)
  • Every chapter in the nation supported stranded passengers at airports as air space was shut down
  • Launched the Family Registration Web, a predecessor to today’s redcross.org/safeandwell
  • Sent teams of Red Cross workers door-to-door in the Restricted Zone for families who had chosen to stay
  • After one year, the Red Cross had served 14 million meals for disaster workers and victims, mental health services for more than 237,000 people, and health services for 131,000 people.

To learn more about the Red Cross’ response following September 11, please read the following previous blog articles of reflection and rememberance:

Happy Anniversary, American Red Cross

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

May 21, 2020- William Lawrence, former Republican US Representative from Ohio, was asked to attend a meeting held by Clara Barton on May 12, 1881. She had recently returned from working with the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War, and was determined to start a similar organization in the United States

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James Garfield, 20th President – Photo by Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

Thanks to her persuasiveness, Lawrence went to fellow Ohioan, President James Garfield, to argue for the creation of an American Red Cross. In a mere nine days from the date of the original meeting, the president signed the declaration creating what was then known as the American National Red Cross on May 21st.

The following year, Barton and Lawrence convinced the U.S. to ratify the Geneva Conventions, guaranteeing humanitarian treatment during wartime.

139 Years of “Being There” for us

Since the beginning in 1881, the Red Cross has grown in response to our humanitarian needs and has five lines of service.

Disaster Services was one of the first responses by the new Red Cross. On May 31, 1889, a dam broke flooding Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Clara Barton and the Red Cross were credited with providing housing and relief to hundreds of the survivors.

Service to the Armed Forces was one of Barton’s initial goals, and she’d be proud to know of how it’s expanded over the years. One look at the Hero App and it’s evident how much the Red Cross provides for our military.

Blood Services provides 40% of the nation’s blood needs and now is beginning to collect convalescent plasma in the fight against COVID-19.

Training Services continues to save lives through first aid, CPR training, swimming instruction, baby sitting and more.

International Services is ready when global disasters happen, deploying local members to assist wherever needed.

How you can help

In these strange times, no matter what your situation, you can be a part of the Red Cross mission.  Donations are always needed, and even if unable to donate financially, maybe you could donate some time to help in our mission. Volunteers are needed now for both Disaster Services and Blood Services here in Northern Ohio.  Virtual positions even exist for those who can’t leave home. Find out more here and complete an online application.

Red Cross celebrates Black History Month

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of the Northeast Ohio

February 6, 2020- February is Black History Month and the American Red Cross is celebrating by paying tribute to the men and women who played a pivotal role in shaping the organization.

Here are some of the humanitarians who helped shape the Red Cross:

Steve Bullock – Serving Where the Need is Greatest

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Steve Bullock began his career with the Red Cross in 1962, working as a caseworker. His work took him and his family to military posts throughout the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Twenty years later, he became the Chief Executive Officer and Chapter Manager of the Greater Cleveland Chapter.

Bullock culminated his career at the American Red Cross in 1999, when he was named acting president of the national agency in Washington, DC. He took on the role leading the organization after the resignation of Elizabeth Dole, who recommended him for the post. While serving as acting president, he headed a team of staff members and news media who brought 60,000 pounds of relief supplies to Macedonia to aid nearly 140,000 ethnic Albanian refugees driven from their homes in Kosovo.

Read our previous blog article to learn more about Steve Bullock and his impact on the Greater Cleveland Chapter.

Frederick Douglass – An Influential Ally in Founding the American Red Cross

Frederick Douglass

A leading spokesman of African Americans in the 1800s and friend of Clara Barton, Mr. Douglass offered encouragement when Clara Barton sought advice and support in her efforts to gain U.S. acceptance as a member nation of the global Red Cross network. Douglass’ name is on an appeal for funds after the 1882 Mississippi flood. He also, in his capacity as Register of Deeds for the District of Columbia, signed the original Articles of Incorporation for the American Red Cross when they were submitted to the municipal authorities. The articles legally documented the creation of the American Red Cross.

Gwen T. Jackson – A Dedicated Volunteer Leader Across Decades

Gwen Jackson

Gwen T. Jackson began volunteering with her local Red Cross chapter in 1961, and by 1989 she was the first African American to be appointed as the National Chairman of Volunteers for the American Red Cross. During her tenure, she implemented the results of the Volunteer 2000 Study, completed in 1988 to study the downturn in volunteerism and provide a blueprint for future growth.

While serving with the Red Cross, Jackson provided assistance during major disasters such as Hurricane Hugo and support during the Persian Gulf War. She later became a member of the American National Red Cross Board of Governors in 1992 and was re-elected for a second term in 1995. Jackson was presented with the Cynthia Wedel Award, an award given to outstanding Red Cross volunteers, for her 50 years of dedication and volunteer leadership in 2003. She currently holds an appointment as Chair Emeritus of the American Red Cross Milwaukee Chapter.

These leaders represent the Red Cross’ commitment to diversity and inclusion, to help deliver the mission of the Red Cross and to represent the communities we serve. We look forward to seeing the future leaders who will continue the legacy  of these great humanitarians and lead the Red Cross to great achievements.

International adventures with a former Red Cross staff member

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross volunteer

October 28, 2019- Betty Lou Sobotincic started working for the American Red Cross right out of high school. Her friend’s mother catered luncheon meetings at the headquarters in Erie, Pennsylvania, and she told director Harry Ringer about Betty Lou. Ringer was known for overseeing all of the Red Cross during World War II and having worked with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Erie branch was short-staffed, and Ringer hired Betty Lou as secretary to the First Aid, Water Safety and Disaster Response departments. She soon discovered that she and a college student from Gannon University had two weeks to prepare for the “Teach Johnny to Swim” program that summer – for 2,000 students! They managed to pull it off.

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During Betty Lou’s time in Erie, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. One of her jobs was to raise the flag. When Ringer told her to put the flag at half-mast that day, she asked him what that meant. “He gave me a look. When Harry told you to do something, you just did it. So I went outside and figured out how to hang a flag at half-mast.”

After a couple of years, Betty was getting restless and she had reached the cap of the pay range. Ringer called the Red Cross office in Washington, D.C., and opened the door for them to hire her for overseas duty. She traveled to D.C. and stayed at the famous Willard Hotel. Both the hotel and the Red Cross headquarters were quite impressive to a 19-year-old from Ashtabula, Ohio.

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Betty Lou’s first assignment was at the Far Eastern Area Headquarters of the Red Cross in Tokyo, Japan, during the build up to the Vietnam War. When she arrived, there were between eight and 15 personnel in Vietnam. By the time she left two years later, there were 250, and a substation had been created in Saigon. As secretary, and the youngest staff member by far, Betty Lou was in charge of payroll, processing transfers and keeping track of everyone’s location. She was tasked with going to embassies for the Southeast Asian countries and procuring visas for transferring workers. Finding her way around Tokyo was no easy task. Eventually she bought a car and drove herself wherever she needed to go.

At 21, Betty Lou was transferred to Heidelberg Hospital in Germany, again serving as secretary with a high-level security clearance, which was necessary due to her knowledge of troop movement. Her duties included sending messages to families of soldiers who had been killed and assisting families who came to visit those who had been severely wounded. While this job wasn’t as challenging as the one in Japan, it was emotionally draining.

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Sometimes Red Cross personnel from Washington and other locations came to the hospital and were hosted by the director. One of those guests was Al Cherry , who Betty Lou met at a Red Cross gathering. Six weeks later the two were married in Switzerland! Eventually they moved to Ashtabula, Ohio, to raise a family.

Betty Lou served the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio during a number of local disasters, such as the tornadoes in Xenia, Ohio, and the surrounding area. In more recent years, Betty Lou and Al have been consistent contributors to the Red Cross, with a special focus on family needs following house fires. Betty Lou still stays in touch with people she met through her work, both here and abroad. The Red Cross holds a special place in her heart.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

A Donut Dollie recalls her year spent serving the armed forces in Vietnam

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Rosanna Sprague is fearless. She was a Donut Dollie.

“After generals and congressmen, no one scares me,” the Cleveland Heights woman said, recalling the year she spent in Vietnam, from 1970 to 1971. She served her country with the American Red Cross in a program called Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO).

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The American Red Cross SRAO team in 1970.  Rosanna Sprague is second from the left.

“Armed with nothing but cookies and homemade entertainment programs, the Donut Dollies risked their lives every day as they tried to fulfill their mission and cheer up the U.S. troops,” according to the website promoting a documentary called The Donut Dollies.

On average, more than 280,000 servicemen participated in recreation activities in Vietnam and neighboring countries every month during the eight years of American combat activity (1965-1972). Many took place at Red Cross recreation centers, where there would typically be a piano, books, pool and ping pong tables, and a kitchen, “to make snacks for the guys. Kool-Aid was very popular,” Sprague said. That was confirmed by Allen Lynch, a Medal of Honor winner who recently visited Red Cross headquarters in Cleveland while promoting his memoir.

“Those girls played a crucial role in Vietnam,” Lynch said. “It was just a comfort to see someone from home.

That’s what many of the men called the Donut Dollies, according to Sprague. “99% of the time, the CO of the firebase wanted us there, so he did everything necessary to make us feel welcome and comfortable.”

The Donut Dollies split their time between forward firebases and Red Cross Recreation Centers, like the ones at Cam Ranh Bay and Danang, where they brainstormed ideas for games and fashioned whatever pieces and parts were needed to make the games work. They also worked up song and dance routines.

“During Christmas of 1970, my unit at Long Bing created a parody of the Bob Hope Show, with a story line, singing and dancing, some jokes . . . just a special way to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to the guys on the firebases who didn’t or couldn’t get into the main city for the real show,” Sprague said. They performed about seven shows a day for the week leading up to Christmas, and on Christmas Day, they performed in three hospitals.

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Rosanna Sprague, left, played the role of Bob Hope during a Christmastime parody of the comedian’s USO shows.

 

“I do believe we made a lot of military a little less homesick that Christmas,” she said.

The Red Cross provided other services to members of the military in Vietnam, including more than 2 million emergency communications between servicemen and their families. Red Cross field directors and chapter staff at home assisted an average of 27,800 servicemen each month with personal and family problems. Vital service to the Armed Forces continues today, with volunteers providing humanitarian support to service members, veterans and their families around the clock and around the globe.

Back home, Rosanna Sprague now serves as an Ambassador at the Destination Cleveland Visitor’s Center, where people from around the world come to learn about the city. “I have so much fun welcoming them and relating easily to all kinds of people on so many levels. I learned that in Vietnam, too!”

The third Saturday in May is recognized each year as Armed Forces Day.  For information about Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org or call 216-431-3328.

This article was edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Recalling one woman’s lifetime of service

Record recorder on display in Cleveland is symbol of her contributions

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

In 1945, at the peak of the American Red Cross support during WWII, 7.5 million volunteers along with 39,000 paid staff provided service to the military.

Juel CollinsJuel Ward Collins was one of those volunteers. According to her son, Tom, Juel started volunteering for the Red Cross during WWII. She was proud of her assistance to the Red Cross mission and how she helped those who served our country in times of war. This volunteer work during the war began her lifetime of service on behalf of the Red Cross.

After the war, Juel continued to volunteer and went on to become part of the Red Cross staff in its Greater Cleveland chapter in the 1960s. She managed the West Shore office, where she oversaw services offered in the community. She coordinated the volunteers helping with both local and national disaster relief efforts, provided relief services in the field, and assisted at blood drives.

When members of the military were deployed during the Vietnam War, Juel once again provided service to those in the armed forces. Tom recalls his mother helping with paperwork during that time—assisting servicemen and women, with the help of their families, to obtain documents such as proof of citizenship. She also helped families by contacting a solider if there was a death or illness in the family. During the Vietnam War, the Red Cross handled more than 2,168,000 emergency communications between servicemen and their families.

Additionally, Juel worked to keep families connected by sending recorded letters to their loved ones overseas. Known as “Voices from Home,” the program engaged Red Cross volunteers like Juel to use a record recorder to record messages to send to servicemen. Tom graciously donated his mother’s record recorder to the Red Cross, which is now displayed in the Northeast Ohio Regional Office in Cleveland.

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Juel’s contributions are a piece of Red Cross history. Her story represents the lifetime dedication of one inspirational woman as well as a testament to the support the Red Cross has provided to those who have served in the military.

Juel is just one of the many individuals who volunteer their time with the Red Cross. Learn how you can volunteer and make an impact like she did by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is grateful to Tom Collins for sharing the story of his mother’s dedicated service with the Red Cross throughout her lifetime.

Christmas marks birth of “Angel of the Battlefield” Red Cross founder

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Merry Christmas! Billions of people around the globe will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ today. This religious and cultural holiday is also the birth date of a significant figure in American history. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was born on December 25, 1821. It seems fitting that a day focused on giving marks the birth of a woman who dedicated her life to giving to those in need.

Matthew Brady Portrait of Clara BartonBorn Clarissa Harlowe Barton in Oxford Massachusetts, Clara was a shy child. She became a teacher at age 15 during a time when most teachers were men. She was also among the first women to be employed by the federal government. She moved to Washington, D.C., in the mid 1850s to work as a recording clerk in the U.S. Patent Office.

In Washington during the Civil War, Clara collected clothing, supplies and food for sick and wounded soldiers. But she felt she was needed most on the battlefields. She persuaded government and army leaders to provide her with passes to bring her volunteer services and medical supplies to battle sites and field hospitals. Her work earned her the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield.”

Clara’s pioneering vision and commitment to service continued throughout her life. She founded the American Red Cross at age 60 and served as its first president. Her spirit of giving shines on to this day through the ongoing relief work of the organization she created.

In a second consecutive year of record wildfires, hurricanes, tragic shootings and other large crises, the Red Cross’ disaster workforce—90 percent volunteers—helped millions of people across the country.

In 2018, generous support enabled the Red Cross to:

  • Serve over 8.2 million meals and snacks
  • Distribute over 2.2 million relief items
  • Provide over 290,000 overnight stays in shelters
  • Make over 188,000 health and mental health contacts
  • Provide over 73,000 households with recovery support after home firesAmerican Red Cross Historical Photo

Locally, the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region responded to about 900 disasters, the vast majority of them home fires, assisting more than 4,200 people—about 1,600 families—and distributing about $800,000 in assistance in 2018.

To celebrate Clara’s birthday, if you would like to donate to the Red Cross and give something that means something on this momentous holiday, visit redcross.org/donate.

To read more about the life and achievements of Clara Barton, visit here.

Red Cross volunteer who provided service in Vietnam War among those to be honored this weekend in nation’s capital

By Sue Wilson Cordle, Summit, Portage, Medina Chapter board of directors member. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Jackie Otte is the Regional Volunteer Lead for the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Services team and has been a Red Cross volunteer for the last 26 years. That in itself is significant; but it is just one aspect of her commitment to the organization.

1883jo Jackie Christmas Card 1968 copyIn the late 1960s, Jackie served with the Red Cross in Vietnam. She explained, “There were two national Red Cross programs serving the military during the Vietnam War: SMI, Service to Military Installations, and SMH, Service to Military Hospitals.”  Jackie served in both areas doing casework and recreational therapy.

“When I received orders for Vietnam in the spring of 1968, the patients I worked with told me not to go— that I would forever be affected. However, I was an idealist and did not turn down orders.”  She was assigned to the 2nd Surgical Hospital in Chu Lai, about 50 miles south of DaNang.

This weekend, her contribution for those years and many more will be recognized at the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a Legacy Award. This award recognizes Red Cross staff and volunteers, like Jackie, who have served side-by-side with members of the United States armed forces in combat zones.

After her service in Vietnam, Jackie was stationed in Germany. “I am the daughter of a veteran and my service in military hospitals has given me a life-long desire to give back to our military personnel and veterans. I am still working part-time as a social worker in a hospice program,” she said. Jackie is very involved with We Honor Veterans, the national hospice organization that recognizes vets at end-of–life and trains staff on end-of-life issues faced by combat vets.

Jackie, who is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, comes from a Red Cross family. Her father, a World War II vet, served the Red Cross as a board member at both the local and national levels until his death. Jackie learned while planning his funeral that her dad used to read her letters from Vietnam at Red Cross board meetings. While in Washington this weekend for Veterans Day-related events, she’ll stay with her nephew, who is a former Red Cross employee, and his wife, a current Red Cross employee. Red Cross roots spread wide in her family.JackieOtte2

Jackie also plans to visit the Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial on its 25th anniversary. “I was the Ohio volunteer coordinator for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial,” explained Jackie. “I made a lot of appearances to educate others about the memorial and raise funds to build it.”

Jackie said she is looking forward to seeing old friends, both from the Red Cross and military. “It has been 50 years since we were there and we aren’t getting any younger. Many may not be with us in the near future.”

The Red Cross legacy of service to members of the military began when founder Clara Barton provided comfort on the battlefields during the Civil War. Since then, American Red Cross staff and volunteers have served in every major military combat or conflict operation around the world. They are among a select group who have proudly worn the Red Cross emblem to provide care and comfort to members of the United States armed forces, their families and our veterans. And Jackie is a member of that select group who will be honored this weekend.

In Jackie’s words, “These ceremonies are always moving for all involved. It will be an honor to take part in a ceremony like this for recognition for combat Red Cross staff.”

Congratulations, Jackie, and thank you for your years of dedication and service to the Red Cross, our military and our veterans.

You are a true hero.

Clara Barton Answers the Call to America’s Largest Flood

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Just before 3 p.m. on May 31, 1889, 14 miles west of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a dam broke, releasing 20-million tons of water into the Conemaugh Valley. In this narrow valley, the water reached 60 feet high as it barreled toward the city at speeds of 40 m.p.h.

By the time it struck Johnstown, the 4 billion gallons of water brought with it everything in its path. Four square miles of downtown were completely obliterated by the crushing flood waters. By the time it was over, 30 acres of human bodies, homes and debris were piled 70 feet high against the stone-arched railroad bridge at the far edge of town. The pressure and amount of the water was later compared to all the water flowing over Niagara Falls in 36 minutes.

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Photo credit: Johnstown Flood Museum

Between the force of the water and the ensuing explosions and fires that broke out, more than 2,200 people died, 1,600 homes were destroyed, and $17 million worth of damage was done (close to $500 million in today’s valuation.)

From War Relief to Disaster ReliefClara B

In Washington, D.C., Clara Barton got word of the event.  Prior to this time, she had provided relief to the Civil War soldiers, but was lobbying for the American Red Cross to provided relief for peacetime disasters as well.  Five days after the flood, Clara and five Red Cross workers arrived in Johnstown. Within days, she had assembled a team of 50 doctors, nurses and relief workers.Johnstown Flood

Setting up headquarters in the city, she immediately began organizing donations that began arriving from all around the world.  Food, clean water and supplies were passed out immediately to survivors as they tried to create shelters however they could.

 

“Red Cross Hotels” were opened to provide shelter for those left homeless before the winter weather set in.  The first “hotel” was so successful, five more were quickly erected.

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Photo credit: U. S. National Park Service

They also began building 3,000 “Oklahoma houses,” a type of prefabricated home, to aid the city in rebuilding. Furniture donations and domestic items were then organized and distributed to outfit these homes.

Clara didn’t leave the city for five straight months, only returning to Washington on October 24, 1889.  The city presented her with a number of gifts to show their lasting gratitude.  One editorialist wrote, “Too much cannot be said in praise of this lady…To her timely and heroic work, more than that of any other human being, are the people of the Conemaugh Valley indebted.”

Today if you visit the Johnstown Flood Museum, you’ll see a section devoted exclusively to Clara Barton and the Red Cross’ success in helping restore the town, along with some of her original papers and one of the first Red Cross blankets to be distributed.

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Photo credit: Doug Bardwell/American Red Cross

Based largely on the success of her mission to aid the Johnstown residents, the American Red Cross received its Congressional Charter 10 years later, in 1900.

Today you can continue the legacy of Barton and volunteer to help with the next big disaster to strike this country.  Volunteer today at https://neoredcross.org/volunteer/.

Access the ProVia Employee Red Cross Volunteer Application here.  

Merry Christmas – and Happy Birthday Clara

By Sue Wilson Cordle, Volunteer Leader and Board Member

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Today is a very special holiday. Yes, of course it’s Christmas, but it’s also Clara Barton’s birthday. Who is Clara Barton? One the most honored women in American history. Barton was a pioneering nurse during the Civil War who risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field. Her understanding of the ways she could provide help to people in distress guided her throughout her life. By the force of her personal example, she opened paths to the new field of volunteer service. Her intense devotion to serving others resulted in enough achievements to fill several ordinary lifetimes.*images (1)

2017 may very well go down in history as the year women found their voice–and began to speak up for injustices that have been going on for a very long time. Sometimes, it takes a while to find your voice. To find your mission. And if this year taught me anything, it taught me that it’s never too late. Clara Barton is the ultimate example of that. She was a feminist before there was even a word for it. And when most people her age, and at her time were settling into old age, she was busy founding the Red Cross. Yep, when Clara founded the Red Cross in 1881 she was 60 years old!

On this Christmas Day, when so many of us are enjoying the company of family and friends, it is good to reflect on the many who know no holiday–nurses, caregivers and the many volunteers, specifically those for the Red Cross, who every day help those who have been affected by the many natural disasters this year; the hurricanes, wildfires, home fires and other tragedies.

Need a last minute Christmas gift? Donate to Red Cross today. Merry Christmas- and Happy Birthday Clara!m15840200_South_Florida_Clara_Barton_Society_A_Spot_514x260

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