Recognizing International Day of Charity

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Nine years ago, the United Nations designated Sept. 5 as International Day of Charity to highlight the role of volunteerism and philanthropy in alleviating humanitarian crises and human suffering.

The day was chosen to honor the work of renowned missionary Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who became a role model of selfless action on behalf of the poor, sick and homeless.

Does this mission statement sound familiar: “The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”

Clearly, the Day of Charity and the Red Cross fit together like hand and glove.

Every day, trained Red Cross volunteers step forward to offer care and compassion to those in distress: people bereft by home fires, or displaced by western wildfires, Tennessee flash flooding or Hurricane Henri and Ida’s savage winds and rain. We’ve provided nearly 20,000 overnight stays in COVID-safe accommodations for those impacted by high-profile disasters just this summer.

At the same time, volunteers turn to the Red Cross to donate 40% of the nation’s blood supply for folks undergoing surgery, critical emergency care or life sustaining treatments.

September 1, 2021. Ramstein Air Base, Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. The American Red Cross is welcoming evacuees from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, at the request of the Department of Defense. Red Cross team members are offering hygiene supplies, baby items, and other necessities. Photo by Emily Osment / American Red Cross

Of course the Red Cross is continuing its tradition of care for America’s veterans and their families, many of them stressed by recent events in Afghanistan. And at the request of the U.S Department of Defense, hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are helping meet basic human needs of American and Afghan evacuees as they arrive at U.S. military bases for repatriation or screening. (For more information, check out “Afghanistan: How the Red Cross and Red Crescent Are Helping” at redcross.org.)

None of this would be possible without financial support from the American public – individuals, foundations, and businesses and corporations large and small.

People like me. I’m certainly no “deep pockets” donor, but I give what I can to causes I believe in – the Red Cross high among them – because I think they build a better world for the present and for my grandchildren. I think of it as “doing my bit;” hardly Mother Teresa-level sacrifice, but doing what I can to ease burdens.

Michelle Polinko, chief development officer for the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross, deals with donors that out-give me many times over.

“We have corporate partners here in northern Ohio that understand the need to be ready at a moment’s notice,” Michelle said.  “When a disaster strikes, we need to deploy resources like trained responders, emergency vehicles, comfort kits, food and water immediately.

“Thanks to our Annual Disaster Giving Program partners, like the J.M. Smucker Company, who provide annual donations allowing us to pre-invest in supplies and readiness, we can take action right away.”

The Smucker company is one of dozens that add their big support to the smaller donations that you and I can give to drive the humanitarian engine.

By the way, Sept. 5 is also Cheese Pizza Day (who knew?) and Be Late for Something Day. So it’s not too late to donate financially at redcross.org/donate. Or volunteer (We really need trained disaster volunteers right now!) at redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Or find the date, time and location of your nearest Red Cross blood drive (You know someone out there is relying on you for blood, right?!) by calling 1-800-REDCROSS or accessing RedCrossBlood.org.  Or text BLOODAPP to 90999 or search “Red Cross Blood” on the App Store or Google Play to get the free Blood Donor App.

Danke, gracias, grazie, merci: It’s International Volunteer Day!

The American Red Cross is a proud part of a vast network of international organizations. So when the United Nations began to promote December 5 as International Volunteer Day, we were completely on-board!

To our more than 1,700 local volunteers, who promote our mission to prepare and alleviate human suffering…Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thank you, also, to those who serve the call of humanitarian organizations across the globe. And to those who serve along side of us as we continuethe recovery process from this year’s hurricane and wildfire season…thank you!

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If you would like to volunteer with the Red Cross, please visit redcross.org/neo and click on Volunteer. There are so many opportunities to serve, here in Northeast Ohio, and across the country.