American Red Cross

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American Red Cross
Formation May 21, 1881; 142 years ago (1881-05-21)
Legal status Foundation
Purpose Humanitarian aid
Headquarters Washington, D.C., U.S.
Region served
United States
Gail J. McGovern[1]
Main organ
Board of Governors
US$2,974,133,836 (2014)[2]

The American Red Cross (ARC), also known as The American National Red Cross,[3] is a humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education inside the United States. It is the designated US affiliate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Today, in addition to domestic disaster relief, the American Red Cross offers services in five other areas: community services that help the needy; communications services and comfort for military members and their family members; the collection, processing and distribution of blood and blood products; educational programs on preparedness, health, and safety; and international relief and development programs.[4]

Issued a corporate charter by the United States Congress under Title 36 of the United States Code, Section 3001, the American National Red Cross is governed by volunteers and supported by community donations, income from health and safety training and products, and income from blood products. The American Red Cross is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Chairman of the Board of Governors, serving her second three-year term, is Bonnie McElveen-Hunter. The current President and Chief Executive Officer is Gail J. McGovern.

History and organization


The American Red Cross was established in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881, by Clara Barton, who became the first president of the organization. Clara Barton first organized a meeting on May 12 of that year at the home of Sen. Omar D. Conger (R, MI).[5] Fifteen people were present at this first meeting, including Barton, Conger, and Rep. William Lawrence (R, OH) (who became the first vice-president[6]). The first local chapter was established in 1881 at the English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dansville at Dansville, New York.[7]

Jane Delano (1862–1919) founded the American Red Cross Nursing Service on January 20, 1910.[citation needed]

Clara Barton

Clara Barton (1821–1912) founded the American chapter after learning of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1869, she went to Europe and became involved in the work of the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War, and determined to bring the organization home with her to America.[8]

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Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross

Barton became President of the American branch of the society, known officially as the American National Red Cross in May 1881 in Washington. The first chapters opened in upstate New York where she had connections.[9] Ultimately, John D. Rockefeller, Lars Kovala and three others along with the federal government, gave money to create a national headquarters near the White House.[10]

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American Red Cross Administrative Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
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American National Red Cross

Barton led one of the group's first major relief efforts, a response to the Great Fire of 1881 (Thumb Fire) in the Thumb region of Michigan, which occurred on September 4–6, 1881. Over 5,000 people were left homeless. The next major disaster dealt with was the Johnstown Flood which occurred on May 31, 1889. Over 2,209 people died and thousands more were injured in or near Johnstown, Pennsylvania in one of the worst disasters in United States history.

Progressive reform

Barton took personal charge during major disasters. She gave the illusion of efficiency but was unable to build up a staff she trusted, and her fundraising was lackluster. As a result, she was forced out in 1904, when professional social work experts took control and made it a model of Progressive Era scientific reform.[11] The new leader Mabel Thorp Boardman consulted constantly with senior government officials, military officers, social workers, and financiers. William Howard Taft was especially influential. They imposed a new corporate ethos of "managerialism," transforming the agency away from Barton's cult of personality to an "organizational humanitarianism" ready for expansion along increasingly professional lines.[12]


The American Red Cross is a nationwide network of more than 650 chapters and 36 blood services regions dedicated to saving lives and helping people prepare for and respond to medical emergencies. Approximately 500,000 Red Cross volunteers, including FemaCorps and AmeriCorps members, and 30,000 employees annually mobilize relief to people affected by more than 67,000 disasters, train almost 12 million people in necessary medical skills and exchange more than a million emergency messages for U.S. military service personnel and their family members. The Red Cross is the largest supplier of blood and blood products to more than 3,000 hospitals nationally and also assists victims of international disasters and conflicts at locations worldwide. In 2006 the organization had over $6 billion in total revenues. Revenue from blood and blood products alone were over $2 billion.


In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility. The study showed that the American Red Cross was ranked as the 3rd "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched with 48% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing "Love", and "Like A lot" for the Red Cross.[13]



Recent presidents and CEOs include Gail McGovern, Elizabeth Dole, Bernadine Healy, Mary S. Elcano, Mark W. Everson and John F. McGuire.[1] In 2007, US legislation clarified the role for the Board of Governors and that of the senior management in the wake of difficulties following Hurricane Katrina.[14]

Celebrity Cabinet

Every year, the American Red Cross establishes a "National Celebrity Cabinet", started in 2002 as part of the "Entertainment Outreach Program" to help the ARC highlight initiatives and response efforts.

The public figures are described as being "on-call" to help the Red Cross by donating their time to lend their names to various projects.[15]

Blood services

Blood donation

The American Red Cross supplies roughly 66% of the donated blood in the United States, which they directly sell to hospitals and regional suppliers.[16] Community-based blood centers supply 50% and 6% is collected directly by hospitals. In December 2004, the American Red Cross completed their largest blood processing facility in the United States in Pomona, California, on the campus grounds of the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Tissue services

For more than twenty years, the American Red Cross provided allograft tissue for transplant through sales in its Tissue Services Program. It cared for thousands of donor families who gave the gift of tissue donation and sold donated tissue to more than 1 million transplant recipients in need of this life saving or life-enhancing gift of tissue. At the end of January 2005, the American Red Cross ended its Tissue Services program in order to focus on its primary missions of Disaster Relief and Blood Services.

Plasma services

A leader in the plasma industry, the Red Cross provides more than one quarter of the nation's plasma products. Red Cross Plasma Services seeks to provide the American people with plasma products which are not only reliable and cost-effective, but also as safe as possible.

In February 1999, the Red Cross completed its "Transformation," a $287 million program that: re-engineered Red Cross Blood Services' processing, testing and distribution system; and established a new management structure.

As of 2011, the Red Cross is no longer in the Plasma Services industry. The Red Cross currently supplies Baxter BioSciences with plasma for the manufacturing of plasma products.[17]

Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT)

On March 1, 1999, the American Red Cross became the first U.S. blood banking organization to implement a Nucleic acid testing (NAT) study. This process is different from traditional testing because it looks for the genetic material of HIV and hepatitis C (HCV), rather than the body's response to the disease.

The NAT tests for HIV and HCV have been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration. These tests are able to detect the genetic material of a transfusion-transmitted virus like HIV without waiting for the body to form antibodies, potentially offering an important time advantage over current techniques.


A person's own leukocytes (white blood cells) help fight off foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells, to avoid sickness or disease. But when transfused to another person, these same leukocytes do not benefit the recipient. In fact, these foreign leukocytes in transfused red blood cells and platelets are often not well tolerated and have been associated with some types of transfusion complications so the blood dies out. Leukocytes present in stored blood products can have a variety of biological effects, including depression of immune function, which can result in organ failure and death.[18] Because whole blood is rarely used for transfusion and not kept in routine inventory, the need for leukoreduced red blood cells is critical. After collection the whole blood is separated into red cells and plasma by centrifugation. A preservative solution is mixed with the red cells and the component is filtered with a leukoreduction filter. Shelf life for this product is 42 days.

The Red Cross is moving toward system-wide universal prestorage leukocyte reduction to improve patient care. From 1976 through 1985, the United States Food and Drug Administration received reports of 355 fatalities associated with transfusion, 99 of which were excluded from further review because they were unrelated to transfusion or involved hepatitis or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.[19] While the FDA has not yet made leukoreduction a requirement, the American Red Cross has taken a leading role in implementing this procedure with a goal of leukoreducing all blood products. More than 70 percent of American Red Cross red blood cell components currently undergo prestorage leukoreduction, a filtering process that is done soon after blood is donated.


The Red Cross operates the Jerome H. Holland blood laboratory in Rockville, Maryland. Each year, the Red Cross invests more than $25 million in research activities at the Holland Laboratory and in the field.

Cellular therapies

The Red Cross is also treating people using cellular therapies; this new method of treatment involves collecting and treating blood cells from a patient or other blood donor. The treated cells are then introduced into a patient to help revive normal cell function; replace cells that are lost as a result of disease, accidents or aging; or used to prevent illnesses from appearing.

Cellular therapy may prove to be particularly helpful for patients who are being treated for illnesses such as cancer, where the treated cells may help battle cancerous cells.

Health and safety services

The American Red Cross provides first aid, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Automated external defibrillator (AED), water safety and lifeguarding, babysitting, disaster preparedness, and home safety training throughout the United States. The training programs are primarily aimed at laypersons, workplaces, and aquatic facilities. The American Red Cross teaches around 12 million Americans these skills annually, ranging from youth to professional rescuers. In 2005 the American Red Cross co-led the 2005 Guidelines for First Aid, which aims to provide up-to-date and peer-reviewed first aid training materials. Many American Red Cross chapters also have for sale first aid kits, disaster kits, and similar, related equipment. Many chapters of the American Red Cross offer pet first aid courses to prepare pet owners and pet professionals for emergency situations. The American Red Cross also offers a pet first aid reference guide. This guide includes a 50-minute DVD that informs viewers about safety procedures and instructs on dealing with medical emergencies.

Disaster services

An American Red Cross vehicle distributing food to Grand Forks, North Dakota victims of the 1997 Red River flood
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Satellite communications after tropical strom Debby in Lake City, Florida, 2012

Each year, the American Red Cross responds to more than 70,000 disasters, including house or apartment fires (the majority of disaster responses), hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents, explosions, and other natural and man-made disasters.

Although the American Red Cross is not a government agency, its authority to provide disaster relief was formalized when, in 1905, the Red Cross was granted a congressional charter to "carry on a system of national and international relief in time of peace and apply the same in mitigating the sufferings caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods, and other great national calamities, and to devise and carry on measures for preventing the same." The Charter is not only a grant of power, but also an imposition of duties and obligations to the nation, to disaster victims, and to the people who support its work with their donations.

American Red Cross disaster relief focuses on meeting people's immediate emergency disaster-caused needs. When a disaster threatens or strikes, the Red Cross provides shelter, food, and health and mental health services (Psychological First Aid) to address basic human needs. In addition to these services, the core of Red Cross disaster relief is the assistance given to individuals and families affected by disaster to enable them to resume their normal daily activities independently. The organization also provides translation and interpretation to those affected when necessary, and maintains a database of multilingual volunteers to enable this.[20]

At the local level, American Red Cross chapters operate volunteer-staffed Disaster Action Teams that respond to disasters in their communities, such as house fires or floods.

The Red Cross also feeds emergency workers of other agencies, handles inquiries from concerned family members outside the disaster area, provides blood and blood products to disaster victims, and helps those affected by disaster to access other available resources. It is a member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and works closely with other agencies such as the Salvation Army and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service with whom it has Memorandums of Understanding.

The American Red Cross also works to encourage preparedness by providing important literature on readiness. Many chapters also offer free classes to the general public.

A major misconception by the general public is that the American Red Cross provides medical facilities, engages in search and rescue operations or deploys ambulances to disaster areas. As an emergency support agency, the American Red Cross does not engage in these first responder activities; instead, these first responder roles are left to local, state or federal agencies as dictated by the National Response Framework. The confusion arises since other Red Cross societies across the globe may provide these functions; for example, the Cruz Roja Mexicana (Mexican Red Cross) runs a national ambulance service. Furthermore, American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) look similar to ambulances. These ERVs instead are designed for bulk distribution of relief supplies, such as hot meals, drinks or other relief supplies. Although American Red Cross shelters usually have a nurse assigned to the facility, they are not equipped to provide medical care beyond emergency first aid.

Disaster Services Workforce

The Disaster Services Workforce (DSW) system enrolls volunteers from individual American Red Cross chapters into a national database of responders, classified by their ability to serve in one or more activities within groups. The activities vary from obvious ones such as feeding and sheltering ("mass care") to more specialized ones such as warehousing, damage assessment, financial accounting, radio and computer communications, public affairs and counseling. Responders must complete training requirements specific to the activities they wish to serve in, as well as the basics required of all disaster service volunteers, which include a background check as well as training in first aid.

National Response Framework

As a National Response Framework support agency, the American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides other types of emergency relief to victims of disasters. The American Red Cross is also a co-lead with FEMA for the mass care portion of the Emergency Support Function 6. This role gives the American Red Cross the joint responsibility for planning and coordinating mass care services with FEMA. The American Red Cross also has responsibilities under other Emergency Support Functions, such as providing health and mental health services.[21][22]

Disaster responses

2005 hurricanes

Volunteers assist Hurricane victims at the Houston Astrodome, following Hurricane Katrina.

Forecasting a major disaster before the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross enlisted 2,000 volunteers throughout the nation to be on a "stand by" deployment list.

According to the American Red Cross, during and after Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita, they opened 1,470 different shelters across and registered 3.8 million overnight stays. A total of 300,000 Red Cross workers (82% of whom were non-paid volunteers) were utilized to provide sheltering, casework, communication and assessment services throughout these three hurricanes. In addition, 346,980 comfort kits (which contain hygiene essentials such as toothpaste, soap, washclothes and toys for children) and 205,360 cleanup kits (containing brooms, mops and bleach) were distributed. For mass care, the organization served 68 million snacks and meals to victims of the disasters and to rescue workers. The Red Cross also had their Disaster Health services meet 596,810 contacts, and Disaster Mental Health services meet 826,590 contacts. Red Cross emergency financial assistance was provided to 1.4 million families, which encompassed a total of 4 million people. Hurricane Katrina was the first natural disaster in the United States that the American Red Cross utilized their "Safe and Well" family location website.[23][24]

On February 3, 2006, 5 months after Katrina's landfall, the American Red Cross announced that it had met its fundraising goals, and would no longer engage in new 2005 Hurricane relief fundraising. The National organization urged the public to help other charities engaged in hurricane relief work, or to donate to their local Red Cross chapters. An American Red Cross statement was issued saying that 91 cents of every dollar donated specifically for the Hurricane Katrina disaster will go directly to disaster relief.

Comair Flight 5191

In response to the crash of commuter aircraft Comair Flight 5191, the Bluegrass Area Chapter and the American Red Cross Critical Response Team (CRT) members were dispatched to the scene. This was the worst air disaster within the United States since American Airlines Flight 587. Family and Friends reception centers were established near the arrival and departure airports and in Cincinnati, site of the Comair headquarters. Local chapters in Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and California provided health, mental health to family members and friends of the victims not present in Lexington. Volunteers also staffed the local Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Lexington, Kentucky, the incident command post at the airport site and the State EOC. As of August 29, 2006, 400 meals had been served by the American Red Cross to family and friends of those involved in the crash, in addition to rescue workers. The Red Cross provided emotional support to the family members of the victims at a nearby Service Center.[25]

2007 Florida tornadoes

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The American Red Cross is set up in a community hard hit by the tornadoes, Florida, 2007

In response to the Central Florida Tornado of February 2007, the American Red Cross began a large scale disaster relief operation. At least seven shelters have been opened in the disaster affected region, with Southern Baptists starting to provide food. 40,000 pre-packaged meals are being sent by the American Red Cross, and across the nation, almost 400 Red Cross volunteers are being deployed to assist with the local relief efforts. The organization has also deployed more than 30 Emergency Response Vehicles for community food and supply distribution.[26][27]

2007 Kansas tornadoes

The American Red Cross immediately responded to the May 2007 Tornado Outbreak in central Kansas by setting up emergency shelters for hundreds of displaced residents and started the distribution of food, water and relief supplies.[28] The 'Safe and Well' family notification website for locating missing loved ones was also activated.[29]

Minneapolis Bridge collapse

Following the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge, the American Red Cross of the Twin Cities Area Chapter responded with their Disaster Action Team to provide families and rescuers food, information and comfort. A family service center was set up close to the accident site, along with deploying mental health counselors to numerous locations.[30] Donations contributed for this cause totaled US$138,368 and covered the cost of Red Cross services[31] but not $65,000 in unexpected expenses.[32] Weather conditions and the collapse placed 70% of Minnesota counties in federal primary or contiguous disaster areas during August 2007.[33] As of August 24, 2007 the Red Cross needed Disaster Relief Fund donations for the flooding in the Midwestern United States including Minnesota that followed a prolonged drought.[34] On August 8, 2007, the Twin Cities chapter lowered the United States, state of Minnesota and Red Cross flags to half-staff indefinitely.[35]

International services

The American Red Cross, as part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and its nearly 100 million volunteers, educates and mobilizes communities to overcome life-threatening vulnerabilities. The core focus areas of the American Red Cross International Services Department are global health, disaster preparedness and response, Restoring Family Links, and international humanitarian law dissemination. The American Red Cross is involved with many international projects, such as the Measles Initiative, malaria programs in Africa, disaster responses worldwide, and relief efforts in response to the 2004 South Asia Tsunami.

Disaster preparedness and response

American Red Cross international disaster response and preparedness programs provide relief and development assistance to millions of people annually who suffer as a result of natural and human-made disasters around the world. To respond quickly and effectively, the American Red Cross has pre-positioned emergency relief supplies in three warehouses managed by the International Federation in Dubai, Malaysia and Panama, which are used to respond to disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, ongoing crises in Africa and hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Americas. An Emergency Response Unit (ERU) is another method with which the American Red Cross responds to international emergencies. An ERU is made up of trained personnel and pre-packaged technical equipment that is crucial in responding to sudden, large-scale disasters and emergencies in remote locations. American Red Cross ERUs specialize in providing emergency relief supplies and IT and Telecommunications for Red Cross response operations.[36]

2010 Haiti earthquake

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake struck the Haitian coast 10 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince, causing massive damage, more than 200,000 deaths and displacing nearly 2 million people from their homes.

As of March 2011, the American Red Cross announced it had allocated $314.7 million for Haiti earthquake relief and recovery. The American Red Cross is funding recovery projects to provide transitional homes, health services, disaster preparedness, water and sanitation improvements and livelihoods development. Its projects touch lives such as providing funds for school fees for affected families. As of June 2011, the American Red Cross had raised approximately $484 million for Haiti relief and recovery efforts.[37]

Global health initiatives

American Red Cross International Services global health initiatives focus on preventing and combating infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and measles on a large scale. Through cost-effective, community-based health interventions, the American Red Cross targets large numbers of people in need and focuses on accessibility and equity of care, community participation, and integration with other community development initiatives, such as water and sanitation projects and food and nutrition programs.

An example of the American Red Cross International Services health programming is the Measles Initiative, launched in 2001, as a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. The initiative provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance worldwide. Leading these efforts are the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. The Measles Initiative has supported vaccination campaigns in more than 60 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia. Since 2001, the initiative has helped vaccinate one billion children in more than 60 developing countries.[38] The Initiative increasingly provides additional complementary health interventions in its campaigns. The Measles Initiative and its partners supported the distribution of more than 37 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets for malaria prevention, 81 million doses of de-worming medicine, 95 million doses of polio vaccine, and 186 million doses of Vitamin A.

On December 2006, the American Red Cross joined as a founding partner of the Malaria No More campaign. The campaign was formed by leading non-governmental organizations to inspire individuals, institutions and organizations in the private sector to support a comprehensive approach to end malaria, a devastating but preventable disease The American Red Cross supported local Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers in Africa who were educating families and communities about malaria prevention and treatment, such as proper and consistent use of insecticide-treated bed nets. The American Red Cross provided technical assistance and capacity-building support to its partners to fight malaria in difficult-to-reach communities.

International tracing requests

The American Red Cross handles international tracing requests and searches for families who have been separated by war or natural or man-made disaster and are trying to locate relatives worldwide. This is not a genealogical service but one that attempts to re-establish contact between family members separated at a time of war or disaster. Restoring Family Links services also provide the exchange of hand-written Red Cross Messages between individuals and their relatives who may be refugees or prisoners of war. At any given time, the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program is handling the aftermath of 20–30 wars and conflicts. The worldwide structure of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross make this service possible. When new information from many former Soviet Union archives became available in the 1990s, a special unit, named the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center, was created to handle World War II and Holocaust tracing services.

International humanitarian law

As part of its mission, American Red Cross International Services has a mandate to educate the American public about the guiding principles of international humanitarian law for conduct in warfare as set forth by the Geneva Conventions of 1949. In doing so, American Red Cross International Services provides support to American Red Cross chapters nationwide in their IHL dissemination efforts, offering IHL courses and providing training opportunities for IHL instructors. It is also working toward the implementation of the Exploring Humanitarian Law program in the United States.

Service to the Armed Forces

A World War II-era poster encouraged American women to volunteer for the Red Cross as part of the war effort.

Although not a government agency, the American Red Cross provides emergency and non-emergency services to the United States military. The most notable service is emergency family communications, where families can contact the Red Cross to send important family messages (such as a death in the family, or new birth). In such, the Red Cross can also act as a verifying agency of the situation.[39] Call centers which take service request for the United States military, were in San Diego and Springfield, Massachusetts; beginning in May 2015 those operations moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Louisville, Kentucky.[40] The American Red Cross works closely with other military societies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, to provide other services to service members and their families. The American Red Cross is not involved with prisoners of war; rather, these are monitored by the International Committee of the Red Cross, an international body distinctly independent of any nation.

One criticism of Red Cross services to the military stems from stories about the American Red Cross charging troops during the Second World War and Korean War token fees for "comfort items" such as toothpaste, coffee, donuts, and cigarettes and for off-base food and lodging. The fee suggestion had been made in a letter dated March 1942 from the Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson to Norman H. Davis, the chairman of the American Red Cross. The suggestion was that allied soldiers were being charged money so Americans should be charged too so as to "ensure an equitable distribution among all service personnel of Red Cross resources".[41] The Red Cross subsequently adopted the Secretary's suggestion as policy at the time.[42]

In a June 18, 1945, address to Congress, General Dwight D. Eisenhower said of the Red Cross service in WWII: "The Red Cross, with its clubs for recreation, its coffee and doughnuts in the forward areas, its readiness to meet the needs of the well and to help minister to the wounded has often seemed the friendly hand of this nation, reaching across the sea to sustain its fighting men."[43] An account of one WWII American Red Cross Girl is recorded in Destination Unknown by Kathleen Cox; her mother, LeOna Cox, was recruited to Red Cross Service by a fellow teacher at Allegheny College.[44] Another account of an American Red Cross WWII worker is related in letters by Evelyn Merritt Welden, compiled in the book How to Play During a War: A Free Spirit's Life in Letters, by her son, Lynne Whelden.

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Great Lakes Naval Hospital 1966, Jennie and Terrie Frankel perform for wounded soldiers. The frequent visits by the early Doublemint Twins were arranged through the American National Red Cross (see Red Cross letters of thanks to twins, posted on Wikimedia Commons).
File:Great Lakes Naval Hospital - American Red Cross October 24, 1966 Letter of thanks to Jennie and Terrie Frankel for entertaining wounded servicemen.jpg
Great Lakes Naval Hospital - American Red Cross October 24, 1966 Letter of thanks to Jennie and Terrie Frankel for entertaining wounded servicemen.

During the Vietnam War 627 American women served in the American Red Cross Supplemental Recreation Overseas Program. At the invitation of the United States Army the "Donut Dollies" provided morale-boosting games to soldiers. Due to the mobility of the UH-1 Iroquois, Vietnam Donut Dollies were able to visit troops in forward operating positions. The 2008 documentary film A Touch of Home: The Vietnam War's Red Cross Girls tells the story of these women. The American Red Cross also provided services to entertain wounded soldiers at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital during the Vietnam War. Twins Jennie and Terrie Frankel, known for their portrayal of the “Doublemint Twins,” made several visits to the hospital in the late 1960s to perform with their accordions and sing folk songs with their guitar and received letters of thanks from Hospital Field Director, Carolyn F. Norton and Recreation Supervisor, Edna R. Schweitzer.


Johnson & Johnson suit over Red Cross image

The red cross flag.

On August 7, 2007,[45] Johnson & Johnson filed suit against the American Red Cross over its sublicensing of the Red Cross image for the production of first aid kits and similar products, which are alleged to compete with Johnson & Johnson. The suit also asked for the destruction of all currently existing non-Johnson & Johnson Red Cross Emblem bearing products and demands the American Red Cross pay punitive damages and Johnson & Johnson's legal fees.

The Red Cross' position was that it has licensed its name to first aid kit makers in an effort to encourage readiness for disasters, and that the revenues from its products are reinvested in humanitarian work.[46] Johnson & Johnson responded, stating that the Red Cross's commercial ventures were outside the scope of historically well-agreed usage, and were in direct violation of federal statutes.[47]

On May 14, 2008, a federal judge ruled against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in its suit.[48] In June, 2008, the two organizations announced a settlement had been reached in which both parties would continue to use the symbol.[49]

Court ordered consent decree

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took court action against the American Red Cross in response to deficiencies in their tracking and procedures for ensuring the safety of the blood supply. The consent decree outlines some of the violations of federal law that the American Red Cross engaged in before 1993.[50] Fines were imposed in the millions of dollars.

In response to the decree, Red Cross Biomedical Services now has a standardized computer system that maintains the blood donor database; five National Testing Laboratories (NTLs) that test about six million units of blood collected by the Red Cross's 36 blood regions;[51] the Charles Drew Biomedical Institute, which allows for the Red Cross to provide training and other educational resources to Red Cross Blood Services' personnel; a Quality Assurance/Regulatory Affairs Department, which helps to ensure compliance with FDA regulations; and, a centrally managed blood inventory system to ensure the availability of blood and blood components.

In an agreement with the American Red Cross the Consent Decree was amended in 2003 with penalties for specific violations.

The FDA can impose penalties after April 2003 up to the following maximum amounts:

  • $10,000 per event (and $10,000 per day) for any violation of an ARC standard operating procedure (SOP), the law, or consent decree requirement and timeline
  • $50,000 for preventable release of each unit of blood for which FDA determines that there is a reasonable probability that the product may cause serious adverse health consequences or death
    • $5,000 for the release of each unit that may cause temporary problems, up to a maximum of $500,000 per event
  • $50,000 for the improper re-release of each unsuitable blood unit that was returned to ARC inventory
  • $10,000 for each donor inappropriately omitted from the National Donor Deferral Registry, a list of all unsuitable donors

The Food and Drug Administration has continued to apply pressure and fines to the American Red Cross in order to enforce compliance with regulations. The most recent, $1.7 million, in June 2008.[52]

As of Friday, December 4, 2015, the American Red Cross was no longer under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Consent Decree. The Red Cross worked closely with the FDA to develop a more robust, world-class system and was held to the very highest standards across the blood services industry. The systems put in place ultimately resulted in a five-year period of sustained compliance that led to the release from the Consent Decree.[53]

September 11 controversy

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Red Cross, like many charitable organizations, solicited funds and blood donations for Red Cross activities for the victims of the attacks. Dr. Bernadine Healy, the president of the American Red Cross, appeared on telethons urging individuals to give generously.[citation needed] However, according to America's Blood Centers, the non-profit consortium that provides the other 50% of the United States blood supply, no national blood drive was needed, since localized blood drives in the affected areas would be sufficient to meet the demand. The American Red Cross felt that the terrorist attacks were a sign of increased instability and urged people to donate blood, even though it was not needed at that time. In the end, some of the unused blood was destroyed.[54]

Also, the American Red Cross created the Liberty Fund that was ostensibly designed for relief for victims of the terrorist attacks. However, when the fund was closed in October, after exceeding the goals of donations, only 30% of the $547 million received was spent as the standard disaster relief guidelines for meeting victims needs had been supplied to them. Dr. Healy announced that the majority of the remainder of the money would be used to increase blood supply, improve telecommunications, and prepare for terror attacks in other parts of the country.

In February 2002, The New Yorker magazine carried a column saying American Red Cross representatives were visiting upscale apartment buildings in wealthy Manhattan neighborhoods and distributing donated money (up to three months' rent or mortgage payments) to New Yorkers who had been "displaced, traumatized, or merely inconvenienced" by the terrorist attacks, without any regard to whether the recipients were actually in financial need.[55]

Many donors felt that they had donated specifically to the victims of the September 11 attacks and objected to Healy's official plan for the diversion of funds. Survivors complained of the bureaucratic process involved in requesting funds and the slow delivery of the checks to meet immediate needs. Congressional hearings were called and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer investigated the Red Cross. In the end, the American Red Cross appointed former US senator George Mitchell to handle distribution of the funds. Dr. Healy was forced to resign for her role in the situation, and the Red Cross pledged that all funds would go to directly benefit the victims of the September 11 attacks.[56] Healy received a severance payment of $1,569,630.[57]

Blood donation controversy

The American Red Cross has for many years faced criticism from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organizations for prohibiting men who have sex with men from donating blood. This policy is in fact a requirement for all blood collection companies and organizations in the United States, as outlined by the US Food and Drug Administration. Specifically, the FDA classifies "Men who have had sex with another man even one time since 1977... Unsuitable Donors who Are at Increased Risk for HIV".[58] Consequently, the American Red Cross is legally unable to collect blood from men who have sex with men. The organization in 2006, along with the AABB and America’s Blood Centers, petitioned to the FDA to remove the requirement from blood donations, citing better screening technologies.[59][60] Despite the petition, the FDA has yet to reverse its stance on the issue.

Volunteer background and credit check controversy

In 2006, the American Red Cross imposed a new policy requiring mandatory checks of all volunteers' backgrounds, including credit check and "mode of living" investigations. Objections were raised over both the intrusive nature of the checks and the lack of limits on the use of the information gathered.[citation needed]

As a result, many longtime volunteers chose not to continue their association with ARC. Amateur radio operators especially resisted, complaining that volunteers who bring hundreds or thousands of dollars in communications and computer equipment to an event have more to worry about from the ARC than the ARC does from them. Some of these transferred their activity to the Salvation Army and its SATERN disaster radio network.[citation needed]

In response, ARC extended the deadline for compliance, and announced that the credit and "mode of living" checks would not be required. However, the updated application forms have continued to include an authorization for these checks, listing them only as a "consumer investigative report", according to the American Radio Relay League.[61]

Political influence controversy

As president, Elizabeth Dole overruled professional staff and ordered an HIV/AIDS prevention manual to be rewritten to make references to homosexuality, premarital sex and condom use more responsive to conservative critics, according to The Nation, which said that she allowed politics to affect Red Cross policies in many ways.[62]

Hurricane Katrina controversy

In March 2006, investigations of allegations of fraud and theft by volunteers and contractors within the American Red Cross Katrina operations were launched by the Louisiana Attorney-General and the FBI.[63] In response, the American Red Cross increased its internal and external education of the organization's fraud and waste hotline for confidential reporting to a third party agency.[citation needed] The organization also elected to implement a background check policy for all volunteers and staff, starting in 2006.[64]

In April 2006, an unnamed former American Red Cross official leaked reports made by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the British Red Cross. Such reports are typical in a large-scale disaster relief operation involving other national Red Cross societies to solicit their input, but are usually confidential and not released to the general public. These particular reports were particularly critical of American Red Cross operations in Hurricane Katrina affected regions, although the British Red Cross report highly praised the American Red Cross volunteers in their efforts.

Storms controversy (Hurricane Sandy, Isaac, other major storms)

In October 2014, independent public interest news broadcasters NPR and ProPublica published investigative reports on the Red Cross's handling of US East Coast Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, citing internal Red Cross documents and interviews with former Red Cross and current government officials. It criticized the organization's response in failing to meet the basic needs of victims in the immediate aftermath of the storms. It also described "an organization so consumed with public relations that it hindered the charity's ability to provide disaster services."[65][66][67]

See also


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  5. The Federal Charter of the American Red Cross, American Red Cross. Retrieved April 18, 2007
  6. McCormick, K. Todd A Brief History of Logan County, Ohio, Logan County Museum. Retrieved April 18, 2007
  7. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Note: This includes Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. and Accompanying photographs
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  13. The Charities Americans Like Most And Least, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, December 13, 1996
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  15. American Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet, ARC website. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
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  23. A Year of Healing The American Red Cross, August 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2007
  24. Hurricane Season 2005, American Red Cross website, 2006-06-30. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
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  27. Hackett, Alexandra. "Volunteers descend on Central Florida", Retrieved April 18, 2007.
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  33. Minnesota designated counties are found in three places: Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. and Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. and Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
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  43. Destination Unknown by LeOna Cox and Kathleen Cox 2009 ISBN 9781466412484
  44. Book Presentation Webcast by Kathleen Cox on April 26, 2013 at the Pritzker Military Library
  45. J&J (NYSE: JNJ) Sues Red Cross Over Use of Red Cross Emblem
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  47. Johnson & Johnson Press Release. Statement on Civil Complaint Against The American National Red Cross. August 9, 2007.
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  49. Claim Over Red Cross Symbol Is Settled, New York Times, June 18, 2008.
  50. Consent Decree Notification, U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, (2003-04-13). Retrieved on April 18, 2007.
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  53. Red Cross Gets Blood Consent Decree Lifted, The Nonprofit Times website, (2015-12-15). Retrieved on December 22, 2015.
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  57. American Red Cross report, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, May 2003. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
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  63. "Red Cross probed on Katrina fraud", BBC News Online, 2006-03-27. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  64. Background Check Fact Sheet,, July 2006.
  65. NPR: Red Cross 'Diverted Assets' During Storms' Aftermath To Focus On Image
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Further reading

  • Dulles, Foster Rhea. The American Red Cross: A History. New York: Harper and Brothers.
  • Irwin, Julia. Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation's Humanitarian Awakening. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Irwin, Julia F., "Teaching 'Americanism with a World Perspective': The Junior Red Cross in the U.S. Schools from 1917 to the 1920s". History of Education Quarterly 53 (Aug. 2013), 255–79.
  • Jones, Marian Moser. The American Red Cross From Clara Barton to the New Deal. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 2013.
  • Whelden, Lynne Merritt. How to Play During a War: A Free Spirit's Life in Letters. Canton, PA: Lynne Whelden Productions; 2007.

External links