Our History


In 1917, 36 years after the founding of the American Red Cross, groups of local citizens established Red Cross chapters in Clearwater, Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa; Charlotte, Manatee and Pasco Counties. These chapters formed Florida’s West Coast Region of the American Red Cross, serving more than 3.5 million people. Also, in 1917, chapters formed across Florida’s Space Coast, Greater Orlando, and Mid-Florida which became the Mid-Florida Region. In 2014, the Mid-Florida Region joined Florida’s West Coast Region to form the current Central Florida Region.

Our region has a long and proud history of providing comfort and relief to those most in need.

  • 1862
    In October 1862 Henry Dunant published "A Memory of Solferino", an account of his experiences organizing care for the wounded after the battle of Solferino of 1859.
  • 1864
    On 22 August 1864, twelve States signed a treaty enshrining the obligation to spare and protect wounded soldiers and the people and equipment involved in their care: the Geneva Convention was born.
  • 1875
    The first field mission by the Red Cross. Starting in 1875, uprisings against the Ottoman Empire spread throughout the Balkans, prompting the ICRC to send its first mission to the field.
  • 1881
    Clara Barton and a circle of her acquaintances founded the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881. Barton first heard of the Swiss-inspired global Red Cross network while visiting Europe following the Civil War. Returning home, she campaigned for an American Red Cross and for ratification of the Geneva Convention protecting the war-injured, which the United States ratified in 1882.
  • 1917
    During World War I the Women’s Club makes bandages and pillows for the Red Cross, providing the impetus for forming a branch of the American Red Cross in Manatee County. Manatee River American Red Cross is chartered on November 3. Chapters are also established in Clearwater, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Charlotte County and Pasco County (headquartered in Dade City). 1917 also marks the birth of Red Cross chapters in Mid-Florida, Florida’s Space Coast, and Greater Orlando.
  • 1928
    600 volunteers assist in relief efforts following a devastating hurricane that causes Lake Okeechobee to overflow, killing 2,000.
  • 1929
    On 27 July 1929 a diplomatic conference adopted the Third Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war in international conflicts.
  • 1930
    The Gulf Beach Lion's Club sponsors a Lifesaving Corps to patrol the Gulf beaches between Pass-A-Grille and the Indian Rocks beaches.
  • 1934
    Manatee Red Cross Lifesaving Corps saves 41 lives at the beach.
  • 1936
    National Red Cross responds to an alarming number of highway fatalities and injuries by beginning Highway Emergency First Aid Stations. The Manatee Chapter operates two of these stations.
  • 1940
    Manatee County Chapter collects funds for refugees from Finland, Belgium and Luxembourg.
  • 1943
    During World War II, the Tampa Bay Chapter boasts the largest Canteen Corps in the state (650 members) and receives the donation of the Chapter’s first mobile canteen truck.
  • 1944
    During an October hurricane, Manatee Red Cross shelters 850 people.
  • 1947
    A major hurricane in September requires the opening of 15 shelters to accommodate 2,000 people in Manatee County.
  • 1949
    On 12 August 1949 the four Geneva Conventions for the protection of victims of war were adopted.
  • 1950
    MacDill AFB donates $30,000 worth of radio equipment, thus placing the Tampa Bay Chapter in the "key station" category for times of national emergency.
  • 1953
    The Manatee County Chapter’s Grey Ladies give 1,778 hours of service at Bay Pines Veterans hospital.
  • 1956
    The Grey Ladies launch a new Service Program for Schools that is then adopted nationwide.
  • 1962
    Floods caused by more than 14” of rain results in millions of dollars of damage to homes in Manatee County. National Red Cross opens a service center in chapter headquarters to assist residents.
  • 1966
    The Manatee County Chapter responds to Hurricane Alma.
  • 1968
    The Manatee County Chapter responds to Hurricane Gladys in October and assists victims of a tornado in November.
  • 1985
    During Hurricane Elena the Manatee County Chapter shelters more than 10,000 people.
  • 1988
    Launch of an HIV/AIDS prevention education program.
  • 1989
    Tampa and St. Petersburg Chapters merge, forming the Sun Coast Chapter.
  • 1993
    Manatee Chapter receives a new emergency response vehicle.
  • 1994
    Clearwater Chapter merges with Tampa/St. Petersburg to form the Tampa Bay Chapter.
  • 1999
    West Pasco Chapter merges with the Tampa Bay Chapter.
  • 2001
    MacDill Air Force Base Red Cross office merges with Tampa Bay Chapter.
  • 2004
    Chapters respond to back-to-back hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jean.
  • 2009
    The Charlotte County Chapter, Manatee County Chapter, Tampa Bay Chapter and Southwest Florida Chapters form Florida’s West Coast Region of the American Red Cross.
  • 2010
    The University of South Florida Red Cross Club is named the club of the year on campus and for the entire American Red Cross. The club is used as a model for the country and the inspiration and the founding members of the National Collegiate Assembly.
  • 2010
    A 7.0 magnitude earthquake strikes Haiti prompting a major response in Tampa Bay. Haitian patients are flown to Tampa International Airport for immediate medical treatment and emergency support while local creole-speaking Red Cross volunteers assist with family connection cases and to fly to Haiti to support medical teams.
  • 2011
    Charlotte County, Manatee County and Florida's Southwest Florida Chapters merged into a new Southwest Florida Chapter serving Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota counties. The Southwest Florida Chapter and Tampa Bay Chapter combined form Florida’s West Coast Region.
  • 2012
    Tropical Storms Debby and Isaac cause extensive flooding and damage prompting a wide scale Red Cross response.
  • 2014
    The Mid-Florida Region and Florida’s West Coast Region merge to form the new Central Florida Region.
  • 2015
    After the launch of the home fire campaign, the Central Florida Region becomes the top region in the country for smoke alarm installations. The home fire campaign has directly saved 26 lives as of 2015 across the country.