Our Story - The Later Years and Today's View Of The Minnesota Red Cross

Learn More About The Minnesota Red Cross Centennial

Learn More About The History of the Minnesota Red Cross - Early Years

Learn More About The History of the Minnesota Red Cross - Middle Years
Red Cross of Minnesota - History

Red Cross “Donut Dolly” Margi Ness, from Hinckley, plays a card game with Marines at Freedom Hill, Da Nang, South Vietnam, August 1970. To Margi's right is Sgt. James G. Binkley of Albany, Minnesota. Photo by John E. Hendrickson and the American Red Cross

VIETNAM WAR, 1965-72: Red Cross services for armed forces go up by 25 percent in one 90-day period. Volunteers make layettes for Vietnamese refugees and care packages for American servicemen. During the war, the Red Cross strengthens its Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas (SRAO) program, that started in Korea in 1965, and sends women to Vietnam to operate recreation programs. Nicknamed “Donut Dollies,” the women, who are mostly young college graduates, provide recreation

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

CPR training, Minnesota, ca. 1960s; University of Minnesota

1967: The first American Red Cross “Strike Force” or “Disaster Action Team” is created at Blue Earth Red Cross. The Disaster Action Teams provide basic, necessary services, such as damage surveys, food, shelter, clothing, medical and nursing, family services, transportation, and communication. The model quickly expands. Local chapters continue to support health and safety training, such as instruction in swimming, first aid, and baby-sitting. Others Red Cross services offered are eye and ear testing for preschoolers and support for runaway teenagers.

JULY 1968: Emergency Social Service opens with two caseworkers and an after-hours call line. The caseworkers support suicide prevention, teenage runaways, domestic problems, emergency food and lodging, child protection, and emergency medical care. Within months, Red Cross caseworkers receive 10 to 15 calls each day.

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

Military care package preparation, Worthington, 1965; Murray Red Cross

1970-71: Blue Earth Red Cross handles 333 cases for Military Families Group. The group is comprised of service members’ wives and mothers who meet to share concerns about their military member.

1972: Minnesota Red Cross chapters help with “Project Find,” a nation-wide effort to find elderly people who qualify for food benefits. Social security recipients receive notices to contact local Red Cross if they believe they’re eligible for food stamps. More than 1,600 elderly make queries. Local Red Cross caseworkers determine that 50 percent are eligible for food assistance they’re not receiving.

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

Red Cross nurses with blood, Minnesota, ca. 1960s; Minnesota Historical Society

1973: The St. Paul Regional Blood Center gets a special machine tests for hepatitis. The machine’s arrival coincides with a federal government announcement of an all-voluntary, national blood donation program.

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

Red Cross disaster closet, Minnesota, ca. 1970s; University of Minnesota

MARCH 1973: Minneapolis Red Cross is first in nation to begin “Disaster Recovery Program.” Volunteers offer periodic checks that show people how to restore fire and smoke damaged items.

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

IDS Memorial Quilt at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, 1988; University of Minnesota

1980s: The Red Cross continues responding to changing public health needs. The HIV and AIDS crisis requires an update of blood services with an increase in testing and tracking of blood. In addition, the Red Cross begins offering health and safety education about HIV and AIDS, and organizing walks and other efforts that raise awareness about the disease. The Red Cross responds to multiple local disasters, including a tornado outbreak in 1981, a blizzard in 1984, and a superstorm in 1987.

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

Red Cross food delivery in flood-affected neighborhoods, Grand Forks, ND, 1997; Wikimedia Commons

1990s: The Minnesota Red Cross continues to offer its core services of blood and platelet donation, health and safety training, emergency communications for American military members, reconnection messages for international families separated by war or disaster, and emergency disaster preparedness, relief and recovery. The local Red Cross supports the national relief operation for Red River flooding in 1997 and the St. Peter Tornado outbreak in 1998.

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

I-35W Mississippi River Bridge collapse, Minneapolis, 2007; American Red Cross

2000s: The Red Cross responds to multiple tornado, flooding and blizzard disasters, as well as the 2007 I-35W Mississippi River Bridge Collapse. The local Red Cross also helps host victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and sends volunteers to support relief efforts for Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Local fundraising efforts support relief operations following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and the 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami.

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

Phil Hansen and homeowner Bea, Home Fire Campaign, St. Cloud, 2016; American Red Cross

2010s: Minnesota Red Cross joins the national Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, a free smoke alarm installation and fire prevention education program. Established in 2014, the campaign aims to reduce annual home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. By 2017, the Red Cross volunteers and partners install more than 6,600 smoke alarms in 186 communities across Minnesota.

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

Red Cross volunteer Vonnie Thomas consoles Linda Cook after a home fire in Wisconsin, 2012; photograph by Lynette Nyman and the American Red Cross

2015: Marking more than a century of Red Cross nursing service, Vonnie Thomas, Red Cross volunteer nurse for more than 65 years, receives the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest honor from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The medal recognizes exceptional courage and devotion to victims of armed conflict or natural disaster. It also recognizes exemplary service or a pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education.

Red Cross of Minnesota - History

Dun Bui (right) and her husband celebrate 100 years of Minnesota Red Cross at the St. Paul Winter Carnival, January 28, 2017; American Red Cross

JANUARY 2017: Minnesota Red Cross kicks-off “A Century of Service,” year-long celebration at regional headquarters in Minneapolis. Kick-off events include a historical dress-up booth and a St. Paul Winter Carnival parade walk.

Archival sources and site production credits include: American National Red Cross, American Red Cross archives in Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Mankato and Rochester, Austin Daily Herald, Bluestem Heritage Group, Carlton County Historical Society, Carrie Carlson-Guest, Clara Barton, David Therkelsen, Echo Press, Faribault Daily News, Foster Rhea Dulles, Hennepin County Historical Society, Henry Davison, June Dahl, Leslea Teague, Library of Congress, Los Angeles Times, Lynette Nyman, Mankato Free Press, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota Public Radio, National Park Service Clara Barton National Historic Site, Ramsey County Historical Society, St. Cloud Democrat, Star Tribune, University of Minnesota Social Welfare Archives, University of Minnesota Duluth Archives, Washington Post, and Wikimedia Commons.