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