Our History

In 1918, our first disaster relief effort required $100 to assist victims of a large fire. In 1921, the chapter budget was $5,508. The chapter’s name changed from Chapter of Charlotte to Mecklenburg County Chapter in 1921 and, in 1923, we bought our first Ford. In 1925, $1,000 was raised for disaster relief.

The chapter’s first Annual Meeting was held in 1927. In 1928, we purchased a car for $125 to transport nurses and 125 volunteers made 568 garments. A private phone was installed in the chapter in 1929. In 1932, the chapter received an allocation of cotton from the government from which it made clothing for 5,000 families. The chapter’s executive secretary was given $50 to attend the 1935 National Convention in Washington D.C.

In 1936, $1,258 from the canteen fund was given to the chapter to help veterans. Two branch chapters, Matthews and Huntersville, were established in 1937. Four blood transfusions were given in March 1940 and in 1942, the chapter started the Blood Plasma Program. Our chapter was called upon to assist with Pearl Harbor and by January 1942, $94,000 was raised. During May 1944, $290,019.92 was raised for the War Fund Drive.

Our Board of Directors adopted the Blood Donor Program in 1947. By December 14, 1948 the Blood Program had its first emergency . . . not enough blood! Blood donor pins came into use in 1949. 1951 newspaper headlines read, “American Red Cross makes Decision to Provide Gamma Globulin to Help Fight Polio.” The chapter joined the United Fund in 1953 and that same year, our blood quota was 39,000 pints. The cost of the Blood Center was $4.03 per unit. In 1954, disaster relief efforts for Hurricane Hazel cost $750,000 and helped 1,500 families.

In 1957, the hospital participation fee increased from $1.75 to $2.00 per pint of blood. The chapter purchased a disaster trailer in 1958. In 1959, 10,039 pints of blood were donated and 5,227 certificates were awarded for First Aid/Water Safety course completion. In 1964, the Red Cross began using plastic bags in place of glass bottles for blood collection. Red Cross Youth sent 200 Friendship boxes to Vietnam.

In 1967, the Board approved an amendment to the bylaws authorizing two Red Cross youth to serve as Board members. Chapters covering eight counties and towns merged to provide better services and were renamed the Greater Carolinas Chapter. New strides in the Blood Program included freezing packed cells and plasma. In 1970, the premier WBTV Blood Give-In brought in 832 donors. Charlotte’s slogan “You’ve Come A Long Way Baby – Don’t Stop Now” won national recognition. Testing for Hepatitis B was implemented. By 1972 our chapter was the fifth largest in the United States.

In July 1978, the three-millionth donor contributed blood. By 1982, more than 20,000 people pledged to give blood four times a year. The chapter began testing all blood donations for the HIV antibody in 1984 and AIDS education became a top priority in 1985. Charlotteans contributed $129,000 for African Famine relief. In 1985, a $250,000 grant to install blood typing equipment was awarded.

The region acquired its first mobile blood unit, the “Bloodhound” in 1986. That same year, we began participating in the National Bone Marrow Registry. In 1988, an Explorer’s Post was started for youth volunteers interested in pursuing a career in Health and Emergency Services. By 1990, medical transportation increased 40% due to the addition of two vehicles. One in six residents of Mecklenburg County received 82,000 services in 1990. More than 700 life-saving blood donors were processed at the fixed site on the Sunday following the USAir crash in July of 1994. The chapter responded to the needs of more than 300 families following the August 1995 flooding in East Charlotte. Just two years later, in July 1997, we responded to another flash flood in the same neighborhood, affecting about the same number of people.

In January 1999 a USA Today front-page article confirmed what the Carolinas Blood Services Region and the Greater Carolinas Chapter had known for several days – we were experiencing a severe blood shortage. The community responded to our plea for help, packing the Park Road Donation Center and forcing us to set up an overflow bloodmobile in the Board Room. This shortage also impacted our Winter Blood Give-In with WBTV, WBT and The Link, encouraging nearly 1,000 people to give blood that evening! As the millennium approached and concerns about the “Y2K” bug escalated, we launched a local Y2K preparedness brochure in July 1999 to help the local public prepare for any disruptions. In the fall of 1999, the focus on Y2K turned to more pressing concerns about a very active hurricane season. In mid-September, a particularly large and powerful hurricane, dubbed “Floyd,” threatened much of the East Coast. With memories of Hurricane Hugo looming, GCC opened four shelters in Charlotte and Statesville to prepare for the worst and offer safe haven to the public. As it became clear that Hurricane Floyd would not affect the Charlotte area, news trickled in about the flooding this hurricane had caused in many areas of eastern NC. Days after the hurricane hit, swollen rivers poured into Eastern NC towns causing massive devastation and heartache. As GCC sent disaster volunteers to help with mass feeding, sheltering, family service centers, damage assessment and crisis counseling, the chapter geared up to raise money to help pay for the disaster relief efforts. Thanks to a generous public and an innovative financial development team, GCC raised more than $2.2 million. Interest in Hurricane Floyd’s impact continued through the winter holidays, and the winter season again dealt a blow to the blood supply. Bad weather and a flu epidemic contributed to another January blood shortage. Icy weather in January also required GCC to open a cold weather shelter at Providence High School and assist the Union County Chapter with feeding operations in Monroe neighborhoods where people had been shut in for days at a time. Spring 2000 approached and as GCC continued its local services, our attention turned to plans for hosting the 2001 National Red Cross Convention in Charlotte.

The National Red Cross Convention, May 18-20, provided a prime opportunity for GCC to raise local public awareness of the American Red Cross. To this end, we dressed the Queen Charlotte statue at Charlotte-Douglas Airport as Clara Barton, placed 220 light pole banners on Trade and Tryon Streets as well as other signage, and lit the uptown Charlotte buildings with the Red Cross symbol. Well-known speakers like Gen. Henry Shelton and Madame Jihan Sadat also garnered media attention. Much of the event’s success is due to the inspired leadership of Elaine Lyerly, the 2001 National Convention Chair. Four months later, on Sept. 11, our chapter along with the rest of our country, witnessed the tragic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the downing of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. As part of the unprecedented Red Cross response to this disaster, the chapter sent 30 local volunteers over four months’ time to assist with duties ranging from crisis counseling to family assistance. The chapter experienced an overwhelming outpouring from our local community, receiving over $5 million in donations to support the Sept. 11 disaster response.

After building our capacity in disaster response in FY ’02, it was tested time and time again in FY ’03. Whether it was providing shelter to thousands during the ice storm or lending a shoulder to cry on to those who lost loved ones in the crash of US Airways flight 5481, the Red Cross was there making an impact in the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals in our community. The Red Cross was also there for thousands of local military personnel and their families as local reserve units were deployed overseas. Community partnerships with Harris Teeter Grocery Stores, NBC6, ClearChannel and Autobell helped thousands of service men and women stay connected with loved ones back here at home through Operation Phone Home. The generosity of our community also helped us collect quality of life items such as books, lip balm, sun tan lotion, candy, and more to send to troops overseas through Sacks ‘O Smiles. During 2005, our focus remained on making our community a safer place to live. Our volunteers and staff provided disaster preparedness information to 17,451 more individuals. Nearly 50,000 units of blood were collected in Mecklenburg and Iredell Counties last year. In June, 2005, we opened the Greater Carolinas Chapter Education and Disaster Operations Center (EDOC) at 2401 Park Road. Following that opening America witnessed one of the most powerful hurricane seasons and the residents of our area responded with financial contributions and donations of blood and time. In September, the GCC operated a 16-day shelter for Hurricane Katrina evacuees from Louisiana