The American Red Cross was first chartered in Oregon as the American Red Cross Portland Chapter on February 4, 1917. Other chapters sprouted in in the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon later that year, and the Clark-Skamania chapter formed to serve Southwest Washington.
Since their early days, Oregon's Red Cross chapters have provided swimming lessons and first-aid classes, relief to families displaced by home fires and disasters, and support to military veterans.
Throughout World War I, Red Cross volunteers in Oregon and Southwest Washington made garments, bandages and surgical dressings. A Red Cross canteen at
the Portland Union Depot provided comfort to service personnel traveling through Portland. Meanwhile, Clark-Skamania County volunteers assisted soldiers confined to Fort Vancouver's Barnes Hospital and handled emergency communications between families and soldiers abroad.
Red Cross volunteers later assisted overtaxed health agencies during the influenza epidemic of 1918. The Portland chapter recruited nurses and provided necessary items such as pneumonia jackets and masks. Meanwhile, Southern Oregon volunteers sewed their own face covers to protect the airways of local citizens.
The Southern Oregon Chapter provided an extensive safety net of social services for transient families and war veterans in the 1920s, and during the Great Depression, Portland volunteers made and distributed food and clothing to needy families. In June 1934, the Portland Red Cross was renamed the American Red Cross Multnomah County Chapter.
World War II taxed the Southern Oregon chapter, which helped with Red Cross' European war relief efforts, assisted locally at Camp White and provided canteen services at the Medford airport.
Portland chapter volunteers stepped up production of surgical dressings during the war. They also opened shelters and provided food and clothing to those thousands residents displaced by the disastrous 1948 Vanport flood.
1950s and 60s
In the 1950s, Oregon Red Cross volunteers formed support groups for families separated by the Korean War, sent care packages to soldiers across the ocean, and organized hygiene and safety training.
During the 1960s, volunteers collected paperback books, ditty bags, and athletic equipment for service personnel in Vietnam. The Multnomah County chapter also helped local families and sent audio- taped messages to their loved ones serving overseas.
The Multnomah County Chapter immediately sent two portable generators to the Physicians and Surgeons Hospital when it lost power during the 1962 Columbus Day Storm. The Red Cross provided more than 1,000 families with financial assistance, auxiliary power or emergency transportation following the storm, which left 27 people dead and 100 injured in Oregon and Southwestern Washington. The storm also destroyed all of the Clark-Skamania Chapter's historical records.
The Multnomah County Chapter was renamed the Oregon Trail Chapter in 1961 and began serving residents across Oregon's northern border, from the Pacific Ocean to Idaho.
1970s and 80s
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) was introduced in the early 1970s, and thousands of Oregonians signed up for Red Cross classes to learn the new lifesaving technique.
In 1980, Mother Nature gave a wakeup call in the form of the massive eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Red Cross volunteers provided temporary shelter to displaced residents, distributed masks, and provided information for concerned family members around the world.
September 11, 2001 marked the beginning of months of intense work for the American Red Cross. Volunteers from throughout the state prepared to fly east to support victims and relief workers as donors waited for hours to give blood. Oregon sent more Red Cross volunteers per capita in response to the Sept. 11 attacks than any other state in the nation.
In the spirit of Oregon ingenuity, the Oregon Trail Chapter developed the "Prepare Oregon" campaign encouraging Oregonians to build a disaster supply kit, make a family emergency plan, get trained in first aid, and schedule regular blood donations. In 2003, the American Red Cross adopted the local campaign and launched a similar "Together We Prepare" program throughout the country.
In 2004, the Clark County Chapter and the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Pacific Chapter decided to merge to consolidate expenses and services resulting in a stronger regional Red Cross. Therefore, to better reflect the larger region served, the name was changed to Southwest Washington Region.
In 2007, Oregon's six Red Cross chapters agreed to join a one Oregon region to leverage their strengths and better serve Oregonians.
In 2013, the Southwest Washington Region of the American Red Cross consolidated with the Oregon Region, thus expanding the Red Cross's reach throughout the state of Oregon and Southwest Washington. To celebrate this expansion, the region adopted the name Cascades Region. A year later, a consolidation of American Red Cross chapters and regions across the country brought a restructuring to the Cascades Region. This national reorganization helped to bring together resources from around the region to be delivered from four chapter locations: Northwest Oregon (based in Portland and considered the regional office), Southwest Oregon (based in Eugene), Central and Eastern Oregon (based in Bend) and Southwest Washington (based in Vancouver, Wash.)
We count on the generosity of our donors and the commitment of our volunteers to ensure our history continues well into the future.