Historical Timeline

For the past 100 years, the American Red Cross Cascades Region has had a strong presence in Oregon and Southwest Washington, helping people anytime and anywhere. Since the establishment of our first regional chapter in 1917, the Red Cross has helped millions of people affected by disasters including home fires, floods, wildfires and other emergencies. From health and safety classes to national deployment; from lifesaving blood collection and support of military members, their families and veterans, the Red Cross is woven into the fabric of our community.


Two Red Cross nurses and a driver pose with a horse-drawn Red Cross ambulance.

On March 15, the American Red Cross becomes chartered in Oregon as the American Red Cross Portland Chapter. Community members, join together to assist during and after World War I. Later in the year, other chapters are formed in the Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon and Clark-Skamania counties in Southwest Washington. In addition to aiding in the war effort, some of the first services offered by are swimming lessons, first-aid classes, relief to families displaced by disasters and support to military veterans.


Red Cross volunteers make influenza masks for servicemen and civilians during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.

Red Cross volunteers assist overtaxed health agencies during the local influenza epidemic. The Portland Chapter recruits over 100 nurses and nursing aides, and provides necessary items such as pneumonia jackets and masks to areas in and around Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.

  • 1919
    The Red Cross shop opens as part of a larger conservation movement that began in the early 20th century. The shop sells home and personal items that have been collected, discarded or donated by local individuals. Historical records indicate that the Portland Red Cross shop is the first of its kind in the nation.
  • 1934
    The Multnomah County Chapter of the American Red Cross is formed.


Red Cross tent headquarters on the waterfront in Bandon, Oregon with a meal schedule sign. Courtesy of Bandon Historical Society Museum.

A sweeping fire consumes the coastal town of Bandon, Oregon. Ten people perish and all but 16 of the town’s 500 buildings are destroyed as a result of the fire. The Red Cross distributes meals and sets up a tent city on Bandon’s waterfront to shelter residents affected by the fire.


A gray lady visits a veteran at his bedside at the local veterans hospital.

The Red Cross Hospital Recreation Committee, also known as the “Gray Ladies” due to the color of their uniforms, begin to offer their services, such as a library cart, letter writing and entertainment, to the patients of the local veterans hospital. The Gray Ladies are active in Red Cross chapters across the


Members of the Portland Red Cross Motor Corps, which consists of several female volunteers’ personal vehicles, as well as Red Cross vehicles.

The Red Cross Motor Corps, made up of a fleet of 19 female volunteers’ personal vehicles, is established in Portland. The Motor Corps transports veterans and blood to hospitals and improves efficiency and the ability of the Red Cross to mobilize following a disaster and expand its services.


A Red Cross volunteer serves coffee to servicemen during World War II.

During World War II, the Red Cross sets up canteen services in various locations throughout Oregon, a service that was originally offered during World War I. Volunteers serve workers and servicemen by providing them with basic comforts, such as hot coffee and warm food, as well as special meal preparations at Thanksgiving and Christmas.


The Vanport Junior Red Cross Corps assembles comfort kits to be sent to members of the U.S. military.

The Vanport Junior Red Cross Corps assembles comfort kits to be sent to members of the U.S. military. The Junior Red Cross program was initiated in 1917, the same year that the original Portland Red Cross Chapter was established. Other services provided by these youth included knitting scarves, rolling bandages and organizing food and clothing drives for residents who were affected by various local disasters.


A woman is overjoyed as she is reunited with her child by a Red Cross worker following the Vanport Flood. The two were separated during the flooding.

Shelters are opened and food and clothing are provided to over 18,000 residents displaced by the devastating Vanport Flood. Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are recruited to help run the shelters and distribute relief supplies, including over 13,000 meals daily, to the individuals and families affected by the disaster.


A Red Cross nurse and volunteers stand outside the newly established Northwest Blood Services Region in Southwest Portland.

The Red Cross Pacific Northwest Blood Services Region is established. Previously, during World War I and World War II, Red Cross blood collection focused on providing soldiers and veterans with blood. The new blood services region collects lifesaving blood for civilians, as well as servicemen in need.

  • 1950s
    The Red Cross forms support groups for the families of those serving in the Korean War effort. Care packages are created and sent overseas to soldiers and hygiene and safety training courses are offered.
  • 1959
    A building fire in downtown Roseburg ignites a truck carrying dynamite and ammonium nitrate, causing an explosion that levels eight city blocks and leaves a 50-foot-wide crater in the ground. The Red Cross responds by providing first aid services and opening a canteen and disaster station at the local armory building.


A chapter newsletter announcing the formation of the Oregon Trail Chapter of the Red Cross.

The Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter is formed when Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Red Cross chapters merge. This is done at the recommendation of the National Red Cross in an effort to provide more uniform service in areas where smaller chapters do not have the capacity to operate on the same scale as larger chapters.

  • 1962
    The Columbus Day Windstorm claims 27 lives and injures more than 100 people in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The Red Cross provides more than 1,000 families with financial assistance, auxiliary power and emergency transportation and sends two portable generators to the Physicians and Surgeons Hospital after it loses power during the storm.
  • 1965
    Yamhill and Columbia counties (Northwest Oregon) join the Oregon Trail Chapter.


An Oregon mother and her children record an audio message to send to their father who is deployed in Vietnam. This is a service coordinated by the Red Cross, called Voices from Home.

In response to the Vietnam War, Red Cross volunteers collect books and athletic equipment to ship to the servicemen overseas. The chapter also helps local families create audio-taped messages to send to their loved ones serving in the war.


Mt. St. Helens erupts on May 18, 1980.

Mt. St. Helens in Southern Washington erupts, killing 57 people and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes. The Red Cross assists displaced families and individuals by opening shelters, distributing masks, and helping connect those affected to family members around the world.


Red Cross workers hand out hot meals from an emergency response vehicle deployed to assist those affected by the Willamette River floods of 1996.

The Willamette River crests at 28.6 feet (about 10.6 feet above flood stage), causing floods and landslides that displace more than 6,000 residents in cities across Oregon. The Red Cross responds by recruiting 1,600 volunteers to assist by opening more than 50 shelters, providing over 100,000 meals, helping as caseworkers and distributing comfort kits. A hotline is created to offer assistance and referrals to thousands of callers.


A photo taken by local Red Cross volunteer Bud Crick, who was helping on the ground in New York following September 11.

Terrorist attacks on 9/11 in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania result in an overwhelming response and mobilization of Red Cross volunteers and staff to help. More than 70 Oregon volunteers deploy to the east coast to assist victims and relief workers after the attacks – more volunteers per capita in response to this disaster than any other state in the nation. Locally, people waited in line for hours to donate blood.


The Houston Astrodome is converted into a massive Red Cross shelter ready to receive thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive and costly natural disaster to hit the U.S., makes landfall on the Gulf Coast, causing historic flooding and storms across several states in the southern region of the country. The Red Cross Cascades Region deploys more than 300 volunteers from Oregon and Southwest Washington to provide disaster relief services to those affected by the storm. More than 1,500 volunteers are trained in Oregon as a result of this massive natural disaster.


Red Cross workers distribute Emergency Shelter packages to residents in Haiti following the historic earthquake that shook the island in 2010.

In response to the historic earthquake that shook Haiti, the Red Cross provides lifesaving aid by providing food, water, medical care, emergency shelter, cash grants and other essentials to the millions of residents affected by this disaster. Locally, the Red Cross sets up a phone bank to receive calls from individuals who are interested in helping those affected and participates in a telethon organized by the local CBS affiliate.


A Red Cross worker comforts a New Jersey resident following the devastation and destruction brought about by Hurricane Sandy, which caused particularly severe damage in New York and New Jersey, although it ultimately affected 24 states in the U.S.

Hurricane Sandy makes landfall on the eastern coast of the U.S., claiming more than 200 lives and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents. The Red Cross Cascades Region responds by deploying 120 staff and volunteers to assist by staffing shelters and distributing meals, cleanup kits and comfort kits to those affected.

  • 2013
    Red Cross chapters in Southwest Washington and Oregon combine to form the Red Cross Cascades Region.


A Red Cross worker comforts a resident whose home was destroyed by Western Wildfires.

August and September – Western Wildfires break out across Oregon and Washington. The Red Cross opens 12 shelters and assists more than 1,100 residents who are evacuated as a result of this disaster.

October 1 – A single gunman shoots and kills nine people and injures seven others at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Red Cross responders assist with support for victims, their families and first responders and mental health support for the community.

December – A month-long series of winter storms that includes record rainfall, landslides, sinkholes, snowstorms, a tornado and extensive power outages throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington results in the largest Red Cross response in the region in nearly a decade. Twenty-one counties are affected and 224 Red Cross volunteers from across the country respond by opening 11 shelters over the course of two weeks.


The logo for the Red Cross Cascades Region Prepare Out Loud earthquake preparedness initiative.

June – The Red Cross launches Prepare Out Loud, an earthquake preparedness initiative focused on building a culture of preparedness and educate the public on the importance of being ready for a 9.0 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and disasters of all kinds.

August – Louisiana experiences historic flooding following 20 inches of rain, which kills 13 people. The Red Cross Cascades Region deploys 50 volunteers to staff shelters, provides meals, distributes relief supplies and offers emotional support to over 10,000 people affected by the floods.

October – Hurricane Matthew makes landfall on the southeastern coast of the U.S., causing historic flooding that affects 5 states and displaces tens of thousands of residents in that region. The Red Cross Cascades Region responds by deploying over 40 staff and volunteers to assist with sheltering, providing meals and distributing relief supplies to those affected by this storm.

  • 2017

    The Red Cross Cascades Region celebrates its centennial with a year-long celebration of local services in Oregon and Southwest Washington, including a Veterans Day Celebration, a large-scale smoke alarm installation event, a recognition of local heroes and a centennial blood drive.

    Be a part of our celebration! Support the work being done in our community every day by volunteering (email volunteer.cascades@redcross.org) or making a financial gift (visit redcross.org/donate).