Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, has been awarded the Forrest Church Humanitarian Award by the Heart and Soul Charitable Fund, a program of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City.
The award, named for the late Rev. Dr. Forrest Church, is given to an individual who demonstrates a capacity for moral courage and selflessness while working towards the betterment of the world.
“Dr. Church’s noble efforts on behalf of youth, the homeless and the sick are a moving testimony to the effect one person can have on the lives of many, which I strive for in my own life,” said McGovern. “It’s particularly special for me to accept this award considering the rich history of service that the American Red Cross and All Souls Church share.”
McGovern was presented with the award at a February 21st event in New York City. On its 24th anniversary, Heart and Soul Charitable Fund celebrated the leadership of women, as well as Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross. During the Civil War, Louisa Lee Schuyler, an All Souls parishioner who passionately cared for Union troops and Henry Whitney Bellows, All Souls’ first minister helped to form the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Bellows served as the first president of the Commission whose main function was to stem the tide of disease from ravaging Union camps.
The Commission is considered the forerunner of the Red Cross, which was founded by Clara Barton who was raised in the All Souls Church.
“For me, the Forrest Church Humanitarian Award and the Heart and Soul Charitable Fund represent not only the work of Forrest, but also the passionate and selfless spirit that compelled those women with the U.S. Sanitary Commission over 150 years ago to meet the needs of the wounded and the vulnerable,” said McGovern.
On the wall outside of McGovern’s office at Red Cross National Headquarters hangs a painting that depicts Commission members attending the signing of the first Geneva Convention in 1864, which was called to order by the International Red Cross. Even in one of the darkest periods of our nation’s history, the intertwined legacy of humanitarian service in the face of human suffering is carried forward by leaders from Louisa Lee Schuyler and Clara Barton to today’s leaders - as well as those who have worked tirelessly beside them.
“I would like to accept the Forrest Church Humanitarian Award on behalf of all the American Red Cross volunteers and donors who allow us to fulfill our lifesaving mission,” said McGovern. “They are my heroes. They are the heart of our organization. And they bring hope and help to people during times of critical need.”
The Heart and Soul Charitable Fund is a program out of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City that supports community-based programs that serve New York's marginalized populations through the investment of time, money and compassion.
Prior recipients of the award include Former United States President Bill Clinton; Former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson; the Hon. Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York; and Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of the international health and social justice organization Partners in Health.