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Red Cross Month Provides Deeper Look into Organization’s History

Historic Red Cross Posters
We’re proud to have the support of our hometown volunteers who give our organization a personal touch unique to each community.

With the advent of another Red Cross Month, we pause to reflect on what the American Red Cross means today. What Clara Barton began in 1881 continues to flourish in our communities. Each generation has moved the American Red Cross forward while adhering to its international integrity.

For the past 132 years, the American Red Cross and its chapters in the Finger Lakes Region has been the standard bearer for relief efforts and community service. The Finger Lakes Region holds the honor of being home to the first two chapters created. Today your American Red Cross continues as a beacon of hope and humanitarian relief building on more than a century of experience and dedication to the mission.

Founded in the 19th century, the Red Cross continues to resonate in our communities today. The Red Cross still provides its foundational services, such as helping to support military families; being the pinnacle organization in times of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery; and training the citizenry in life-saving skills such as CPR and first aid.

In the 21st century and beyond, the Red Cross remains vital and relevant.

“With the implications of climate change, large natural disasters are more commonplace,” said Erin D. Caldwell, Regional Communications Director for the Finger Lakes Region of the American Red Cross. “We’re seeing increased frequency and severity of disasters in places that rarely experienced them in years past in upstate New York.” In 2012, the Finger Lakes Region responded to a microburst in Seneca County, tornadoes in Elmira and Caton, damaging winds from a derecho, and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Red Cross volunteers have been there to help since the organization’s inception. Barton founded the first Red Cross chapter in Dansville on August 22, 1881. Six weeks later, with the aid of Susan B. Anthony, Barton set up the second chapter 57 miles north in Rochester. The organization has a history of progressive action on both a local and national level. In 1948, the Greater Rochester Chapter established the first civilian blood collection program in the U.S., three years before the federal government expanded the initiative during the Korean War.

“We are very committed to serving our community in Wayne County,” said Jim Love, Executive Director of the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross. “We are building on our long history here to help provide relevant services to families and individuals today.”

There has been a Red Cross presence in Wayne County since four local women went from knitting items for the British in 1914 to three years later rolling gauze bandages and knitting of pajamas, socks and caps for the American soldiers in World War I. By the end of the war, 17 separate branch offices existed in Wayne County area and the first official county chapter was chartered in 1917.

Much of the initial work involved collecting money for soldiers' families when their government allotment came up short. In tough times, the Wayne County branch provided civilian relief such as finding glasses for children, distributing cod liver oil throughout the schools and making clothes for those less fortunate.

The Red Cross was there to lend a hand of compassion through several high-profile disasters over the past decade, including Hurricane Katrina, the massive tsunami in Indonesia, Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash in Buffalo, the Haiti and Japan earthquakes, and Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.

“The American Red Cross remains as viable an organization today as it was 132 years ago—maybe even more so,” said Caldwell. “We’re proud to have the support of our hometown volunteers who give our organization a personal touch unique to each community.”

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at