Red Cross marks 95 years in Callaway County

I’ve only been working with the Red Cross for a short time, but I’ve come to learn that the people of Callaway County are very passionate about their own and about the Red Cross.

America’s entry into World War I motivated a concerned group of Callawegians to organize the Callaway County Chapter of the American Red Cross in 1917.

“Red Cross volunteers in Callaway County continue to exhibit that same concern for their fellow man,” said Clayton Kennedy, the community market manager for the Fulton Branch office of the Heart of Missouri Chapter. “I’ve only been working with the Red Cross for a short time, but I’ve come to learn that the people of Callaway County are very passionate about their own and about the Red Cross."

“That passion is the driving force behind what makes the Red Cross the successful organization it is in Callaway County.”

According to information in the chapter archives dated Sept. 26, 1984, a citizen committee organized the Callaway Chapter on July 20, 1917. The chapter received its official charter on August 29, 1917, from the Missouri State Division. Chapter headquarters were in Fulton with 17 branches in the county.

“We are proud to continue the tradition of service started in 1917 by those forward thinking individuals,” said Dave Griffith, executive director of the chapter, which serves 20 other Mid-Missouri counties. “It goes without saying that many things have changed in the past 95 years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication to service exhibited by Callawegians who volunteer for the Red Cross.”

During the Callaway Chapter’s formative years, most of their efforts were in providing supplies and raising funds to support soldiers in World War I. The Callaway Chapter also helped soldiers receive vocational training.

”It is fitting that the Red Cross in Callaway County was created in support of our troops,” Griffith said. “The American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton in service to the military during the Civil War.”

The chapter turned its efforts homeward after the end of the World War I. Volunteers helped veterans obtain their bonuses, assisted transients and provided disaster relief to those impacted by fires, floods and storms.

In the late 1930s, the chapter sent a member to an aquatic school and sponsored an eye clinic. The chapter partnered with local schools in 1938 to sponsor the first junior Red Cross organization.

Most chapter activities in the 1940s focused on programs to support World War II. Volunteers spent the next 40 years expanding and maintaining Red Cross programs.

Thousands of children learned to swim through chapter aquatic programs and thousands learned life-saving skills though classes teaching first aid, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and the use of an AED (automated external defibrillator).

Through the years the Callaway Chapter’s name and location has changed.

In recent years, the chapter has been housed in the Ovid Bell Press building, the Fulton State Hospital’s Auxiliary Services Building and on Sycamore Street. The chapter office currently is on the third floor of the Palace Building in the middle of historic downtown Fulton.

Red Cross Disaster Action Team members in Callaway County remain at the ready to respond every day of the year and any hour.

Callaway volunteers also give their time to deploy to national disasters. National deployments are scheduled for at least two weeks and local volunteers have provided their expertise after events such as the Joplin tornado and Superstorm Sandy.

Service to the Armed Forces, which provides around-the-clock emergency communications for military members and their families, remains a strong program in Callaway Count. The Red Cross also offers international services in times of crisis in a foreign country.

The blood services division also hosts numerous blood drives in the county.

“If you ask people what they know about the Red Cross, many will talk first about our blood drives, since they’re so visible,” Kennedy said. “But we of course do so much more than that with our disaster services and health and safety classes. It is our volunteers here in Callaway County that make it possible for the Red Cross to offer all that it does.”

About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 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 redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.