By Matthew Buttner, American Red Cross volunteer
The American Red Cross holds the values of diversity and inclusion very dear to the organization. With so many different cultures and communities that the Red Cross serves, it’s important to ensure that no one feels excluded from their extensive support network. “We want people to know that the Red Cross is here for everybody, and everyone is welcome,” says Becky Firey, Executive Director of the Red Cross of Orange County.
So, on June 24, 2023, local Red Cross members of the Southern California Region demonstrated support for the LGBTQ+ community by actively participating in Santa Ana’s “Brilliant Resilience” Pride Parade. Being one of the largest pride parades in Southern California, the Red Cross knew it was the perfect opportunity to affirm its values of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The idea to participate was originally proposed last year by the Red Cross Southern California Region’s Pride Resource Group, who wanted to find ways to express their support for the LGBTQ+ community. By reaching out to LGBTQ+ members and parade organizers, the Red Cross was able to coordinate a spot in the parade, starting an annual tradition. This year’s parade set a record for number of organizations participating, and the Red Cross saw their attendance rate grow as well.
The Red Cross participating in activities such as the pride parade helps the organization’s outreach to community members and helps connect resources and services. Michael Gelormino, Board Member and Mission Impact Committee Co-Chairman, says, “We want to show that the Red Cross is open to all when it comes to helping others.” Coming out to these events is important so that communities such as the LGBTQ+ community don't get left out of Red Cross services, which are beneficiary to whom all it serves.
This event allowed many Red Cross members who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community to express themselves. Bryan Solis, a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, comments that, “I’m here because I want to express my authentic self with the Red Cross, and I want to make sure that my life and community are represented.”
Members who were allies of the LGBTQ+ community also joined in with the parade to show their solidarity. Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteer Jennifer Yarra says that “Even though I’m not a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I have family members who are, and I want to show that love is love and we should accept people for who they are.”
This event also helped the Red Cross timely address their stance on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ community members in Red Cross services, along with addressing upcoming changes within Red Cross Biomedical Services. On May 11, 2023, the FDA issued final guidance regarding an individual donor assessment for all blood donors regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The Red Cross celebrates the elimination of blood donation policies that are based on sexual orientation and is committed to achieving an inclusive blood donation process that treats all potential donors with equality and respect. The Red Cross is planning to implement FDA’s new final guidance on August 7, 2023. The Red Cross is currently working on changes to the regulated processes that will allow those who were previously ineligible to give in the future, in alignment with the new donor criteria.
“The Red Cross is compassionate. We’re the organization that’s here for everybody,” Bryan concludes. “No matter who you are, you are welcomed by the Red Cross to be under one mission: being the organization that helps others.”
To learn more about the Red Cross and its mission and vision for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, click here.