Volunteers from the American Red Cross are on the ground in Moore, Okla., where a violent tornado tore through homes, a hospital and two elementary schools killing 24 people and injuring at least 240 more.
The organization, which provides food, shelter, blood and mental health services for disaster survivors, turns 132 today. Its birthday wish? To support and comfort the residents of Moore for “as long as it takes.”
“We’re there to help communities recover and rebuild,” said Red Cross spokeswoman Anne Marie Borrego. “Our hearts go out to those affected by this tragedy, and we want to be there to help today and tomorrow and as long as it takes.”
Founded May 21, 1881, the American Red Cross works closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to more than 70,000 natural and man-made disasters a year in the U.S., according to its website.
“Our members respond to a disaster every eight minutes,” said Borrego, noting that most of the disasters are house fires. “We’re a national organization, but we’re built on local chapters and in communities across the country.”
In its 132 years, the Red Cross has grown and expanded its reach, using the latest technology and social media to connect to people in need.
“In 1881, it was much smaller,” said Red Cross historian Susan Watson, explaining how founder Clara Barton had “a handful” of volunteers collecting money at local gatherings as reports of a disaster landed in newspapers.
“Social media is allowing us to reach much further and get the word out much faster,” Watson said.
The response is faster, too. It took six days to get help to deliver aid after the Johnstown, Pa., flood of 1889, according to Watson.
“In Moore, we’re there now,” she added.
The organization was actually chartered by the United States Congress to “carry on a system of national and international relief in time of peace and apply the same in mitigating the sufferings caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods and other great national calamities, and to devise and carry on measures for preventing the same,” according to its website, working hand-in-hand with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Ninety-one cents of every dollar donated goes towards its humanitarian programs, according to Borrego.
The Oklahoma tornado tragedy hit close to home for her, she said, and affected everyone at the Red Cross.
“My mother’s from Oklahoma and I grew up driving past Moore on the 35, I can’t even count the number of times,” she said. “We’ll be there to help the community with whatever they need.”
The easiest way to help the Red Cross support the people of Moore is to donate money online at RedCross.org or by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999 (the text will automatically donate $10).