President Proclaims March as American Red Cross Month
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 5, 1998 President Clinton has proclaimed March as American Red Cross Month. He urged Americans to support Red Cross chapters nationwide and challenged them to get involved in advancing the organization's humanitarian work.
March has been Red Cross Month since President Franklin D. Roosevelt first proclaimed it in 1943. At that time, the Red Cross was heavily involved in providing services, blood and comfort to Americans fighting in World War II.
Clinton said few Americans are untouched by the work of the Red Cross, including service members and their families. In 1997, the Red Cross helped 558,659 military families with such crisis and humanitarian needs as emergency communications relating to death, critical illness, birth of a child, and emergency financial assistance and counseling, said Red Cross spokesman Christopher Thomas.
Last year, eight Red Cross staffers supporting Operation Joint Guard provided emergency assistance to 7,287 families of service members stationed in Bosnia, Hungary and Croatia, Thomas said. Seven Red Cross staff members are currently assisting U.S. troops in Kuwait.
The Red Cross also provided 18,301 military families with $8.7 million in emergency financial assistance; another 6,106 military families received $4.4 million on behalf of the military aid societies.
In 1997, more than 44,100 Red Cross volunteers gave more than 3 million hours of service to benefit military families.
The Red Cross also collects, tests and distributes 6 million units of donated blood each year, nearly half the nation's supply, Clinton said. Thomas said more than 85,000 service members contributed to the nation's emergency blood supply by donating blood to the Red Cross.
"Since our earliest days as a nation, we have been able to bear the heartbreak of family tragedy, personal hardship or natural disaster because of the help of caring friends and neighbors," Clinton said. "For 117 years, the American Red Cross has been the staunchest of friends and neighbors to millions of people both here at home and around the world, adding its own vital contributions to our history of service."
He said, in addition to helping more than 65,000 victims of disasters each year ranging from hurricanes and tornadoes to a single-family house fire, Red Cross members also "work on the front lines of armed conflicts and disasters across the globe to relieve suffering and restore human dignity and self-sufficiency."
Thomas noted that nearly 275,000 service members and their families participated in Red Cross health and safety courses last year.
Clinton said the Red Cross is a powerful symbol that transcends language and conveys a universally understood message of hope. "This symbol draws its strength from the dedication of the more than 1.3 million volunteers who help disaster victims, assist at blood drives, teach health classes and respond to urgent community needs," the president said.
"I encourage all Americans to support their efforts -- whether by giving blood, donating funds to help disaster victims or becoming Red Cross volunteers themselves," Clinton said. "In doing so, we will ensure that the American Red Cross will continue its tradition of compassionate service in the 21st century and beyond."