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March is American Red Cross Month

Clara Barton was a humanitarian and a heroine. Clarissa Harlowe Barton, known as Clara, is one of the most honored women in American history. Clara, did you know your compassion in action would span a century and beyond? Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881, at age 59, and led it for the next 23 years.

But, what would Clara Barton say and do about the modern-day Red Cross scandal allegations if she were alive today?

Clara’s Life

Read the following excerpt from the Red Cross website:

Barton was working in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. when the Civil War began. Like many women, she helped collect bandages and other much-needed supplies, but she soon realized that she could best support the troops by going in person to the battlefields. Throughout many major battles of the war, she nursed, comforted and cooked for the wounded, earning the nickname the “Angel of the Battlefield.”

When her service to the Union soldiers was complete, Barton traveled to Europe. There, she became aware of the Geneva, Switzerland-based Red Cross, which called for international agreements to protect the sick and wounded during wartime and for the formation of national societies to give aid voluntarily on a neutral basis.

Upon her return home, Barton was determined that the United States should participate in the global Red Cross network. Working with influential friends and contacts such as Frederick Douglass, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881. Barton served as president of the organization until 1904, when she resigned at age 83.

Clara Barton died on April 12, 1912, at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland. Her legacy to the nation—service to humanity—is reflected in the services provided daily by the employees and volunteers of the American Red Cross. Read her entire biography at www.redcross.org.

Red Cross and
the Government

“The relationship between the American Red Cross and the federal government is unique. We are an independent entity that is organized and exists as a nonprofit, tax-exempt, charitable institution pursuant to a charter granted to us by the United States Congress. Unlike other congressionally chartered organizations, the Red Cross maintains a special relationship with the federal government…The American Red Cross is not a federal agency nor do we receive federal funding on a regular basis to carry out our services and programs,” according to www.redcross.org.

The Modern-Day Red Cross

“The Red Cross has endured patches of trouble in the recent past. It faced allegations of financial mismanagement after Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina and a series of chief executives were forced to resign. Congress forced an overhaul,” according to a 2014 article. Visit www.propublica.org.

“During disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the earthquakes in Haiti and Indonesia and the California wildfires, the American Red Cross has come under fire for its handling of money and resources,” writes Kimberly Aquilina in a 2017 article atwww.metro.us.

In his 2018 article, Martin Wooster asked the questions: Can Donors Trust the American Red Cross? Wooster outlined the recent criticisms, but concluded, “Of course, the American Red Cross will always be the largest and most important charity dealing with disasters. But it shouldn’t be the only one…The Red Cross can do better. One way it can improve is if there was more of a competition for donor dollars for disaster relief.”Read the entire story at www.capitalresearch.org.

Despite any shortcomings, the Red Cross is a massive first-response organization that remains worthy of donations, says Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of Charity Watch, which rates relief organizations and gives the Red Cross a B+, reported in an article in USA Today.

However, what happens in power plays and politics at the Red Cross headquarters in Washington D.C. is not what happens in Red Cross chapters in states, cities and communities in other areas across the USA. Compassionate and hard-working volunteers on the ground are committed and dedicated to helping during disasters and blood donation drives. Clara Barton would be proud of these citizens.

Should you donate to the American Red Cross? Americans need to read, research and converse before they give to any charity. And make wise giving decisions.

What would Clara Barton say and do about the modern-day Red Cross allegations if she were alive today?

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio.