March is Red Cross Month: Thank you, Volunteers!

Story by Colleen Hathaway / Red Cross Cascades Region

March is Red Cross Month:  Thank you, Volunteers!

Circa 1865. Matthew Brady portrait of Clara Barton.

Franklin D. Roosevelt first proclaimed March as Red Cross Month in 1943 to honor volunteers who carry out our lifesaving mission; to prevent and alleviate human suffering. 

Every U.S. president since has continued the tradition, recognizing the contributions of people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities who come from a common place of compassion and service, infusing hope into our communities in their time of need.  

In fact, volunteers carry out 90% of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross.

While many know that Clara Barton founded the Red Cross in 1881, there is much more to know about our rich history. For example, in the 1990’s, the Red Cross expanded services into such fields as civil defense, CPR/AED training, HIV/AIDS education, and the provision of emotional care and support in the wake of disasters.

Emily Girard of the American Red Cross speaks with Sue Barnes at an American Red Cross shelter in Portland, OR on Monday, September 14, 2020 after evacuating because of wildfires burning throughout the region.

The Red Cross has also been shaped by the contributions of people of color and the contributions of young Americans.

In 2020, more than 3,000 Cascades Region volunteers fulfilled the mission of the Red Cross, helping families recover from more than 650 home fires by meeting urgent food, lodging and other vital needs. 

When the September 2020 Oregon wildfires devastated our region, volunteers from here and across the country stepped up to provide 173,489 overnight stays, 387,590 meals and snacks, 9,955 relief items, emotional support, recovery planning and other essential assistance. 

Blood donors rolled up their sleeves to give more than 148,500 units of blood in the Cascades Region, when our country faced a severe blood shortage.

So what inspires people to volunteer? We reflect on some stories from this past year to answer that question:

  • Regular blood donor John Mason was inspired at a young age by his mother to donate blood, and has passed down the tradition to his children. 
  • For paramedic Anne Stearns, Red Cross volunteer since 2017, helping is just as she is. Anne was one of the Disaster Health Services supervisors during the wildfires. But as she tells it, Oregonians from all over the state, with the support and resources of the Red Cross, took pride in helping their neighbors.  
  • Megan McKenna, Director of Marketing at Hop Valley Brewery, who worked with the Red Cross to raise funds and feed the community, was inspired to see people helping in the midst of the shock and devastation of the wildfires.  
  • Mary Jane Rose, Red Cross Cascades Region board member and volunteer, was in awe at the amazing sense of teamwork it required to open a shelter at Clackamas County Community College.  
  • Those who lost everything during the wildfires also helped their neighbors. Rebecca Marshall, Regional Disaster Officer of the Red Cross Cascades Region, worked alongside such volunteers who lost their homes. She was moved by their spirit of determination and resilience in the face of disaster.  
  • Liz Miller, Red Cross nurse, refused to give up on someone needing help during the wildfires and watched the pain in a man’s eyes be replaced by hope.  
American Red Cross volunteer teams meet at a Red Cross staging site for Emergency Response Vehicles in Salem, OR on Sept. 15, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross.

Every year we celebrate this humanitarian spirit during March, Red Cross Month, and ask you to join us.  Last year, more than 70,000 people nationwide became new volunteers to support urgent disaster and essential blood donation needs.  

There are so many ways to volunteer, whether donating blood or platelets; helping people affected by a disaster; taking a first aid or CPR class; or providing comfort to a member of the military, a veteran or their family.

At the Red Cross, people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds are welcome.

Visit to find out how to volunteer.

Thank you volunteers.  You are our heroes!

“We are the Red Cross. Sleeves Up.  Hearts Open.  All In.”