By Kevin Sunday
What we do with the suffering that will come inevitably to us, our families and our communities will be among the most important moments in our lives. This being Red Cross Month, I will tell you what I have seen, as a board member for the Central PA Chapter of the Red Cross, the staff and volunteers of this humanitarian organization do in response to the suffering that has come to central Pennsylvania and beyond.
I have seen men and women at the drop of the hat get on a plane to fly to far corners of this country in the wake of hurricanes, fires and floods to make sure those who have lost everything find some measure of grace and comfort in the immediate aftermath.
I have seen teams of volunteers partner with firefighters of local cities to knock on the doors of strangers to ask if they might let the team in to install smoke alarms in their homes. In part because of the trust that is evoked by the image of the Red Cross icon on those volunteers’ vests, those strangers have said yes – and those volunteers have taken a step towards preventing home fire deaths, of which Pennsylvania has the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation.
I have seen the look of tearful surprise on the faces of local, everyday heroes when they were honored with awards by the Red Cross for stepping forward to deliver CPR to ailing strangers. I have heard firsthand the words of gratitude of new parents whose infants were saved by blood donations.
In the wake of hurricanes, I sat with dozens of other volunteers in the studio of a local news station while the phones rang off the hook in response to a call for financial donations to send to distressed communities in the Gulf.
Time and again, I have watched the professional staff of the Red Cross who devote their careers to alleviating suffering, joined by volunteers from this community who have been so generous with their time to help them deliver on that mission. At a time when women were not afforded many opportunities to lead, Clara Barton, a Civil War nurse, founded the American Red Cross more than 140 years ago.
Clara broke barriers in her day, propelled by a desire to respond to suffering and equip local communities to meet the challenges of their day. Through times of war and peace, her mission continues in Central PA, as the staff and volunteers join nationwide as the Red Cross serves the families of deployed armed service personnel, collects 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply, provides life-saving training, and deploys to disaster response and home fire incidents.
There are many ways to support and serve our community through the Red Cross. If you’d like to volunteer, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.
Kevin Sunday is director of government affairs for the PA Chamber. He serves on the board of directors for the American Red Cross Central Pennsylvania Region.