CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You've probably heard of the American Red Cross, but do you know what it does? It is shocking how many people don't, so I'm here to clue you in.
The American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881. At the first meeting, held at the home of Michigan Senator Omar D. Conger, there were only 15 people present.
The organization has grown a great deal since then. Its members now number well over a million, and these are the people you want around whenever tragedy strikes your home or community.
The American Red Cross responds to well over 70,000 natural and man-made disasters in the U.S. each year, including fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous material spills, transportation accidents and explosions. During these disasters, the Red Cross provides food, shelter, water and first aid to those who need it, including emergency workers like police and firefighters.
Though the Red Cross is well known for its disaster relief, it is even more famous for its blood drives.
The American Red Cross has more than 120,000 blood drives every year. It supplies the country with about 40 percent of the blood that doctors, hospitals and emergency services use every day.
The Red Cross collects approximately 6.5 million units of blood from about 4 million donors every year. According to the organization, "From these donations, the Red Cross is able to distribute around 9.5 million blood products each year, including 6 million units of red blood cells, to patients at approximately 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country."
Some people ask, "Why should I donate blood?" Well here are a few reasons: it feels good to donate, you can save up to three lives by donating, and you will help ensure blood is on the shelf when needed. (Most people don't think they'll ever need blood, but many do.)