March is Red Cross Month, and this year, we’ve been celebrating with a new friend we’re calling “Cutout Clara”.
As you may know, Clarissa Harlowe Barton – Clara, as she wished to be called – founded the American Red Cross in 1881, at the age of 60. With Barton at the helm, the American Red Cross was focused almost exclusively on disaster relief for the first 20 years of its existence, beginning when Barton issued a public appeal for funds and clothing to aid victims of a devastating forest fire in Michigan. In 1884, she chartered steamers to carry needed supplies up and down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to assist flood victims. And in 1889, she and 50 volunteers rode the first train into Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to help the survivors of a dam break that caused more than 2,000 casualties.
Towards the the end of Barton’s tenure as head of the organization, the American Red Cross took on new priorities, delivering aid to members of the American armed forces, prisoners of war, and Cuban refugees during the Spanish-American War. This was the first time that the American Red Cross provided assistance to American armed forces and civilians during wartime, and it would come to shape a large part of the organization’s mission for years to come.
Clara Barton dedicated a great deal of her life to helping people in distress. Her example highlighted the kind of volunteer service that continues to guide the Red Cross today. As we celebrate Red Cross Month, with “Cutout Clara” observing our local Red Crossers in action, we honor the local heroes – volunteers, blood donors, financial supporters, and community partners – who embody Clara Barton’s spirit every day.