An update on the American Red Cross

PARKERSBURG — The past year was a year of record-breaking disasters and the American Red Cross quickly mobilized to help people in need, providing more food, relief supplies and shelter stays than all of the last four years combined.

In just 45 days, the Red Cross responded to six of the year’s largest and most complex disasters. This included back-to-back hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate — the deadliest week of wildfires in California history, and the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas.

As 2017 comes to a close, the Red Cross is also now responding to devastating and quick-moving wildfires across much of Southern California, opening shelters and providing food, comfort, and a safe place for people forced from their homes.

In all, the Red Cross mobilized more than 56,000 disaster workers — 92 percent volunteers — to provide help to people affected by 242 significant disasters in 45 states and three territories. This aid included:

* Opening 1,100 emergency shelters to provide 658,000 overnight stays

* Serving 13.6 million meals and snacks

* Distributing 7 million relief items

* Providing 267,000 health and mental health consultations

* Supporting 624,000 households with recovery assistance

Altogether, Red Cross emergency response vehicles traveled 2.5 million miles to deliver food, relief supplies and support to communities affected by disasters during 2017. That’s the equivalent of driving around the earth 103 times. West Virginia Red Cross workers, a majority being volunteers, supported these relief efforts throughout the country by deploying over 250 times in 2017.

“People were faced with these massive disasters and the Red Cross was there, making sure folks had a safe place to stay, food to eat and a shoulder to lean on,” said Erica Mani, chief executive officer for the West Virginia Region of the American Red Cross. “While these large disasters were making headlines, we were also responding locally to numerous home fires. Whether disaster struck across the country or in our own backyard, Red Cross disaster workers mobilized to help.”

Here in West Virginia, the Red Cross launched relief operations after heavy rain caused flooding in July 2017 with a State of Emergency in Harrison, Marion, Marshall, Monongalia, Ohio, Taylor, Tucker and Wetzel Counties. The Red Cross assisted almost 150 families impacted by the flooding, opened 3 shelters, distributed over 8,000 meals and snacks, provided almost 4,000 relief supplies.

“Our region was devastated by this disaster and Red Cross workers helped around the clock, making sure people had shelter, food and a shoulder to lean on,” said Mani. “Many people lost everything and the Red Cross was there to help people get back on their feet.”

“If you are part of a disaster, it can be some of the darkest days you will ever endure. This year disasters affected hundreds of thousands of people and the Red Cross was there, helping,” said Mani. “But we need your support now. The Red Cross depends on generous financial donations to fulfill our mission of helping people impacted by disaster.”

The most frequent type of disaster the Red Cross responded to in 2017 was a fire in someone’s home. The Red Cross responded to nearly 50,000 home fires, and provided casework assistance to help 76,000 families recover.

This year in West Virginia, the Red Cross responded to more than 700 home fires, over 6,000 children received preparedness training through The Pillowcase Project and more than 7,000 smoke alarms were installed with the help of volunteers and community partners.

Through its Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross and thousands of local partners are working to help prevent home fires and save lives by installing smoke alarms, helping families create home fire plans and offering youth education programs.

During 2017, more than 382,000 free smoke alarms were installed and 401,000 people were reached through home visits nationwide. Since the campaign launched in 2014, 303 lives have been saved, including 19 people in West Virginia, more than 1 million smoke alarms have been installed, and 940,000 youth have been taught about the importance of fire safety.

As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross aided millions of people impacted by disasters around the globe in 2017. This included helping nearly 9,400 families search for loved ones who were separated during international conflict or disasters, and sending humanitarian aid to 26 countries to help in the aftermath of disasters. The organization also deployed American responders to disaster zones around the world 27 times this year — including to Nigeria, Mexico, and Bangladesh.

Red Cross volunteers also visited more than 2 million households to encourage families to vaccinate their children against measles in countries like Malawi and Indonesia and helped to save lives by mapping vulnerable communities — using only a computer and internet connection.

How you can help:

* To make a tax-deductible donation, visit and choose from a variety of symbolic gifts that give back to people in need, or call 1-800-RED CROSS to support Red Cross services.

* To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit

* To make an appointment to donate blood or platelets, visit

An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends goes to its programs and services, which includes providing food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support and other assistance, as well as supporting the vehicles, warehouses, technology and people that make help possible.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross. To learn more, please visit, follow us on Facebook (@RedCrossWV) or Twitter (@ARCWV).