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Bringing Relief

How a New Jersey chapter aids the area.

The American Red Cross, one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations, is a non-government agency with a mission to help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. With one of the world’s most recognizable symbols, the Red Cross brings hope to millions of people down the street, across the country and around the globe.

Since its founding in 1881 by visionary leader Clara Barton, the American Red Cross has been the nation’s premier emergency response organization. As part of a worldwide movement that offers neutral humanitarian care to victims of war, the American Red Cross distinguishes itself by also aiding victims of devastating natural disasters. Over the years, the organization has expanded its services, while maintaining the aim of preventing and relieving suffering.

The Greater Somerset County Chapter of the American Red Cross serves a population of more than 220,000 people in New Jersey. It is one of nearly 700 community chapters throughout the nation delivering vital Red Cross services to residents. Those services include disaster relief; comfort for military members, their families and veterans; the collection, processing and distribution of lifesaving blood and blood products; educational programs that promote preparedness, health and safety; and international relief and development programs.

Last year, the Greater Somerset County Chapter trained 12,000 citizens in the community in lifesaving skills, collected 800 units of lifesaving blood, trained more than 400 volunteers in disaster response and helped more than 65 families communicate emergency messages to loved ones.

Since 2007, the chapter has sheltered more than 2,600 residents affected by two national flooding events in addition to residents affected by more common emergencies like house fires. In order to be able to provide such vital disaster relief services, the American Red Cross relies entirely on donations of time, money and blood from the public to do its work. Remarkably, 96 percent of American Red Cross staff are volunteers. And an average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs.

The American Red Cross touches one in every 50 people in the country. But the reality is that too few people know that the Red Cross is not a government agency or that it is the single largest blood supplier in the United States. Moreover, the Red Cross supports 2.6 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard and their families before, during and after deployment.

Last year on the local level, the Greater Somerset County Chapter’s more than 500 volunteers contributed 22,859 community service hours. “When you step up to volunteer to help your community through the Red Cross, train to save a life, donate your lifesaving blood and contribute money to ensure that we can help save lives in your community, you are a hero,” says Amy Sutton, chief executive officer of the Greater Somerset County Chapter in Somerville, New Jersey. “You make it possible for the Red Cross to change the lives of people who have faced tremendous challenges to survive disasters and emergencies or life-threatening situations, and serve our country selflessly through our armed forces.”

The local chapter provides services to armed forces, lifesaving health and safety training, medical transportation, blood donation services and a Lifeline emergency response service program. Additionally, the Somerset Red Cross offers a wide range of programs and training to residents that includes first aid, CPR, automated external defibrillator (AED) use, bloodborne pathogens, swimming, lifeguarding and babysitter’s training.

To make a donation to the Greater Somerset County Chapter of the American Red Cross, call (908)725-2217 or visit www.american-redcross.org. For more information on the American Red Cross, log onto www.redcross.org.

Babysitter’s training, offered to people ages 11-14, guides participants in being the best babysitter on the block, helping youth gain confidence to make smart decisions and stay safe while watching children. The training covers basic childcare skills, such as diapering and feeding, and how to identify hazards, prevent injuries, and handle bedtime and discipline issues. Also taught are tips on searching for babysitting jobs, granting youth a sense of independence and responsibility.

The American Red Cross also helps families plan for emergencies before they strike. The Be Red Cross Ready program teaches families to “get a kit, make a plan and be informed.”

“Creating a culture of preparedness at an early age ensures that children will grow up knowing how to prepare for the unexpected in many areas of life,” explains Kenneth J. Salvatore, director of Health and Safety at the Greater Somerset Chapter. “Training provides everyday people with skills and confidence to respond to an emergency quickly and effectively.”