SPRINGFIELD – In recognition of their contributions to help save lives and rebuild lives after disasters, Governor Rod Blagojevich proclaimed March American Red Cross Month. For more than 60 years, the nation has celebrated the contributions of the American Red Cross during the month of March.
“I encourage all Illinois citizens to support the noble efforts of the American Red Cross by giving their time, money, or blood donations to this worthy organization so that it may continue to help our communities in times of need,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
In 1943, President Roosevelt first declared March as American Red Cross Month in an effort to raise money for the Red Cross War Fund to aid the military. American Red Cross Month has since been celebrated every year in March to raise awareness of the valuable programs and services they provide, calling for public support, and thanking their many volunteers, supporters and donors for their dedication and hard work.
“Every day across the state, American Red Cross chapters are prepared to respond and provide much-needed shelter, food and clothing to people that have been affected by disasters,” said Fran Maher, CEO of American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. “By working closely with local relief partners and other emergency response officials throughout Illinois, Red Cross chapters work to save lives and educate individuals on how to be prepared for emergencies.”
The State of Illinois and the American Red Cross work together in a number of ways to serve citizens. Emergency Preparedness is the main component of this partnership. The American Red Cross trains Illinois citizens on how to prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters. During disasters, the American Red Cross joins several state agencies in the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) as the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) coordinates resources available to help affected communities.
“The American Red Cross is a valuable partner to the state before, during and after emergencies,” said William C. Burke, IEMA director. “They do an exemplary job of recruiting and training volunteers, who are a tremendous asset to us during and after emergencies by providing food and shelter to those affected, as well as to emergency workers. Their assistance in these areas makes it possible for us to focus on other response issues.”
The American Red Cross also trains Illinois citizens on how to prepare for and respond to disasters by teaching First Aid, CPR and how to use Automated External Defibrillators (AED).
An AED is a lightweight, life saving device that is used to assess a person’s heart rhythm. If necessary, it administers an electric shock to restore a normal rhythm in victims of sudden cardiac arrest. The Illinois Department of Public Health is responsible for administering a grant program through the “Heartsaver AED Fund,” a statewide fundraising effort to ensure AEDs are installed in as many park districts, schools and physical fitness facilities as possible throughout Illinois. The American Red Cross is extremely active in placing AED units and training staff to use them.
“Every minute counts when cardiac arrest is involved,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “The Red Cross is to be commended for providing the training to citizens so that even our youth are confident enough to use the device.”
The American Red Cross also provides roughly half of the blood supply to the nation and the state of Illinois. Red Cross staff and volunteers work year round to ensure that our state has a safe and adequate blood supply for medical emergencies.
There are more than 20,000 Illinois volunteers in the American Red Cross - many who have assisted in the aftermath of disasters from flooding relief in Des Plaines, to hurricane relief in Florida, to Tsunami relief in South Asia. To lend even more help in the aftermath of disasters outside Illinois’ borders, Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation last August allowing American Red Cross volunteers who are state and local government employees to take leave to assist with disasters in other states. Previous law only allowed them to take leave for up to 20 days to assist with response to major disasters within Illinois. This change in the law provides volunteers who are government employees with the ability to help victims in other states and bring home valuable experience that may later be used for response to disasters in Illinois.
For more information on American Red Cross services or volunteer opportunities you can visit their website at www.redcross.org.