Thousands of people step up as first-time volunteers, blood donors during pandemic
STATE COLLEGE — Facing a relentless disaster season, families in the United States have spent more nights in emergency lodging in 2020 than in any other year over the past decade.
“As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, local disasters, home fires, hurricanes and wildfires have upended hundreds of thousands of lives across the country,” said Hope Roaten, executive director of the American Red Mid Central Pennsylvania Chapter.
“Through it all, more people are stepping up as Red Cross volunteers to help others — even as they cope with these events and COVID-19. It’s a true testament to the humanitarian spirit of people in our area and in our country.”
More than 1 million times this year, a person relied on the Red Cross for a safe place to sleep after a disaster in the United States. That’s more than four times the annual average from 2011 to 2019.
Since Jan. 1, volunteers have also aided more than 280 people affected by 78 home fires and natural disasters this year in the 10-county area (Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga), helping them secure a safe place to stay and providing food, emotional support and other assistance.
Thousands Answer Call to Help
This year, more than 70,000 people across the country joined the Red Cross as volunteers — who represent more than 90 percent of its workforce. As the Mid-Central Pennsylvania Chapter and the country grapples with the pandemic, young people have played a critical role in disaster response — with Millennials and Gen Z representing more than half of new Red Cross volunteers.
Nationwide, 75 percent of new volunteers also stepped up at a pivotal time to fill mission-critical positions, such as shelter and health workers addressing urgent disaster needs, as well as blood donor ambassadors and transportation specialists helping to provide cancer patients, trauma victims and others with lifesaving blood.
New Blood Donors Save Lives
In 2020, Red Cross blood drive cancellations tripled compared to the year prior — mostly due to COVID-19. Since March, over 50,000 blood drives were cancelled as the pandemic forced schools, businesses and community organizations to close, impacting over 1 million blood donation appointments. Still, people rolled up their sleeves — more than a half-million of them giving for the first time.
Blood donation is an essential service, and everyone’s well-being is the top priority. The Red Cross follows the latest public health guidelines, as well as has put additional precautions in place to ensure everyone’s safety.
This pandemic has also caused the Red Cross to adapt its collections to include plasma from COVID-19 survivors to potentially help those battling the virus recover.
Thousands of COVID-19 survivors have stepped up to share their potentially life-saving antibodies by giving plasma. Since April, nearly 25,000 COVID-19 survivors have rolled up a sleeve — many of whom are new to blood donation. Their donations have enabled the Red Cross to ship nearly 50,000 units to hospitals across the country treating COVID-19 patients.
How You Can Help
On Giving Tuesday and during the holiday season, help people in need by donating at redcross.org/gift. A gift of any size makes a difference.
About the American Red Cross:
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 redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.