By Tony Briggs, Regional CEO and Pacific Coast Chapter Executive Director
In what has become a year-end tradition, it’s time to take a look back together at 2022.
We thank our volunteers, financial and blood donors, staff and supporters who carry out our mission each and every day.
In the past year, our teams delivered food, shelter and a shoulder to lean on to 2,540 people following disasters, such as home fires and wildfires. During our months-long response to wildfires in Mariposa and Madera Counties, our volunteers gave families the support and resources they needed to begin to recover.
To date, more than 60 Red Crossers from across the region have deployed to help those whose lives were upended by Hurricane Ian – the most deployments from our region to a single disaster in recent memory. And our communities are better prepared for emergencies and more resilient thanks to the work our preparedness teams are doing year-round.
2022 showcased the compassion of Red Crossers in the Central California Region. Here are a few of the signature moments in 2022 showing the kindness, imagination and resolve of our volunteers, staff, board members and donors who make a difference for our neighbors in need.
January 2022: Red Cross Faces First-Ever National Blood Crisis
This year started with a dire situation. The Red Cross issued our first-ever national blood crisis. Collections took a heavy hit from a COVID spike, savage winter weather and the usual dip over the holidays. Once the Red Cross and other blood collectors put out the seriousness in the lack of blood on the shelves – a one-day’s supply in some places – donors stepped up with three of the biggest days of appointments we’ve ever registered. For anyone facing cancer treatments, a difficult childbirth or car accidents, this was absolutely a life-saving response.
February 2022: Red Cross Hosts a Sickle Cell Blood Drive During Black History Month
During Black History Month, the American Red Cross and Community Advocacy Coalition partnered together for their first of many blood drives in Ventura County.
They held their first successful blood drive where 31 units of life-saving blood were collected, which could directly impact the lives of up to 93 patients. More than half of the donors that came out that day to give were first-time donors, an incredible accomplishment! It was the start of a lifesaving partnership.
March 2022: March is Red Cross Month Celebrations
March was a busy month of celebrating for us! March is Red Cross Month and our elected officials joined in the celebration of proclaiming Red Cross Month across our cities and counties.
Here at the Red Cross, we love to recognize the individuals who make our humanitarian work possible each day. We are so proud to celebrate our volunteers’ commitment to serving others. The hard work that our volunteers give day in and day out to our mission is nothing short of amazing. Volunteers were nominated by their peers and recognized for their tremendous efforts at Volunteer Recognition Events throughout our region to celebrate their contributions.
April 2022: Red Cross Celebrates National Volunteer Month
Volunteers are heroes – They turn their compassion into action and make our humanitarian work possible each day. We are so proud to celebrate our volunteers’ commitment to serving others. The hard work that our volunteers give day in and day out to our mission is nothing short of amazing. Tap here to see our amazing volunteer award winners.
May 2022: Bringing a Sense of Safety to Our Neighbors
From April 30 to May 21, Red Cross volunteers, community partners and sponsors helped made 534 homes safer by installing over 1,100 smoke alarms and conducting one on one fire safety and prevention education trainings with our neighbors in six cities.
Felecia Kurtz is one of hundreds of local residents who received support as part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Throughout 2022, volunteers teamed up with local fire departments and organizations to help end home fires.
“I feel a lot better knowing these smoke alarms work in my home. I wasn’t able to get up there to replace them. Thanks to the Red Cross, my daughter and I are much safer.” – Felecia, Porterville Resident
June 2022: Volunteer Recognized with Spirit of the Pacific Award
Central Valley Chapter volunteer, Gail Mcgaugh, wears many hats as a Red Cross volunteer. She was recognized for going the extra mile by creating memorable volunteer experiences during our Sound the Alarm events. With a glue gun in hand, she made special event décor and prizes for volunteers to enjoy.
Her love, passion and dedication to make the Red Cross volunteer experience a special one that is appreciated by many.
July 2022: The Washburn Fire Changed One Family’s Travel Itinerary
The Drake family had only just begun their once-in-a-lifetime trip from London to Yosemite, when their plans quickly changed when the area was evacuated by the Washburn Fire.
Mike’s epilepsy medication was back in their hotel room and immediately getting the medication was their main concern. Upon arrival at evacuation shelter, they shared their situation with the shelter supervisor and a team effort began—Red Cross staff and volunteers worked with fire incident command and park rangers to get access to the hotel and bring back the medication.
Taylor, a ten-year-old from Oregon, was in Mariposa County visiting her grandparents when they were evacuated by the Oak Fire.
“This was my first time evacuating in my whole entire ten years,” Taylor explained. She collected her suitcase and cockatiel bird, Julie, while her grandma Miriam evacuated their home in Midpines.
She became the youngest helper at the shelter by helping volunteers serve 100 sandwiches for lunch and bringing smiles to evacuees and volunteers.
For more than two weeks, American Red Cross volunteers worked 24/7 to help people affected by the Oak Fire in Mariposa County, California. Over 80 trained Red Cross disaster workers answered the call to help provide people with a safe place to stay, warm meals and critical relief supplies like hygiene items and clean-up kits.
The hard-working team provided 361 overnight stays; served 2,551 meals; handed out 5,244 snacks; distributed 150 clean-up kits; opened 58 cases; and served 138 clients.
August 2022: Preparedness Volunteers Head Back to School
To expand access to this life-saving knowledge, she partnered with Red Cross clubs at three high schools across the region, coordinating presenter trainings and practice sessions with their members. Those club members, in turn, taught over 300 of their fellow students in their respective schools’ health classes last spring, and plans are in place to expand these efforts to more schools.
September 2022: How Wildfire Preparedness Helped One Family
Bernard and Lynda Brown moved to the Mariposa mountains from the Bay Area just over a year ago. After being forced from their home by the Oak Fire, they found themselves at a Red Cross evacuation shelter.
Less than three weeks before the Oak Fire began, their Lushmeadows community had an association meeting with local organizations about wildfire preparedness. Looking back, the event couldn’t have come at a better time for the Brown’s. Lynda was on vacation that following week and took the time to pack a suitcase each of their clothing, toiletries and other things they could “never unpack unless we needed to. We already have things we want to add to our go-bags,” shared Lynda.
October 2022: Three Women Making a Difference for Local Veterans
Three local Central Valley volunteers were recognized for their service to veterans and military families throughout 2022.
Gina Bustamante, RN, Sarah Brown-Monroe and Debby Dailey were for their dedication, commitment and compassion they bring to the Service to the Armed program and beyond.
Sarah received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, which honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action.
Gina and Debby were recognized by local resolutions at Veteran Stand Down and Stand Up events for their impact in the community.
November 2022: Community Members Ride for the Red to Support Military Families
On November 12th, 170 cyclists and 130 volunteers braved a very cold morning to Ride for the Red. We’re so grateful for our riders, sponsors, volunteers and partners who helped fundraise $75,000 for our Service to the Armed Forces program.
December 2022: Disaster Action Team Volunteers Respond 24/7/365
Disaster Action Team volunteers respond to an average of 565 home fires a year across Central California.
From offering a shoulder to cry on, to meeting any immediate needs for shelter or supplies, to connecting people with long term recovery services, our volunteers ensure that families don’t have to face tough times alone.
Your support makes our work possible. Whether it’s providing help and comfort to a family after a home fire, reuniting a service member with their family, helping a community prepare for disasters, or delivering lifesaving blood to a patient, the Red Cross is there. We thank you for your continued support, and wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.