The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 30, 2014

Where would we be without Red Cross?

Organization has been lifesaver for area

JOHNSTOWN — We can’t imagine where Johnstown would be without the Red Cross – if it would be here at all – but thankfully, we don’t have to.

After all, it was Clara Barton’s then-fledgling organization that helped the city recover from the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889. Now, 125 years later, it seems only fitting that we honor the Keystone Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Barton’s organization not only played a huge role in the 1889 recovery of our region; it has continued to be a major player here over the past century and a quarter.

“We have stayed true to the core mission, and what Clara Barton wanted this to be is what we are still doing,” Colleen Sherman, executive director of the Keystone Chapter, told reporter Kelly Urban.

“This year’s celebration is not only to commemorate the past but also to look to the future and lay the foundation for the next 125 years.”

The Red Cross has been here to help out our region when it has been at its worst. When the floodwaters ravaged Johnstown again in 1936 and 1977, local residents found food, clothing, medical care and shelter thanks to the organization. Of course, the Keystone Chapter’s reach spreads much farther than our city limits. When the Reilly No. 1 Mine exploded in Spangler in 1922, killing 79, the Red Cross was on the scene within an hour to assist the relief efforts.

More recently, the organization has aided emergency responders and families after the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001. They were on the scene during the tense days that nine miners were trapped in a Somerset County mine nearly a year later.

As important as the Red Cross is in terms of disaster relief, it does much more than just that. It also saves lives on a day-to-day basis. The organization is perhaps best known now for its blood-donation program. The American Red Cross initiated a national blood program during World War II that collected 13 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces. The American Red Cross now supplies more than 40 percent of the blood and blood products nationwide, and the local chapter plays a key role in that area.

“There is a daily need for blood and blood products,” Sherman said.

It’s impossible to estimate the number of lives that the Keystone Chapter of the American Red Cross has saved through its efforts, both in terms of disaster relief and through its blood programs, over the past 125 years.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the countless volunteers who have given so selflessly of their time, energy and resources through the years.

“We are a volunteer-led organization, and we couldn’t carry out our mission without them,” Sherman said.

To all of them, we offer a heartfelt, if long over-due, thank you, and best wishes for another 125 years.

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