Posts Tagged ‘community programs’

Non-Profit Spotlight: American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids

February 8, 2010

If you have ever done a general search of non-profit organizations in any given area, you will find hundreds of groups that all work to better the communities we live.  Some focus on families as a whole; others on specific needs of individuals; and still others work to better the areas that impact our lives, our pets, our neighborhoods, our schools.  Despite knowing that many of these groups exist, how much to do we really understand about what they all do to better the lives they touch.  Here is the focus of this post.  (Check back for more groups in the future.) 


Let us personally introduce you to the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids.  They have a long and rich history than spans over 93 years.  The Greater Grand Rapids chapter was founded in 1917 during World War I in response to a call to action to support the war effort.  They offered assistance with hospital services in France as well as to military personnel passing through Grand Rapids, MI.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, Veteran assistance services were added that also expanded to include preventative health education programs.  The health programs were a direct result of needs arising during the massive flu epidemic of the time.  Services expanded again during the Great Depression to include food and clothing distribution.

When World War II broke out, the Grand Rapids American Red Cross chapter again rose to the call for help with nursing, lifesaving, and water safety training.  Transportation and youth services were also added during this time.

The 1960’s brought the Civil Rights Movement, and in keeping with their commitment to community, the chapter’s social awareness and activity also increased.

From the 1970’s to the 90’s more services and community assistance programs were added again.  This time programs were in the areas of CPR and first aid training, accident prevention, pet emergency training, childcare education classes, HIV/AIDS education, and diversity training.  The Gulf War and area disaster relief efforts were also an ongoing focus for the chapter.

 Throughout the years and various changes in size and scope of services offered, the vision of the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids has consistently been to offer compassionate volunteers committed to helping others.  That has never changed. In the past fiscal year (2009) over $1.9 million dollars of support went out in various forms to better the lives of residents in Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm and Ottawa counties.  The work of the local Red Cross impacts more than 70,000 individuals annually in this area.  This is one tightly run ship with only 9¢ from every dollar received going to operational expenses.  Keep in mind the chapter also supports projects on a national and international basis.


Locally the chapter’s current focus, as always, is disaster assistance.  This time of year often brings calls for help from victims of home fires.  The cold weather can force residents struggling to make ends meet look for alternative heat sources that often create unsafe situations resulting in house fires.  The American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids is ready and able to help.  They also offer an ongoing service of free transportation for elderly and disabled persons who need to get to various appointments or errands and do not have or cannot afford other means of transportation.  For example, getting to a doctor appointment, a dialysis treatment, or even picking up a prescription.  If you are in need of transportation assistance, simply call the Greater Grand Rapids Chapter at (616) 456-8661 one week in advance.  One of the 70 volunteer drivers utilizing one of 11 vehicles will be happy to assist you.

Nationally the Greater Grand Rapids Red Cross chapter remains focused and ready to assist with disaster relief in cases of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or whatever tragedy may occur.  With the goal to always be ready, the Grand Rapids chapter offers a thorough training series for disaster services volunteers.  The training focuses on mass feeding, sheltering, mental health support, driving emergency vehicles and logistics.  The purpose of the training is so that when disaster strikes, an army of volunteers are ready to go into action and know how to act to avoid chaos.  One key component to the training is that it is exactly the same in every chapter across the country.  Teams can quickly be assembled from all over the United States and every member will be able to effectively offer help and assistance when needed.

On the international front the focus now is obviously Haiti.  One important point here is any funds donated locally for Haiti relief will be channeled to the national Red Cross for aid and assistance.

So how can you help the Red Cross? 

  1. The first level of response from the community is always funding.  Since this is solely a donation funded organization, financial support is needed to keep the services going. 
  2. You can volunteer.  Currently they have areas of opportunity in IT support, reception and as disaster managers.  Every other Wednesday, the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids offers Life Savers Tours that will introduce you to the chapter and their work.  Call (616) 456-8661 to sign up for the tour that also includes a free lunch.  The date of the next tour is February 17. 
  3. This is the Red Cross, so you can always donate blood.  As you know a single donation can be used in many ways to help many people.  This month blood drives will be conducted locally on February 16, 23 and 26. 
  4. Increase your support.  The reason Awareness Home Funding has partnered with the Red Cross is because of our program to support non-profit organizations.  We donate $250 every time we close a home loan.  Maybe you are not in the market to purchase or refinance a home, but someone you know may be.  When asked, let us know you would like this donation to support the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids.

The American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids, committed to helping others with compassionate volunteers.