As communities and families adapted to COVID-19 safety guidance, creating new habits and new ways to do what was the ordinary, the Red Cross here and across the country spent the past year navigating the pandemic and adapting services to protect their workforce and the communities they serve. 2020 brought a record-breaking number of disasters and early 2021 shows no signs of slowing down. Red Crossers have continued to deliver services, providing help and hope to communities in need, and embodied the Red Cross mission through an unprecedented year wrought with back-to-back disasters including hurricanes, derechos, flooding, wildfires, and a pandemic.
“This has been an historic time for our country, for Pennsylvania, and for our communities here in Northeastern Pennsylvania and yet through it all, people are caring for one another,” said Michele Baehr, Red Cross Executive Director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter.
“Red Crossers continue to deliver compassion and care in the face of emergencies, and I am continuously in awe of their dedication and selfless spirit. As we celebrate Red Cross Month, it’s the ideal time to pause and reflect on the work that’s been accomplished and how the Red Cross has adapted through an ever-changing situation to ensure we continue to deliver help to those in need,” Baehr added.
Local disasters didn’t stop during the pandemic and from February 2020 to February 2021, the Red Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania in Wilkes-Barre responded to 201 calls for help and assisted over 900 individuals following disasters in communities throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Many of these disaster responses were delivered virtually, through online platforms while providing shelter and immediate needs through individual hotel rooms for victims of disaster. Delivery of recovery and planning resources were also provided through a no contact process to mitigate exposure to the Red Cross workforce or those who received services and support.
While COVID-19 shuttered doors of businesses and school across the country, the Red Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania worked to ensure a consistent supply of life-saving blood could continue to be collected for those in need. This was accomplished by assuring the public that donating blood remained to be a safe process, transitioning to an appointment-based system for donors to limit the number of individuals in the blood drive, temperature screenings at all entry points, and connecting with local community partners to secure new drive locations. From February 2020 to February 2021, the Red Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania collected 35,500 units of blood to help trauma, cancer, and transfusion patients that require donated blood product to recover and heal.
The Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter provided more than 1,200 military members, veterans, and their families with assistance through the Services to the Armed Forces program. This included working with local Veterans Administration (VA) Hospitals, outreach at local retirement communities, and emergency communication for service members deployed across the globe. Much of this work was achieved through virtual means and done to help service members and their families remain connected through the isolation that the pandemic brought about.
The critical work of the Red Cross is carried out by a workforce that is 90 percent volunteer. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the volunteers of Northeastern Pennsylvania continued to deliver the Red Cross mission to all who were in need, and while the delivery of Red Cross services looked different than in years past, it did not decrease. This is thanks in large to the nearly 400 dedicated Northeastern Pennsylvania volunteers who served from February 2020 to present day.