Since its founding in 1881 by visionary leader Clara Barton, the American Red Cross has served its mission of providing relief to victims of disaster. Today, Barton’s legacy is carried on by a network of women from around the country who comprise the American Red Cross Tiffany Circle Society.
This week, these remarkable women gathered in Washington, D.C., at a summit to network and discuss how women can help continue to shape the future of the Red Cross.
Each Tiffany Circle member, through their $10,000 annual donation to support the Red Cross, brings her own unique story of service. Donations by members of the Tiffany Circle help ensure Red Cross chapters continue to have the ability to train volunteers to respond to disasters, help military families reach loved ones in an emergency, and enable chapters to teach individuals and families to prevent, prepare for and respond to everyday emergencies.
The summit commenced Monday with a reception held at the French Ambassador’s residency. Ambassador Pierre Vimont and American Red Cross Chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter welcomed the women leaders and thanked them for their service.
The reception was followed by a musical event at the Kennedy Center, hosted by Amy Grant and Vince Gill. The concert, which honored wounded warriors, also launched the Challenge America initiative. Special guests included Michael McDonald, Alison Krauss, Darius Rucker, Mac McAnally, Melinda Doolittle and New York Times bestselling author Stephen Mansfield.
Challenge America will work with communities across America to support the development of recreational and occupational programs for returning injured military and their families. The evening was inspirational and there was not a dry eye in the house. It also made it very special that Grant and Krauss are both members of the Tiffany Circle.
The following morning, Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern provided a brief overview on the state of the Red Cross. She began by describing what an inspiration it was for her, just one year ago, to appear before the Tiffany Circle members in one of her first official acts as the newly named president and CEO.
“You were so warm, so embracing and so encouraging, that on my flight home I had such a sense of determination that I was going to attempt to lead this institution with integrity and with transparency,” McGovern said. “And I dedicated myself to having a focus on our donors, our employees, our volunteers and especially on the people we serve.”
The first order of business has been establishing financial stability, according to McGovern,, reporting that significant progress has been made in the two-year plan to close what had been a deficit of more than $200 million a year ago. Tough decisions have been made to cut costs and increased efforts have been undertaken to shore up donations, with employees and donors committed to supporting and continuing the Red Cross mission.
McGovern also noted with pride how the Red Cross has become effective in using social media such as email, Facebook and Twitter to reach supporters, volunteers, and others. The Red Cross has used social media both for fund-raising but also to provide information about the H1N1 virus or to encourage people to volunteer or take a course. She said that Red Cross supporters cast more than 77,000 votes in a Target Facebook contest campaign, which earned the Red Cross $794,000 in contributions from Target.
“Not only are these wonderful results, but to me they are very exciting because they show that a 128-year-old institution can really participate in the digital age, and that we can really reach a youth segment that is simply phenomenal,” McGovern said.
McGovern also introduced guest speaker David Sanderson, a survivor of Flight 1549 which has been referred to as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” As the last passenger to depart the plane after it crash landed into the Hudson, Sanderson recounted the 15 minutes from when the plane landed until he was safely on dry ground.
As one of the seven passengers who entered the water, he credits his parents for signing him up for swimming lessons as a child. Sanderson stated, “The first responders, like the American Red Cross, gave us life that day.” After being removed from the water, Sanderson was taken to New Jersey and greeted by two EMTs and a Red Cross volunteer waiting with a blanket. He credits the Red Cross with providing warm clothes for him while he stayed overnight in the hospital and waited for his body to thaw out. A Red Crosser was also waiting for him with his family at the airport when he finally returned home to Charlotte, N.C.
A special luncheon was also hosted for the ladies at the National Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington, Va.). Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught and General Russel L. Honoré offered remarks. Suzy DeFrancis, Chief Public Affairs Officer of the American Red Cross, emceed the event, which focused largely on the Service to Armed Forces, which she described as “one of the most beautiful missions of the American Red Cross.”
“The American Red Cross exemplifies freedom around the world because of its mission and its values,” said General Russel L. Honoré. “The Tiffany Circle is helping us spread the Red Cross message across the country. The next time we have the Tiffany Circle Summit it needs to be in the biggest hall in the city. We need more of you; there can’t be enough of you.”
More information about the Tiffany Circle can be found at RedCross.org
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.