American Red Cross, Always There When Disaster Strikes

As 2015 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the past twelve months and taking stock of all that I have to be grateful for. This has been another incredibly busy year for the American Red Cross. Our organization responded to tens of thousands of disasters -- including 176 large-scale events here in the U.S. -- and many other humanitarian crises around the globe. Despite the many challenges we faced, I continue to be so very thankful for our compassionate and committed volunteers, donors, employees and partners -- whose wonderful efforts bring our vital mission to life every day.

This past May and June, the Red Cross responded across multiple states -- including Texas, Alaska, California, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Illinois -- to help people impacted by severe flooding and wildfires. In June, I visited Texas where 132 counties were flooded. Witnessing the destruction of a disaster and comforting a family who just lost everything is always a sobering experience for me. And while I was deeply saddened by the stories of loss I heard during my visit, I saw encouraging signs of resiliency everywhere. Above all, I was so proud of the hard work, dedication and compassion displayed by our amazing Red Crossers.

As the summer continued, the Red Cross responded to the raging wildfires that burned out of control in Washington, California and other western states. Then, in August, Typhoon Soudelor made landfall on the Northern Mariana Islands of Saipan and Tinian. The Red Cross was once again there to deliver shelter, food and assistance in affected communities. And of course, when catastrophic flooding hit South Carolina in early October, hundreds of Red Crossers were on the ground to answer the call for help. I traveled to South Carolina to get a first-hand view of the devastation and returned home more inspired then ever by the incredible commitment of our selfless volunteers and workers.

In addition to natural disasters, the Red Cross was there to provide comfort and assistance in the aftermath of many of the violent tragedies that occurred this year in communities such as Charleston, South Carolina, Roseburg, Oregon, and -- most recently -- San Bernardino, California. These are such horrific and delicate situations, and the Red Cross tends to quietly move in to offer help where it is needed.

Yet amidst all of these devastating events, both natural and man-made, home fires were by far the most common disaster threat that Americans faced this year. In 2015, the Red Cross provided casework assistance to help 214,000 people whose lives were affected by a fire in their home. The Red Cross also helped prevent home fires and related injuries and deaths by working with thousands of local partners across the country. In fact, since October of 2014, we've worked with our partners to install 215,000 smoke alarms and teach 395,000 youth about fire safety. This effort has resulted in at least 32 lives saved over the last 15 months.

Of course, as part of the world's largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross also worked alongside other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in 2015 to respond to major disasters and humanitarian crises all around the world. Most notably, we played a leading role in supporting relief operations in Nepal after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April. In addition, the Red Cross continues to address the needs of displaced families from Burundi, people facing food insecurity in Senegal, and is assisting with the ongoing migration crisis in Europe.

As I look back on the year that was, I remain more grateful than ever to lead this American treasure. It continues to be an incredible privilege for me to serve with so many dedicated and caring individuals -- as we work to provide comfort and relief to those facing disaster and emergency. Moving forward in 2016 and beyond, the American people can take comfort in knowing that the Red Cross will be there to give help and hope to so many in their darkest hours.

Everything we do is because of the generosity of the American public. To make a financial donation to support our lifesaving mission please go to www.redcross.org, call 800-REDCROSS, or check out our wonderful Holiday Gift Catalog at www.redcross.org/holiday.