Nearly 13,000 people – enough to fill Atlanta’s State Farm Arena to over half its capacity, are the number of individuals that the American Red Cross of Georgia has aided across the state this year following a variety of disasters.

As the holiday season and year-end giving come to a close, the Red Cross is reminding Georgians that it’s not too late to “Give Something that Means Something” with a donation that will bring comfort and hope to neighbors in need whenever the next disaster strikes.

“Over the past year, people across the state have faced relentless disaster, a record-breaking hurricane season, and an extensive home fire season, while facing COVID-19,” said the Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross of Georgia, Danella Hughes.

“We are incredibly thankful for our volunteer workforce that is always there to provide help and hope to people during critical times. Even through the current pandemic, they’ve helped thousands of people persevere through the challenges of disaster with grace, compassion, and a strong commitment to serve those who need us most,” she added.

RESIDENTIAL FIRES TOP THE LIST

The majority of disasters the Red Cross of Georgia responded to in 2020 were fires, like the recent one in Lithonia, where an apartment blaze near the corner of Fairington Village Drive off Fairington Parkway damaged 17 units and forced some of its residents to escape from second-story windows to flee the burning building. The fire left nearly a dozen families (43 people) directly affected, and Red Cross assistance is helping them get back on their feet.

This year, Georgia Red Cross volunteers aided over 10,000 people impacted by 2,160 residential fires (home and apartment), meeting emergency needs like temporary lodging, food, clothing, personal items, and health and emotional support to help families through the challenges of disaster.

OTHER DISASTERS IMPACT GEORGIANS, TOO

Not only have all Georgians statewide been struggling with the pandemic for most of the year, some were also left trying to piece their lives together after severe storms and tornadoes ripped through portions of the state, displacing over 200 families. A callous 2020 hurricane season and the post-landfall paths from Hurricanes Sally, Delta, and Zeta also caused flooding, downed trees, power outages, and damage to homes across the region, impacting hundreds who also relied on the Red Cross for assistance.

In Georgia and across the U.S., the American Red Cross offered a safe place to sleep to those afflicted by disaster more than 1.3 million times this year. The number of emergency lodging is up more than four times the annual average from 2011 to 2019.

VOLUNTEERS DELIVER URGENT AID

Volunteers represent more than 90% of Red Cross personnel and they quickly adapted to continue delivering help safely during COVID-19.  As the pandemic escalated, most of the 70,000 people who joined our volunteer ranks across the U.S. mobilized to fill mission-critical positions such as disaster shelter and health workers, and blood donor ambassadors and transportation specialists.

In Georgia, new volunteers stepped up in droves, doubling from the previous year. The Red Cross relied heavily on them to help deliver its mission here at home and support larger relief efforts across the country in areas devasted by the California and Oregon Wildfires, and across the South, battered by an unforgiving hurricane season. This year the Georgia Red Cross deployed over 250 volunteers across the U.S. on nearly 600 critical missions to aid families impacted by these natural disasters.

BLOOD DONATIONS REMAIN ESSENTIAL 

Blood donation is an essential service. The Red Cross supplies the United States with 40% of its blood inventory. In 2020, the Red Cross saw blood drive cancellations triple nationwide compared to 2019 – mostly due to COVID-19. Since March, over 50,000 blood drives were canceled as the pandemic forced schools, businesses, and community organizations to close, impacting over 1 million blood donation appointments.

The pandemic caused the Red Cross to adapt its blood collection process. The organization follows the latest public health guidelines and has put additional precautions in place to ensure the safety of its donors and staff alike. Changes include collecting plasma from COVID-19 survivors to potentially help those battling the virus to recover. Since April, more than 35,000 COVID-19 survivors have rolled up a sleeve to donate plasma – many of whom are first-time blood donors. Their donations have enabled the Red Cross to ship about 91,000 units to hospitals across the country treating COVD-19 patients.

SUPPORTING MILITARY AND VETERAN FAMILIES 

Red Cross services to military members and their families range from providing emotional support through counseling and workshops, housing and financial support through resources available to military families, and emergency communication to servicemembers through the Hero Care Network. 

For deployed or separated military families, support during the pandemic has been critical – as evidence by an increase in calls this year to the Red Cross Hero Care Network, which facilitates emergency communications with loved ones during a family crisis. Georgia ‘s Red Cross also saw a spike of 20 percent on calls for emergency assistance as families grappled with the impacts of the pandemic like job loss, death, and illness. In 2020, the Georgia Red Cross received almost 11,000 emergency requests from military families. The region handles some of the largest caseload across the nation. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP: 

The Georgia Red Cross urges people to help those in need by donating at redcross.org/gift. A gift of any size makes a difference. If you’re healthy and feeling well, we also urge you to donate blood this holiday season. Your blood donation can make a difference for a patient in need. Visit RedCrossBlood.org to schedule an appointment today.