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Disaster-filled year left Red Cross needing help

Facing a relentless disaster season, families in the U.S. have spent more nights in emergency lodging in 2020 than in any other year over the past decade.

“As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, disasters like the wildfires burning across Nevada this summer, plus relentless hurricanes and wildfires in other parts of the country, have upended hundreds of thousands of lives this year,” said Alan Diskin, executive director of the American Red Cross of Southern Nevada. “Through it all, more people are stepping up as Red Cross volunteers to help others, even as they cope with these events and COVID-19. It’s a true testament to the humanitarian spirit of people in Las Vegas and in our country.”

More than 1 million times this year, a person relied on the Red Cross for a safe place to sleep after a disaster in the U.S. That’s more than four times the annual average from 2011 to 2019.

Volunteers have aided more than 900 people affected by home fires this year in Southern Nevada, helping them secure a safe place to stay and providing food, emotional support and other assistance.

This year, more than 70,000 people across the country joined the Red Cross as volunteers, who represent more than 90% of its workforce. As Las Vegas and the country grapple with the pandemic, young people have played a critical role in disaster response, with millennials and Gen Z representing more than half of new Red Cross volunteers.

Nationwide, 75% of new volunteers stepped up at a pivotal time to fill mission-critical positions, such as shelter and health workers addressing urgent disaster needs, as well as blood donor ambassadors and transportation specialists helping to provide cancer patients, trauma victims and others with lifesaving blood.

Volunteers such as Elizabeth Jascolt are among those from the Las Vegas community making a difference. Having joined the Red Cross in April as a blood donor ambassador, she quickly arranged for her employer to host a blood drive before training to deploy to Houston for the Hurricane Laura response as a disaster volunteer.

“I’ve enjoyed volunteering with the Red Cross because it’s made me realize how valuable of a mission they have,” Jascolt said. “It’s just such an honor for me to help them through this and to be a representative for the Red Cross.”

In 2020, Red Cross blood drive cancellations tripled compared to the previous year, mostly because of COVID-19. Since March, more than 50,000 blood drives were canceled as the pandemic forced schools, businesses and community organizations to close, affecting more than 1 million blood donation appointments. Still, people rolled up their sleeves, more than a half-million of them giving for the first time.

“If it wasn’t for donors like yourselves, my daughter probably wouldn’t be here today,” said Las Vegas resident Vanessa Hozier, whose two children, Jonathan and Christia, have sickle cell anemia.

Blood donation is an essential service, and everyone’s well-being is the top priority for the Red Cross, which follows the latest public health guidelines and has put additional precautions in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

This pandemic has caused the Red Cross to adapt its collections to include plasma from COVID-19 survivors to potentially help those battling the virus recover. Thousands of COVID-19 survivors have stepped up to share their potentially lifesaving antibodies by giving plasma. Since April, nearly 25,000 COVID-19 survivors have rolled up a sleeve, with many new to blood donation. Their donations have enabled the Red Cross to ship nearly 50,000 units to hospitals across the country treating COVID-19 patients.

The Red Cross urges all who can to help people in need by donating at redcross.org/gift. A $5 contribution will provide a warm blanket to someone who has lost their home in a disaster. A gift of $50 can help connect veterans and their families to critical community services, such as food, housing, mental health support and rehabilitation. A donation of $100 can provide a family of two with a full day’s worth of emergency shelter with meals, snacks, blankets, cots and hygiene supplies.

Those who are healthy and feeling well are urged to donate blood this holiday season. Your blood donation can make a lifesaving difference for a patient in need. Visit RedCrossBlood.org to schedule an appointment.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and donors to perform its mission.

For more information, visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org.

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