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Clara Barton’s Dress: A Piece of Red Cross History Restored

Thu, 03/16/2023 - 19:20
Watch how Conservator Newbold ‘Newbie’ Richardson dresses the mannequin and learn more about Clara Barton’s dress.

Historical garments are artifacts that can tell us a great deal about the person who wore them. In Fall 2021, Clara Barton’s great, great, great niece, Sue Stafford, donated a dress worn by our founder to the American Red Cross. After examining the dress, we learned it was made of an expensive, imported silk brocade woven in the 1850s. With its 120” round hoop crinoline petticoat, Clara was considered fashionable for her time. She most likely wore this dress while she was meeting with members of the U.S. Congress, military generals or giving speeches.

For several months, Conservator Newbold ‘Newbie’ Richardson worked meticulously to restore Clara’s dress, using tools like hair silk, fine needles, etymology pins, wax paper and more to stitch the torn fabric, repair the frayed hem and stabilize the bodice.

“I had to customize the form to Clara Barton’s narrower stature and add batting to create the bust, waist and hips,” shared Newbie.

According to family history, Clara wore this dress on a trip to Europe with her niece, Mary “Mamie” Stafford, in the 1870s. The women often shared clothes due to their similar small stature. May Olney White, Mamie’s granddaughter (and Sue’s first cousin once removed) was born and died in her grandmother’s house, and that is where the dress resided after Mamie’s grandmother died. May wore the dress for parades and celebrations in Oxford, MA. Eventually, she offered the dress to Sue who also rode in some parade floats and made appearances at town events when called upon.



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We’re grateful to Clara’s great, great, great niece, Sue Stafford, for graciously donating the dress to the Red Cross and long-time Red Crosser and Tiffany Circle member, Barbara Bovender, who made the display and restoration of the dress possible.

See the dress in person the next time you’re in Washington D.C. by visiting our National Headquarters. Make sure to make a tour reservation in advance!

You can also learn more about Clara Barton’s legacy through the following resources:

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Stories of Hope and Help from Türkiye

Fri, 02/24/2023 - 13:26

“The needs here are so vast and the challenges immense.”

For the past week, Susan Malandrino, Communications Lead for the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and International Services Division has been on the ground in Türkiye with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), supporting people who were affected by two powerful earthquakes earlier this month and several additional quakes following them.

Through her daily encounters with international Red Cross teams and the people they are helping, she finds glimmers of hope and resiliency during a difficult time. Here’s a glimpse of Susan’s current life on the ground:

Providing people like Elif relief in remote villages

“I went out with our field medical field teams who provide care in remote villages. While we were near the town of Nurgadi, I met with a grandma by the name of Elif who lost her husband in the first earthquake. Sitting on the ground in front of a pile of rubble, she told me about the chaos and her fears, calling for her husband, falling, and injuring her feet. She called his name in vain as he was mortally wounded.”

“I don’t know what to do and my heart is so sad,” she said. “I’m wearing the only outfit I have, and my legs and feet are injured.” Our Red Crescent teams offered her medical care as well as emotional and psycho-social support. At the end of our talk, she hugged our team and told us how good it felt to talk, share and unburden herself.

After an additional 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday, Susan said it opened wounds and compounded the stress Elif and people all over Türkiye are currently feeling. She was working at the IFRC office in Gaziantep, a southern city in Türkiye, when it struck. She had to quickly seek shelter for safety with other international Red Cross colleagues. During those moments, her thoughts returned to Elif.

“The whole time, Elif was on my mind. My heart is heavy thinking about how this will affect her and cause even more heartache.”

Connecting with International Red Cross Teams

Susan encounters and works alongside many international Red Cross societies like the Turkish Red Crescent while serving on the ground with the IFRC. Amid the destruction and devastation, she met with Turkish Red Crescent team members Birgul and Onur, who shared their stories and how they are specifically helping during this international response.

“Some of these people have already been through so much, it’s hard to imagine what this must feel like,” said Birgul.

Birgul specializes in public health and has been supporting refugees for years through a program that provides an emergency social safety net for those most vulnerable. Türkiye is home to more refugees than any other country in the world, including more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled the war in the past 12 years. The earthquakes are yet another blow for the populations that have already been struggling.

Turkish Red Crescent team member Onur, who is based in Ankara, is currently assisting medical teams as a driver in the hardest-hit areas near the city of Nurdagi. Susan shared that once Onur discovered she was from America, he was so happy to talk about the summer he worked at Dave & Busters in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and how much he truly enjoyed eating burgers in America.

Like many international Red Cross teams, Birgul and Onur have been working nonstop since the first deadly earthquake struck. In the first couple of days, Onur was working so hard that he didn’t even stop to eat, stating “I was just going from one place to the next trying to help.” Birgul shared Onur’s sentiments emphasizing why she herself didn’t want to take a break or a day off during those first few days. “There’s just so much to do and people need help,” she said.

Finding Glimmers of Hope

In the short time that Susan has been on the ground, she has discovered hopeful glimmers of strength and resilience amongst communities that have lost so much. One of her favorite encounters was meeting a 15-year-old boy named Umut, whose name means hope in Turkish. They met at a center where Red Cross teams are providing resources for people impacted by the earthquakes. Families like Umut’s can come to this center to receive emotional support, food, medical care and pick up essential relief items.

Susan recalls her encounter with Umut when he asked her an interesting question. “He was quick to ask me out on a date, noting that – “it’s okay you’re an older lady.” His bravado and spirit were simply amazing,” said Susan.

To learn more about the response in Türkiye and Syria and how international Red Cross teams are helping people in need, click here.

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Kindness Comes Full Circle in Poland for Red Crosser Harold West

Fri, 02/03/2023 - 06:52

While working in Germany, I met Harold West, who simply goes by “West.” He came to volunteer with our organization by an act of kindness that occurred more than 40 years ago.

West went into the Army right after high school. He was one of the last group of folks who had draft numbers and quickly found himself on the ground in Vietnam. West says that it was a good experience for him, but during that tour, he learned that his brother-in-law passed away.

“That’s when the Red Cross contacted me. They helped me out quite a bit and offered support. I never forgot it,” he said.

He recalled that this assistance was a defining moment in his life — a moment when kindness prevailed during the hardest of times.

Many moons later, West’s story has come full circle. He recently deployed to Poland on behalf of the Red Cross as a member of Team 50 — a unit 21 of Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) personnel. He and his colleagues are deployed for three to four months to 10 Army installations around the globe.

Since the conflict in Ukraine escalated almost a year ago, nearly 70 trained staff have deployed to support troops. Fun fact — this is nothing new for the American Red Cross. We have supported troops in every major conflict for more than 100 years — including World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

West says that he never forgot about that event in Vietnam. Now that he’s retired, he wanted to see what he could do to help the next generation of soldiers. “This has been a life-long dream of mine, to serve in this capacity,” he said. He says he plans to hit the ground running and that he’s ready to boost the spirits of soldiers through morale activities such as fun runs, bingo nights and cooking classes.

“It’s about spending time together and easing that tension and stress that accumulates when you’re away from home. We want to provide a little fun to make life easier for these men and women.”

Like many veterans I know, it’s easy for him to relate to the challenges of service that today’s soldiers face. “It’s been a long time since I was in the Army, but the feelings are the same and many of the challenges are universal.”

West anticipates that emergency care messages will be a critical component of his role during this deployment. “It’s important that we are there during the worst of times,” he said. If a family experiences an emergency, the Red Cross will verify that emergency and work with unit commanders to notify the service member. If leave is granted from the command, the Red Cross works with military aid societies to help get the soldier home.

“This component of the job is near and dear to my heart because of my own experience in Vietnam.”

West told me that the Red Cross is often the link between home and the military. “We keep everyone together because it really does help.” I just love that about West. Signing up to help, giving back, and paying it forward to the next generation. Kudos to him and his colleagues for their important and heartfelt mission.

If you’d like to learn more about the work we do to support service members, veterans and their families across the country and around the world, click here.

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At a Red Cross Shelter for Ukrainians

Mon, 01/30/2023 - 14:05
“I don’t want anyone to be hungry – ever.” Ljudmila said.

Recently, Red Crosser Susan Malandrino traveled to Hungary and met with people who are trying to find a sense of normalcy after they fled the conflict in Ukraine. Ljudmila, is one of the people Susan was able to sit down with and hear how she is persevering and finding ways to give back, despite leaving everything behind. Keep reading to hear Susan’s first perspective of her experience meeting Ljudmila:

Dolling out bowls of her homemade borscht for volunteers and Ukrainians alike, she worked with the command and efficiency of a drill sergeant. She beckoned everyone to sit and eat the warm soup as freezing rain fell outside.

I met Ljudmila two months ago while visiting a Red Cross shelter for refugees in Hungary. She’s a Ukrainian grandma with a heart of gold who was forced to flee the Donbas region of Ukraine last March.

While she spooned a large dollop of sour cream into my soup, Ljudmila said, “My mama taught me how to cook this recipe, and cooking this reminds me of home.”

She told me about how she found community after fleeing her home and a sense of purpose at the shelter she cooks for, which is operated by the Hungarian Red Cross. Her two daughters and four grandchildren were also among the shelter’s 80 residents.

“In the kitchen, we talk about motherhood, we talk about the war, we talk about children. We talk about it all – everything. It’s good for us.”


Ljudmila’s daughters and grandchildren joined us as we ate and I asked them what their favorite treat was from their grandma. Not missing a beat, Ljudmila jumped in and said with a big smile, “It’s borscht. It’s always borscht. Nothing can compare. You can call me Babusia Borscht.”

As a communicator for the American Red Cross, I am tasked with the responsibility of sharing stories like Ljudmila’s to shed light on the crisis in Ukraine and the people that have had to leave everything behind.

Currently, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) is working with local Red Cross officials to implement a cash assistance program. Many people like Ljudmila have already received aid from this program, which affords them the ability to buy basic necessities like a winter coat, water and food.

Cash assistance provides dignity to people who otherwise would go through a less efficient process to receive aid. Because of the conflict, many people were able to register for cash wherever they were located by using their smartphones.

Since the conflict began, Red Cross teams have provided cash assistance to nearly one million people — supporting their basic needs, rental assistance, health and shelter needs. Thus far, more than $138 million in assistance has been distributed to needy families.

To read more stories about how the Red Cross is helping in Ukraine, visit

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One South Carolina Family Shares Their Home Fire Story and Gratitude for Red Cross’ Help

Tue, 12/13/2022 - 09:50

In late October, Cody Lucas and his family experienced a devastating home fire. He recalls the moments of that night that changed his life.

“We were all in the house. I had just gotten off work at about 11 o’clock, and me and my daughter were up a little later than usual. We were up watching tv and eating some candy from Halloween. We were pretty much in bed. We should have been asleep but thank god we weren’t,” Cody Lucas of Greenwood, SC, remembers the night that changed his life.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross of South Carolina region responded to the fire that night as Cody and his family watched their precious home burn.

“The lights started flickering in the bedroom, so I got up to check the switch. I flipped it a couple of times, and the light went completely out,” Cody describes the events that led to the discovery of raging fire. “I went through the house towards the kitchen and towards the breaker box, and the kitchen was engulfed in flames. I started screaming ‘fire, fire, fire,’ and quickly got everybody out of the house.”

After Cody and his family escaped the fire, his three-year-old daughter, Danielle, was upset since their pets were still inside the home. Cody reentered the structure and found the family’s dog hiding under the coffee table and another pet in a kennel. Cody was able to get the animals out of the home safely but was unfortunately injured when a light fixture fell from the ceiling and badly burned his arm from wrist to shoulder.

“What didn’t get burned smells like smoke, is covered in black soot or is soaking wet, or all three. So we lost everything. When the Red Cross came, they helped us out with some toiletries and gave me money that same night,” shares Cody on how Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers worked quickly to help his family with their immediate needs. “One of the gentlemen had a toy that he gave my daughter because she lost everything she played with. He gave her a Mickey Mouse, which made her happy.”

Home fires are considered one of the most frequent disasters in the U.S. Specifically in South Carolina, the region reports responding to six home fires daily on average and provides direct financial assistance to over 1,500 families impacted by home fires each year. This assistance offers families the immediate financial support they require to purchase things like food, shelter, and other essential items.

“We were able to get clothes and shoes and all that. All the small stuff that you take for granted, we were able to get that with the money that the Red Cross gave us.”

Cody describes what the financial assistance the Red Cross provided meant for his family. “One of the first things I did was go out and buy shoes for my daughter and me because we were barefoot after the fire. The Red Cross did help significantly; I was very appreciative that they came.”

In addition to immediate assistance, the Red Cross offers referrals for much-needed services such as Disaster Mental Health and Health Services. In the aftermath of the fire, volunteers from the South Carolina region were able to help Cody fill a prescription he needed to treat his burn injury.

“As for my daughter and me, we’re doing OK. We’re alive. We don’t have any beds, things like that. For the most part, we have everything we need,” shares Cody about his gratitude that the fire didn’t end in tragedy. “We have food. We have water, and we have a house. She has clothes to wear. She has two or three different shoes to pick from. We have jackets.”

Last year alone, the South Carolina Region spent more than $1,000,000 assisting families impacted by home fires.

If you’d like to help people like the Lucas family recover from devastating home fires and get back on their feet, consider making a financial donation this holiday season.

This story was originally published on the American Red Cross of South Carolina blog. 

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