Frederica Doeringer discusses the emblematic beacon of hope that is the red cross.
Hurricane katrina, the tsunami in Japan, Superstorm Sandy, the Boston Marathon bombing, and Typhoon Haiyan have at least one thing in common: the American Red Cross.
Founded in 1881 by visionary leader and Massachusetts native Clara Barton, the American Red Cross is on many minds when disaster strikes. And for good reason. Executive Director of the Northeast Massachusetts chapter, Frederica Doeringer says, “The Red Cross is there for you at your worst moment—that sums up what we are all about.”
Described as an international humanitarian movement established to protect life, ensure health, and alleviate suffering, the government-chartered nonprofit comprises approximately 97 million volunteers, employees, and members. At the organization’s core are direct responders, caseworkers, mental health specialists, and medical professionals. The scope of work ranges from disaster response and preparedness to health and safety training to armed forces emergency services and international humanitarian law. The Red Cross provides 42 percent of the country’s blood supply; coordinates worldwide first aid, CPR, and AED trainings; ministers swimming, lifeguarding, and babysitting trainings; works with Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops; and staffs a certified nurse assistance program. Do a little research into your community’s resources, and the Red Cross is bound to be at the fore.
Modestly housed at 85 Lowell Street in Peabody, the Northeast chapter primarily addresses local needs. Whether it’s a single family or an entire neighborhood that’s been impacted, victims’ physio-psychological well-being is the goal. “Typically,” says Doeringer, “we help people who may have been on the edge before [a disaster]. They sort of have things together, but life is on theedge. We try to keep them ahead of the edge and help them get back on the road to independence.”
The true spirit of the Red Cross is evoked at their annual “Heroes Breakfast” fundraiser. “The [event] is a way for us to raise money in the community for all of [our] efforts,” says Doeringer. “It also helps us to help others understand the work we do. The people we honor really mirror [that] work—just regular people who happened to [do] something amazing to help someone.” She cites the exampleof a man who rescued an elderly couple trapped in their car after having driven itinto the Essex River.
It is also an opportunity to pay homage to community heroes—people “who have the depth and breadth of time,” and have spent their lives giving to the community. “Or,” says Doeringer, “someone like ‘Carlos with the white cowboy hat,’ at the Boston Marathon, who just knew it was the right thing to do, and he was able to do it.” In addition to Good Samaritan and community heroes, the ceremony honors youth, workplace, first responder, and military heroes.
Individuals support it, businesses underwrite it, and more than six hundred people attend it. Yes, it is a big moneymaker, but it is so much more. “No one leaves having not shed a tear,” says Doeringer. “It’s warm. It’s real. To me, it makes so much more sense than another golf tournament.” redcross.org