Measure a Year: 1,236

(This is a beautiful new video from the American Red Cross that gets to the heart of why this is YOUR Red Cross. Hope you like it.)

It feels a bit like New Year’s Day in the middle of summer, and in Chicago we’ve got a big number to celebrate: 1,236. That’s the number of LOCAL disasters our relief workers have responded to in the past year. (June 30 was the end of our fiscal year, thus the New Year’s feeling and the tallying of that number.) And I can’t help but think that this terribly large number says much more about people than it does with anything else.

First of all, I bet you didn’t know that so many disasters happen in Chicagoland, but they do. And for each one of those 1,236 numbers, a family (and sometimes dozens of families) had their lives changed by a fire, flood or other emergency. Every year, we help more than 5,000 local disaster victims.

That number also symbolizes responses by our volunteers. When the phone rings at the Red Cross alerting us of a local disaster, it’s usually our volunteers who go out to comfort disaster victims and to bring them emergency relief for food, clothing and shelter. We’re alerted by local fire and police departments, from neighbors and clergy and friends of victims. And when they call, our volunteers leave their homes—sometimes in the middle of the night—to go out and help. More than 80% of recent responses have been by volunteers, which allows our paid staff to build up an even stronger volunteer base.

And of course, the critical number beneath this all is how many donors gave to the Red Cross to make sure this work happens. I don’t have exact numbers yet for how many individuals gave—that will happen soon in our annual report—but NONE of this work would be possible without your generosity.

So many thanks to all of you who support the Red Cross during this fiscal year. This number’s packed full of meaning, and I hope you find ways to tally not just numbers, but acts of compassion and kindness.

Kristin Claes is a writer at the Greater Chicago Red Cross.

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