One year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, people have stepped up to address the emotional needs of families reeling from the coronavirus and 2020’s record-breaking disasters.

In the Tennessee Region and across the country, trained American Red Cross disaster mental health and spiritual care volunteers have had more than 53,000 conversations to provide emotional support to people in 2020 — which had the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters in a single year. In addition, trained volunteers have provided free crisis counseling through the Red Cross Virtual Family Assistance Center for grieving families during COVID-19.

“The past year has been overwhelming for many in our community, and yet through it all, people are caring for one another,” said Joel Sullivan, regional executive for the American Red Cross Tennessee Region. “When help can’t wait, they provide families with the support they need during emergencies. During Red Cross Month in March, we honor this humanitarian spirit and ask you to join us by giving your time, talent or treasure to keep our mission going.” 

What is Red Cross Month? 

For nearly 80 years, U.S. presidents have proclaimed March as Red Cross Month to recognize people giving back through its lifesaving mission — which is powered by more than 90% volunteers.

They include people like Debra Alexander, owner of Alexander and Associates, Inc., who has volunteered with the Nashville Area Chapter of the Red Cross after assisting with disaster recovery following Hurricane Katrina. Alexander, who works both as a disaster cycle services volunteer and with the public affairs team in Tennessee helps with case work, and works closely with elected officials following disasters.

“I have seen first-hand the devastation left following a hurricane and more recently the tornado that swept through middle-Tennessee last year,” Alexander said. “People are looking for someone to help them put the pieces of their lives back together and I am so proud to volunteer with this organization that does that for our community every single day. It has been such an honor helping those when they need it most.” 

A growing desire to give back 

A 2020 study on a rise in volunteer experiences added to LinkedIn profiles shows that more people want to help others during this unprecedented time. Last year, more than 70,000 people across the country became new Red Cross volunteers largely to support urgent disaster and essential blood donation needs. In addition, thousands of COVID-19 survivors — many new to blood donation — rolled up a sleeve to give convalescent plasma and help patients battling COVID-19.

In the United States, blood is needed by someone every two seconds. This need was impacted even greater with the pandemic and Tennesseans stepped up in 2020 to donate more 86,690 units of blood last year. Your American Red Cross provides 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply and 80 percent of the blood donated comes from local blood drives. 

How to help 

You can help ensure that families don’t face emergencies alone — especially during a pandemic:

• DONATE: Support our Disaster Relief efforts at redcross.org/GivingDay. A gift of any size makes a difference to provide shelter, food, relief items, emotional support and other assistance. Your donation will be part of their annual Giving Day on March 24 to aid families in need across the country.

• VOLUNTEER: Visit redcross.org/VolunteerToday for most-needed positions and local opportunities.

• GIVE BLOOD: If you’re healthy and feeling well, make an appointment at RedCrossBlood.org. Your donation can make a lifesaving difference for a patient in need. As a thank you, those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma on March 15-26 will receive a Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.

• LEARN LIFESAVING SKILLS: Take a class in skills like CPR and first aid to help in an emergency at redcross.org/TakeAClass. Online options include our Psychological First Aid for COVID-19 course, which covers how to manage stress and support yourself and others.