by Melissa LaScaleia
Most of the time, when people think about American Red Cross, they think blood donation drives for accident victims, and capable volunteers who offer disaster relief services. But American Red Cross offers a much broader scope of benefits for our community.
“We help folks in the United States Armed Forces— both active duty members and families, as well as veterans,” says Ben Williamson, director of communications for American Red Cross, South Carolina.
“Our team and our volunteers provide home comforts and critical services both on armed forces bases and military hospitals around the world.”
There are several capacities in which American Red Cross offers assistance.
The first is that they help military families with emergency communications during deployments. The American Red Cross Hero Care Center, as it’s called, is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for emergency communication.
If you have an emergency and need to contact a deployed military member of your family, you can reach out to the Center, and they will get in touch with your loved-one overseas immediately.
And vice versa; if a deployed individual has an emergency, Red Cross is the means of communication that will reach out to the family at home.
Another service they provide is helping families to prepare for deployments. This can be something that is psychologically, emotionally, and logistically challenging for families. Consequently, Red Cross partners with the U.S. military to offer courses families can take together, to prepare for what a deployment will be like.
Then, when the military members return home, Red Cross holds reconnection workshops for soldiers to help them reintegrate into society.
“We conduct mock deployments for families so they can become familiar with the situation and know what to expect,” Ben says. “And upon their return, we provide practical support like referrals, networking, and training to help them find a job, or get job training, to help them readjust with greater ease. We also offer programs to help support them emotionally.”
The programs cover common topics of concern like dealing with stress, anxiety, and emotions, as well as reconnecting with their spouse and kids.
“Whatever it is that they are struggling with upon their return, whether it is therapy or counseling or anything else, we help them get reconnected and reintegrated,” Ben says.
The American Red Cross also offers supportive programs for families of military members, and hosts family events around the country.
“We’re able to provide services for them, like counseling, while their loved one is deployed,” Ben says.
Last fiscal year 2019, Red Cross provided nearly 14,000 case services to military, veterans and their families in South Carolina, alone. They educated more than 41,000 military veterans and their families about the services that Red Cross provides in South Carolina, alone.
“The big priority for us is that we continue to serve our nation’s veterans even after their service ends,” Ben says. “There’s a couple ways we do that. We help them get connected with the state, national, and local resources that they need, and with any groups that can provide them with food, clothing, and shelter. We get them referrals to get them connected to the right people so that they can get the help that they need.”
Another large-scale service they provide is to help veterans prepare evidence to support their claim for veteran’s assistance benefits, which most of the time, are financial.
American Red Cross also does their best to provide comfort kits to as many homeless veterans as they can. The kits contains essentials like a blanket, hygiene products, and snacks.
If you or anybody you know is or was in the military and is in need of some assistance, then please visit www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/military-families to see a list of available resources.
If you’re interested in helping American Red Cross fulfill their mission, then please visit www.redcross.org to donate or volunteer.