For one woman seeking refuge from Hurricane Dorian, a Red Cross vest evokes memories of Minnesota childhood

Pretty in purple:  Virginia Marciniak chats with Bob Wallace.

Among the more than 9,000 people seeking refuge from Hurricane Dorian is Virginia Marciniak, a shelter resident at the St. Cloud Senior Center in Florida.

Virginia offers a hand and takes great delight in sharing that she grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and attended Clara Barton Elementary School (now Open School) that was named after the founder of the American Red Cross.

“Her picture was everywhere,” says Virginia. “They told us all about her … she was really a remarkable woman … I bet no one else in here can tell you a story like that,” she says with a smile.

Although she is residing in the shelter to escape the expected wind and water wrath of Hurricane Dorian, Virginia retains an insuppressible sense of humor.

“One of the nurses here, one named Jane, has a vest with ‘Nurse Jane’ on the back followed by ‘Disaster Relief.’ I think that could be a great TV serial,” she says with a chuckle.

The shelter at the senior center is for residents of Good Samaritan Retirement Village. It’s operated by the Osceola County Health Department and supported by the American Red Cross.

Shelter resident Virginia Marciniak and Red Cross volunteer Bob Wallace.

Story by Bob Wallace with photos by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross. Click here for more stories and photos. Click here to make a financial gift helping people affected by Hurricane Dorian.

Remembering the greatest sacrifice

“We cherish too, the Poppy red
Which grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.”
– Moina Michael

Around this time of year, you may see American Legion members distributing handmade red flowers, but may not know why. These are remembrance poppies, created and shared for Memorial Day to remind us of those who have fallen in war.

Memorial Day, celebrated on the last Monday in May, was created as a day to remember the approximately 620,000 troops who lost their lives during the Civil War. In 1971 it was declared a national holiday and was expanded to honor those who have died in all American armed conflicts, which has now totaled to over 1.1 million lives. It is for those 1.1 million lives that we pause to remember their sacrifice.

The American Red Cross pays tribute to those who have given their lives and works to aid the service members, veterans, and their family members within our communities. Our Service to the Armed Forces volunteers and staff work hard to provide services starting at the day of enlistment, on through their life journey.

After her humanitarian work during the Civil War, Clara Barton returned home to found the American Red Cross in 1881.

The Red Cross was founded as a response to the damages of war, standing firm to protect the rights and dignities of those who were casualties. This drive of humanity has remained at the core of the Red Cross through time as we never forgot those who fought and sacrificed. From this need to prevent and alleviate human suffering, the organization has grown to further serve the needs of our communities.

Today, the American Red Cross provides multiple assistances to our service members, veterans, and their families. We provide 24/7 global emergency communication services for military families, home comforts and community services, and community outreach to name a few. Our resiliency training workshops, taught by licensed and experienced instructors, are designed to help prepare for, cope with, and respond to the challenges of military service.

We would like to thank not only those who have volunteered their time to serve those who have served our country, but to all those who volunteer with the Red Cross; because of you we can combine our efforts to help those who need us. Most of all, we want to thank and honor those who gave the greatest sacrifice.

Post by Alex Smith, Services to the Armed Forces Director for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Photo of Clara Barton by Matthew Brady, c. 1865; now in the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired through the generosity of Elizabeth A. Hylton. 

House of Cards: The Clara Barton Connection

by Carrie Carlson-Guest

Like so many others, I am obsessed with House of Cards, the political drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as Frank and Claire Underwood.  No plot spoilers here I promise, just some thoughts about the connection between Frank and Clara. Clara Barton that is. I freely admit to watching multiple episodes in one sitting, complete with popcorn and fuzzy pajamas. And honestly, the weather lately has been rather conducive to Netflix marathons.

Part of the show’s popularity may stem from the references to real life events, issues, people and places. One of the episodes my husband and I watched last night, included a Civil War re-enactment at the Battle of the Wilderness.  On hand to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle, Frank is approached by one of the re-enactors who suggests one of Frank’s ancestors fought and died in the battle, with thousands of others.

What does this have to do with Clara Barton? She was at the Battle of the Wilderness. Before the Red Cross was even a formal organization, Clara Barton brought medical supplies and nursed wounded soldiers on Civil War battlefields, including during the Wilderness Campaign.  She, theoretically, could have comforted Frank Underwood’s great-great-great-grandfather and connected him to his family after his death.

Clara’s work during and after the Civil War became the first mission of the American Red Cross  – caring for the wounded and displaced and their families. More than 150 years later, the Red Cross proudly continues our Service to Armed Forces, supporting military members and their families, connecting them in times of crisis and by their side wherever they are around the world.

Check out this video for a great mini-history lesson on Red Cross SAF programs and services.  Then, if you haven’t already, check out House of Cards, but don’t tell me what happens after episode five of the second season.

Need a summer vacay idea?

IMG_0298_cropUndecided about your summer vacation destination? Want to get out-of-town and see someplace new? Like tossing in a bit-o-history during summer vacay? Love the American Red Cross? Desire to know more about Clara Barton? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then we’ve got a summer destination idea for you: see the Clara Barton National Historic Site in Glen Echo, Maryland.

A couple of us had the pleasure of visiting the site earlier this spring while taking part in Red Cross training. The National Park Service Rangers were informed, kind and patient while answering dozens of questions about the house, its history and items on display. Here are some samples:

IMG_0308_cropQ: Was that Clara Barton’s cat in the painting?

A: Yes. His name was Tommy. Clara liked cats a lot.

IMG_0301Q: What’s holding up the lamp?

A: Bandages. Not the original bandages, of course, but new ones showing the utilitarian approach to life here.

Q: Did Clara really sleep in that bed?

A: Yes, that was Clara Barton’s bed. Its the same bed where she died on April 12, 1912.

IMG_0316_cropQ: Did Clara live here alone?

A: No, there were guests and others, including Dr. Julian Hubbell, who was the first American Red Cross field agent and also the primary designer of the warehouse.

Q: Were Miss Barton and Dr. Hubbell, um, you know, sweethearts?

A: Not as far as we know. Dr. Hubbell was for a time engaged to marry. His fiance was not fond of Clara Barton, who kept Dr. Hubbell busy with Red Cross work.

IMG_0300Q: Can we sample the canned pickles?

A: We’re unable to share them with you. They’re on display to show how disaster relief supplies were once stored here.

Q: Did Clara really write with those pens?

IMG_0314_cropA: One-third of the items on display are actual historical items that, like the bed, Clara Barton used. The others, like the pens, are antique period pieces demonstrating what Clara’s life was at that time.

Q: Can we sit in the attic chair next to stained-glass window and pretend that we’re thinking great thoughts about how we can help people?

A: You’re welcome to look, not touch or sit, and think great thoughts.


So many more questions. So little time. If you’re unable to visit, then consider taking the online interactive tour of the building or testing your knowledge about Clara Barton and earn a Junior Ranger Badge. There’s no age limit for the badges. And as we say in Minnesota: that’s nice.

Photos and article by the often too curious like a cat Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Hello Summer!

Purchased at a Minneapolis garage sale for 25 cents, “Red Cross Stories for Children” by Georgene Faulkner. (Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross)

Summer is the season of many things: sprinklers and flip-flops, Popsicles and fireworks. And garage sales. Stumbling across one this past weekend in Minneapolis yielded a book called Red Cross Stories for Children that the American National Red Cross (as it was once known) published in 1917. Children’s book author Georgene Faulkner composed these stories about “self-sacrifice and devoted skill” as a means to teach children about Red Cross ideals. The tattered spine and fragile pages have rendered the book obsolete for library use, but the words hold up for summer story-telling on the porch or inside the backyard tent with a flashlight and smores.

Happy Summer Everyone!

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