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American Red Cross Statement Regarding Involvement in Jena, Louisiana


On September 20, 2007, the American Red Cross, at the request of the State of Louisiana, provided humanitarian aid at ten comfort stations in Jena. The infrastructure of that small town (population 2,850) was overwhelmed by a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands. Businesses reported in advance they would not be open that day. A state of emergency was declared in the parish. Since the Red Cross mission is to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies, our services included basic first aid, along with water and snacks for law enforcement personnel, marchers, community residents and members of the media.

Nearly 200 people received first aid assistance from the Red Cross. According to state police, our presence there may have helped to avert other health emergencies. “The Red Cross was instrumental in providing the humanitarian care, which reduced the number of potential medical emergencies due to heat and dehydration,” said Major Frank Vaughn of the Louisiana State Police.

The Red Cross used existing disaster relief funds to pay for these services. However, we have asked the state of Louisiana to reimburse the Red Cross for the expenses incurred in Jena.

It is not unusual for the Red Cross to accept requests from public safety officials to assist at large gatherings of people, particularly in dangerous weather, like the hot temperatures that persisted in Louisiana last week. Because every community defines emergencies differently, Red Cross chapters are authorized to provide assistance during events that draw large crowds. For example, some chapters may choose to feed responders and volunteers at a search and rescue site for a missing person. Others provide first aid or comfort stations for crowds at political conventions, presidential inaugurations, state funerals or sporting events. The Red Cross typically assists in these activities at the request of local or state governments. The decisions to participate and how our services are paid for are determined on a case-by-case basis.

The American Red Cross provides humanitarian aid as part of our stated mission to “...prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.” As part of a global humanitarian movement, the Red Cross is an impartial and neutral organization. We have no opinion nor do we take sides in any of the events or issues surrounding the Jena situation. We were in Jena to serve all who needed our help.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.


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