Indiana Region Recognizes Red Cross month by highlighting volunteer efforts during COVID-19 and 1918 influenza pandemics

UNDATED – The Indiana Region of the American Red Cross reflects during Red Cross Month on the contributions of thousands of volunteers who have engaged in the Red Cross mission since March 2020, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Their activities are much like those undertaken by Red Cross volunteers during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, which hit the Indiana Region in September of 1918, beginning with an outbreak at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis.

American Red Cross Motor Corps members in formation at Fort Benjamin Harrison, photograph, 1918, Indiana Red Cross, accessed IUPUI Center for Digital Scholarship.

As cases surged during the Influenza pandemic, Indiana Region Red Cross volunteers played a critical role. They transported needed supplies, re-directed nurses where needed, sewed face coverings, and provided general public health support.

Similarly, Red Cross volunteers are stepping up during COVID-19—supporting public health through blood/plasma collection, by amplifying health messages, sewing face coverings (more than 120,000 to date), transporting essential supplies and providing in-person or virtual assistance following disasters, big and small.

 Indiana Region volunteers respond to the Iowa derecho during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The difference between the 1918-19 influenza pandemic and COVID-19 is that Red Cross volunteers can now often respond and provide assistance virtually. For example, in the Midwest 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 provided free crisis counseling through the Red Cross Virtual Family Assistance Center for grieving families during COVID-19.

Chad Priest, regional CEO of the American Red Cross – Indiana Region

“The past year has been overwhelming for many in our community, and yet through it all, people are caring for one another,” said Chad Priest, regional CEO of the American Red Cross – Indiana Region. “March is Red Cross Month, and it is uplifting to see that the humanitarian spirit that is core to our Red Cross mission holds steady through the years. No matter the divisiveness we feel or the magnitude of the emergencies we face, we can work together to alleviate human suffering.” 


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 Philip Bloom, a disaster action team (DAT) volunteer from the Indianapolis chapter, who has volunteered to provide emotional support, psychological first aid and referrals to community assistance for families coping with disasters during the pandemic.


 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.


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

  • DONATE: Support our Disaster Relief efforts at 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 our annual Giving Day on March 24 to aid families in need across the country.
  • VOLUNTEER: Visit most-needed positions and local opportunities.
  • GIVE BLOOD: If you’re healthy and feeling well, make an appointment at 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 Online options include our Psychological First Aid for COVID-19 course, which covers how to manage stress and support yourself and others.