In a joint press conference on Friday, Oct. 26, the American Red Cross recognized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as its first-ever Mission Leader.
The new designation is a program which recognizes organizational partners of the Red Cross who donate $3 million or more a year to aid in their efforts, as stated in their mission statement, to prevent and alleviate human suffering “in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors."
A $1.5 million donation from the Church to the ARC was announced at the press conference by Bishop Dean M. Davies, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. The donation will be used to purchase 10 new-generation emergency response vehicles with their iconic Red Cross branding. These emergency response vehicles are considered a key part of the ARC’s disaster relief operations and are often the first sign of relief as they arrive in hard hit areas following disasters like recent hurricanes Florence and Michael in the southeastern United States.
“With these vehicles, when the roads allow, we can get out into the communities … and meet the people where they are and try to deliver our mission,” said ARC Chief Operating Officer Cliff Holtz. “They allow us to extend our mission geographically to any part of an affected area. It’s a big multiplier in terms of reach.”
Holtz explained that the new-generation emergency response vehicles also help serve the volunteers who work out of them as emergency responders, providing more comfort during their more than 12-hour shifts.
“This gift is a testament of our great trust and respect for the American Red Cross,” Bishop Davies said during the press conference.
Although the two organizations have collaborated for nearly a century, they first formalized their partnership with a Memorandum of Understanding in 2005. At Friday’s press conference, the organizations once again formalized their long-standing relationship by renewing the Memorandum of Understanding. Bishop Davies and Harvey Johnson, senior vice president of Disaster Cycle Services for the ARC, signed the agreement into effect.
“This partnership is special. … It’s all about serving people in disasters,” Holtz said. “It transcends what we have with almost all our other partners.”
Other key representatives from the Church in attendance at the press conference, which was held at the Utah and Nevada regional headquarters office in Salt Lake City, included Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president; Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; and Jeff Foy, emergency response manager for the Church. Those representing the ARC included Sharon Jaska, southwest and Rocky Mountain divisional vice president; as well as other local executives and board members.
“The partnership among the American Red Cross and the Church spans nearly a century since working together on humanitarian relief efforts during World War I,” said Bishop Davies in a press release. “We recognize and appreciate the skill and expertise the Red Cross organization and their people bring to bear when people need it most and are pleased to join hands with them in reaching out to those in need.”
During his remarks at the press conference, Bishop Davies emphasized the similarities between the two organizations and their missions.
“It is one of the primary reasons this partnership has been so fruitful,” Bishop Davies said.
Noting the long-standing history of working together with the Red Cross, Bishop Waddell explained the benefit of partnering with the relief organization around the world.
“With all of the issues taking place around the world, we really can’t do it all ourselves, so we really do need to team up with trusted partners, and there aren’t that many out there that have the reach to get to places we might not be able to get to … and the Red Cross is one of them,” Bishop Waddell said. “They are an example of a worldwide organization that can assist us in fulfilling our responsibility to care for the poor and needy.”
Both organizations rely on one another in many contexts, Sister Bingham explained, noting the many times Church volunteers have arrived to help the ARC's efforts following disasters.
“That’s what the Church is known for … as responders. When there is a need, immediately we have many volunteers willing to help, that’s one of the strengths of the Church," Sister Bingham said. "We have that giving nature, and we can be trusted to show up."
In 2015, the Church donated the $1.8 million proceeds from the “Meet the Mormons” film to the Red Cross. Over the past three decades, the Church has also collaborated with the ARC on over 220 projects throughout the U.S. and has donated over $10 million for Red Cross humanitarian projects.
“The mission of the American Red Cross cannot be fulfilled without consistent and generous partners,” said Heidi Ruster, Utah and Nevada regional executive for the Red Cross, in a press release for Friday’s event. “We are grateful for the continued collaboration with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make a difference in the communities we serve.”