Church, Red Cross Strengthen Relationship with Memorandum

  By Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events

  • 20 June 2012

Gail McGovern, CEO and President of the American Red Cross, and Steven K. Petersen, managing director of Church Welfare Services, met to strengthen the relationship between the two institutions on June 20.

Article Highlights

  • A memorandum of understanding signed between the Church and the American Red Cross covers preparing for emergency response; using the American Red Cross, where possible, as the collector for blood drives; and using LDS meetinghouses, where appropriate, as places of refuge in times of disaster.
  • During a visit to Welfare Square, Red Cross representatives met with Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and members of the Presiding Bishopric.

“We are more prepared than ever for when disaster strikes because of the relationship we have with the LDS Church.” —Gail McGovern, American Red Cross president and CEO

Calling the American Red Cross “important and indispensable,” Steven K. Petersen, the managing director of Welfare Services, met with American Red Cross President and CEO Gail J. McGovern on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA to reaffirm the decades-old ties between the humanitarian foundation and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The Church is a valued partner of the American Red Cross, and they have helped us in so many, many different ways,” Ms. McGovern said. “The LDS Church and its members provide financial support and in-kind donations to the Red Cross, and these generous donations have helped ease the plight of millions suffering from disasters not only in our country, but around the world.”

Since 1987 the Church has assisted the American Red Cross in hundreds of projects across the United States and has provided thousands of readily available volunteers.

Earlier this year, Ms. McGovern, who is in her fourth year as CEO of the American Red Cross, and former Presiding Bishop H. David Burton both signed a memorandum of understanding, similar to agreements made in years past.

The memorandum formalizes both groups’ commitment to work together to prepare for emergency response, use the American Red Cross as the collector for blood drives where possible, and use LDS meetinghouses as places of refuge in times of disaster where appropriate.

The agreement makes it easier for Church facilites to be used as licensed blood operations. It also clarifies details about how the two organizations will work together in times of disaster relief and in conducting preparedness efforts.

“Under our new agreement, the Red Cross and the Church will coordinate even more on disaster planning—things like training, drills that we conduct, and even using Church facilities for potential shelters,” Ms. McGovern said. “Also, blood donations continue to be a vital part of our partnership.”

Some four million people a year give the gift of life by donating blood through the American Red Cross, making it the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. In and around Salt Lake City, Church members have donated more than 50,000 of units of blood annually at Church-hosted blood drives, providing more than one-fourth of all blood collections in the region.

“We respect the Red Cross and have a history and tradition of working with them,” said Neil Newell of Welfare Services. “We have found them reliable and trustworthy and very good to work with.”

The Church’s Humanitarian Services Division of the Welfare Department participates in several major humanitarian initiatives—clean water, emergency response, food production, immunizations, neonatal resuscitation training, vision care, and wheelchairs—often partnering with other organizations in times of need.

“One of the advantages that we have as a Church is that we have committed members who are willing to give of their time and their efforts in these kinds of operations,” Brother Petersen said. “In times of disaster, our members our very willing to step forward.”

During April 2011 general conference, President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, invited members worldwide to “lift up those in need” through service. Blood drives are one of the many ways that members of the Church around the world contribute to their communities and lift those around them.

The American Red Cross similarly offers compassionate services in several areas: disaster relief; community services that help the needy; support and comfort for military members and their families; the collection, processing, and distribution of lifesaving blood and blood products; educational programs that promote health and safety; and international relief and development programs.

In an editorial published in the Deseret News on Sunday, June 17, Ms. McGovern described the value of partnering with the Church.

“The Church has created a strong culture of preparedness among its members that I believe can be a model for others throughout the country,” she wrote. “And because individual Church members are prepared and resilient [during] disasters, the Church can focus on helping other community members following an emergency.”

In 2011 alone, the American Red Cross responded to more than 68,000 disasters across the countries. Internationally, it assisted 8.6 million people affected by disasters in 24 different countries. More than 200,000 blood drives held by the Red Cross yielded 9 million blood products.

Ms. McGovern concluded by expressing gratitude for the depth and breadth of the relationship between the Red Cross and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “We are more prepared than ever for when disaster strikes because of the relationship we have with the LDS Church,” she said.

Following a guided tour of Welfare Square and the Bishop’s Central Storehouse, newly dedicated in January, Ms. McGovern and other Red Cross representatives met with Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and members of the Presiding Bishopric.