hundred years ago our community's landscape
looked very different. Howard Street, with
its street cars and main shopping area, was
the center of downtown life. Baltimoreans
who wanted to escape the confines of the city
might venture out to visit faraway relatives
in rural Roland Park. Many civic minded residents
concerned themselves with charity and reform
efforts—when they had the time; but most citizens
were busy with their own lives.
After the great Baltimore Fire of 1904, however,
that attitude began to change. Local movers
and shakers joined forces to take up Clara
Barton's challenge to organize a local branch
of the nascent organization known as the American
Red Cross. Their mission: "The relief
of suffering by war, pestilence, famine, fire
and other national calamities."
A century later our needs are not so different,
but our capabilities have increased tremendously.
Today we are able to mobilize thousands of
volunteers to respond to disasters anywhere
in the world. Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow,
whose Red Cross swimming and lifesaving training
program is credited with cutting the rate
of drowning deaths from 10 to 1.4 per 100,000
people, would be astounded by today's catalog
of diverse health and safety training options.
Volunteerism has become a way of life. In
Central Maryland, more than 2,000 citizens
proudly call themselves Red Cross volunteers.
These volunteers help us respond to at least
three disasters each day (mostly house fires)
in our community. Many are willing to travel
across country or around the globe to bring
disaster relief to victims of fires, hurricanes,
floods and other emergencies.
Unique and historic events have created new
opportunities for the Red Cross. High school
students are now required to perform community
service to graduate, and young people have
the opportunity to donate blood as soon as
they turn 16. Here in Baltimore, the Holocaust
and War Victims Tracing Center responds to
a need that our local Red Cross founders could
not have envisioned a century ago.
As we celebrate 100 years of lifesaving service
to the community, we look forward to a future
where the American Red Cross continues to
be vital a part of the Central Maryland landscape.
FRANK L. MILLER