A Brief History Of The Local Red Cross

OSWEGO, NY – The local Oswego Chapter of the Red Cross was first organized in January of 1917.

Francis D. Culkin was the first president of the chapter.

Fees for membership to the Red Cross were one dollar per year.

The goal in 1917 was to establish 1,000 members.

The Red Cross provided services locally, and to soldiers during this time.

On July 14, 1916, a petition requesting the organization of a chapter was received by the national Red Cross signed by: Cora C. Parsons (Mrs. John S.), Myra R. Lovell (Mrs. M.S.), Alice W. Mott (Mrs. J.T.), Elvira N. Steill (Mrs. S.W.), and Emily Hartwell Neidlinger.

National located a letter to Francis D. Culkin of Oswego enclosing authority for the organization of the Oswego Chapter.

It was officially chartered May 16, 1917.

Some of the highlights of the first year include:

Aug. 11, 1917: Oswego has done nobly in making surgical Dressings. 8 cases ready for shipment. Mrs. F.B. Reynolds chairman

Sept. 14, 1917: D.A.R. Chapter decides to do Red Cross work as a unit. Our Red Cross by Mrs. W.B. Couch was fully discussed.

Sept. 15, 1917: Red Cross Yarn arrives to be used only for service men.

On the 40th anniversary, a dinner meeting was scheduled at the Presbyterian Church, West Fifth and Oneida streets, to commemorate the milestone. The price was $1.50 per person.

During the 1950s, support for the Hungarian Relief, flood relief, fire victims, and blood donations were all major projects.

Also during this time, the Red Cross and the United Way joined together. Many advertisements were published asking for donations, volunteers and support for the Red Cross.

One of the major supporters of the Red Cross at this time was Birds Eye Frosted Foods (A Division of General Foods).

A Red Cross ad stated: “Nature has been kind to us Americans. As an example, the pea crop was the largest in history. We’d like to send peas to the Hungarians who have won our admiration for their gallant stand against oppression. But we can’t ship frozen peas.

“So, between Jan. 21st and Feb. 2nd, Birds Eye will give its full profit on every package of Birds Eye Peas you buy to the Red Cross Fund for Relief of Hungarians.

“If all of you would buy more Birds Eye Peas than usual during this period, it would help provide additional funds to aid these brave people.”

A newspaper clipping from early February 1957 mentions that: “Through efforts of local, county and international Red Cross agencies, a door into riot-torn Hungry was opened this week just wide enough for Mrs. Clinton Lounsbury of Lacona to learn that her mother’s sister is still alive.’We are alive and fairly well, and that is all I can say,’ the Hungarian woman wrote on the back of a Red Cross letter which evidently had reached her by way of Red Cross organizations in Geneva, Switzerland and Germany.”

An ad on June 30, 1953 announced that “Now your blood donation also helps fight crippling Polio!”

In 1957, the Red Cross also ran an ad suggesting what someone should contribute based on their earnings. For example, for a person making weekly wages of $40, their “suggested gift” to the Red Cross be $11, or a weekly deduction of 22 cents per week for 50 weeks.

Blood donations have always been a big part of the Red Cross. In an undated photo and caption it was noted that “Nearly 200 Oswegonians have donated a gallon of blood; Mrs. Dorothy Casper gives three gallons.”

Fred Gault, an employee of Cyclotherm, also became a member of the three gallon club.

In the 1960s, water safety classes had continued success. The American Red Cross also dealt with the Vietnam War. Relief was also given in disasters such as Hurricane Camille, the earthquake in Alaska, and victims of fires and tornados.

February 19, 1968 was designated “Save-A-Life Monday” to promote a bloodmobile at St. Joseph’s Church Hall.

The 1970s brought an explosion in blood drives. Many safety and first aid classes were offered.

Disaster relief was also given for victims of Typhoon Pamela, Hurricane Celia, floods, fires, tornados, and blizzards.

Emergency preparedness was becoming an issue, and classes were being taught.

In a front page brief and photo, the Oswego Shopper (May 14, 1975) warned: “The Red Cross needs you! Don’t take us for granted.”

Leah Muscalino was honored for donating nine gallons of blood and Ted Ranous was cited for donating 12 and one-half gallons.

However, “Blood donors are sought daily,” according to the Jan. 21, 1979 Syracuse Herald-American. And, in the Oswego Shopper of June 20, 1979, “Mrs. Marie Harrington, chairman of the Zonta Bloodmobile, casts an alarming glance at the empty blood refrigerator at Oswego Hospital. The blood shortage is especially critical this year, and with the upcoming holiday, Zonta and the Red Cross are pleading for donors new and old.”

Many people remember the devastation of the early 1980s’ floods in Central New York. The Red Cross also gave relief to fire victims and helped during blizzards.

Classes were taught providing many with the ability to help save lives.

On Sept. 9, 1985, Daniel Jordan used Red Cross life-saving skills on a fellow employee who was choking at Niagara Mohawk’s Oswego Steam Station.

The Red Cross also provided relief when a major fire was battled on the Port City’s east side during a bitterly cold day in February on 1985.

They were also there years later, in May of 2001 when another huge fire threatened an entire westside block in the Port City.

Gifts to the Red Cross come in all forms.

Instead of giving each other gifts at their annual Christmas dinner party in 1985, members of the Oswego Rotary Club donated $104 to the American Red Cross Ethiopian Disaster Relief Fund.

George Reed, chairman of the Red Cross Disaster Service for the Fulton and Oswego area, accepted the donation from Rotary President Fred Crisafulli.

The 1990s brought recognition to the Oswego Chapter of the Red Cross from National president Elizabeth Dole for support and disaster relief excellence.

Volunteers were recognized for their personal efforts. Disaster services helped people all over the world.

The local chapter received a certificate from Dole “In appreciation of your contribution to the Persian Gulf Family Support Project.”

Bob Crist, manager of Niagara Mohawk in Oswego, presented Red Cross Director Bob Rose with a new van. The vehicle was to be used for disaster services. It will also be used to aid fire victims, conduct searches and by the First Aid Safety Team (FAST).

Responding to changing needs in the past decade, the Red Cross developed an HIV/AIDS education program, receiving support for its launching from the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau in 1993. In 1995, the program received the New York State Eleanor Roosevelt Award from the governor’s office for excellence in volunteer service.

In the fall of 1996, the New York State Red Cross Council appointed the Oswego County Chapter as the overall lead chapter for the central and northern New York regions, providing leadership to the nine other chapters in its area, and acting as a member of the state’s Red Cross management team.

The chapter replaced the Syracuse and Onondaga County Chapter in this role.

And, in 1998, the Oswego County Chapter and the Onondaga County Chapter merged to help provide even more services for the entire Central New York region.

In June of 2007, Carol Hunn stepped down as director of the Oswego branch office. She was replaced in August by Karen Ferguson.

It may be a new location – but the service is the same.

Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross is one of the oldest humanitarian organizations in the U.S.

In early March 2008, the Oswego Branch Office of the American Red Cross moved into a new home after decades at its second floor location at West Second Street.

The new office is located at 333 W. First St., at Bridie Square.

Ferguson moved on in March of 2011. The office wasn’t without a leader for long, however.

Danielle Hayden joined the American Red Cross of Central New York as the Oswego Branch Director in April of 2011.

The appointment took affect April 25, according to Margaret L. Henderson, regional CEO.

“Danielle comes to the organization following eight years of dedicated, progressive service at the chamber of commerce in Oswego, most recently as events coordinator,” Henderson said. “We look forward to Danielle being a part of a great group of Red Crossers!”

“We are excited and very pleased that Danielle has been selected from a very competitive group of applicants to join the American Red Cross of Central New York Team,” added Richard F. Blansett, director of public support for the American Red Cross of Central New York.

On March 1, 2012, the Red Cross’ new Disaster Relief Vehicle was unveiled at the Oswego branch office.

For more information, visit www.redcrosscny.org