Madison Square Garden erupted in applause last night as Red Cross volunteers celebrated the progress the organization has made in its 1943 war campaign.
Amid influential guest speakers and performances at the “Red Cross at War” rally, Red Cross officials announced that New York City raised $5.1 million toward its goal of $12.9 million for the year. On the national level, the U.S. has raised $50 million of its $125 million objective.
According to Walter S. Gifford, national chairman of the Red Cross War Fund, the $125 million mark is greater than any amount previously set by Red Cross campaigns or any other American organization. He added that the efforts put forward to achieve these goals are a reflection of unwavering support for the Red Cross’s mission to continue sending and supporting nurses abroad.
“It will be evidence that, however difficult the problems [we] face in these wartimes, we can make the necessary sacrifices to meet them voluntarily and cheerfully,” he said.
In another gesture of support, many politicians and entertainers volunteered to participate in the rally.
Event organizers recruited a 100-piece orchestra as well as the help of New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The Mayor led bands from the Fire, Police and Sanitation Departments in a medley of popular, patriotic songs, such as “Over There.”
The entertainment and speeches served to underscore the impact of the impact of the Red Cross. At one point in the evening, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Princess Martha of Norway took the stage and the Princess shared her connection with the Red Cross. She told the story of young Norwegian women who escaped the threat of Gestapo forces and served their country as Red Cross nurses in exile.
In fact, in addition to boasting record fundraising numbers, the Red Cross recently experienced an influx of volunteer nurses in their ranks. On March 13, the organization held a ceremony inducting 125 new student members into its student nurse reserve corps.
One of the major appeals of the Red Cross is likely the affect that volunteers and nurses can have both domestically and abroad.
At a meeting regarding the organization’s fundraising efforts in early March, infantry officer Wiley R. Swartz discussed the influence that the Red Cross has on overall soldier morale.
“It is just [the energy] that the Red Cross inspires in our soldiers all over the world—and the sort that makes me proud to say that I am a soldier in the Army of the United States,” he said.
The impact of the Red Cross is also felt in the American entertainment industry as it works to raise awareness of the organization’s work.
Other than its philanthropic projects, the organization has had a significant social impact. In many ways, volunteering with the Red Cross serves as an example of the important role women can play in wartime society. With his remarks at the rally, former New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker captured this sentiment.
“It used to be that the little boy would say, ‘Grandpa, what did you do in the last war?’” he explained. “But after this war, the boy will say, ‘Grandma, what did you do in the last war?’ and she will answer, ‘I served with the Red Cross.’”
Despite the strides the Red Cross has made in its campaign, the fundraising work is far from done. Colby M. Chester, the general chairman for the organization’s campaign in New York City, warned that, with much money left to be raised, “The hardest road is still ahead.”
“125 Students Join Red Cross Nurse Corps.” The Washington Post, March 13, 1943, p. B1.
“$50,000,000 Raised in Nation For Red Cross; $5,107,000 in City.” New York Times, March 16, 1943, p. 1.
“Film Industry Lends Hand To Red Cross Drive.” The Washington Post, March 29, 1943, p. B5.
“Red Cross Gets $420,057 in Initial Week.” The Washington Post, March 12, 1943, p. 1.
“TICKETS IN DEMAND FOR RED CROSS FETE.” New York Times, March 15, 1943, p. 5.