By Marcelo Salazar

In 1918 America was struck by the most fatal pandemic of the 20th century: the Spanish Flu. During this time, the American Red Cross took action to prevent the spread of the flu by making and distributing face coverings throughout communities. One century later, the American Red Cross is helping prevent the spread of the Coronavirus by holding events such as “Cover the Spread.”

The Greater San Antonio Chapter of the American Red Cross held a “Cover the Spread” event on June 30th to collect face coverings for distribution to active duty military and veterans in need. Paula Davidson, one of the coordinators of the event, distributed the face coverings by assembling individual baggies that include a sewn face covering, a mini first-aid kit, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a note saying that the face covering was crafted with love by a Red Cross volunteer. 

The event actually began five weeks earlier, as flyers and emails went out to residents in the San Antonio area asking for sewed face coverings. And “Cover the Spread” San Antonio was a stunning success! Paula was surprised and delighted by the outcome of the event, “We were shooting for at least 500 face covering donations and it turned out to be closer to 850 which was a spectacular turnout I was not expecting.” One local youth donated about 250 face coverings. “It was incredible to see young people with a strong desire to help our community,” says Paula. 

Paula’s own experience with the young people and the event illustrates the humanitarianism that motivates Red Cross volunteers and how impactful events like these are to them. She tells us, “It is important to make a difference in this world. Instead of sitting at home doing nothing, I needed to do something that could help others in a safe and social distancing way. Once the shortage of face coverings in the VA was brought to my attention I knew exactly how to help.” 

She also described the joy she felt in seeing how much our community cares for each other, “You hear on the news everyday all the negative things going on in our country. This event was heartwarming because the donors never asked what religion, race, or political affiliation the people receiving the face coverings were. They simply knew it was going to help someone regardless of their physical characteristics.”

For the past century, the humanitarianism embedded in Red Cross volunteers has been the driving force in helping local communities fight public health emergencies such as the Spanish Flu and the Coronavirus.