American Red Cross celebrates 100 years in central North Carolina

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) - Since 1917, the American Red Cross has served the central North Carolina region, often expanding its efforts and services.

The organization is now celebrating 100 years.

When North Carolinians first started sitting in Red Cross chairs to give blood, the nation was three years into World War I.

A group of women worked to get President Woodrow Wilson to charter an American Red Cross in Wake County.

One hundred years later, millions have received aid from the organization.

"The Red Cross never needs blood, hospital patients do," said Barry Porter, regional director for the Red Cross.

RELATED: Red Cross, CBS North Carolina team up for 100th anniversary blood drives

In 1917, blood donations were mostly for soldiers, but now it's also for hurricane survivors, tornado victims or even mass shooting patients.

When disasters strike, the need for blood rises.

It takes anywhere between 18 to 24 hours to test a donation before it can be used. It's the reason why the Red Cross needs consistent donors so when emergencies happen, the organization is prepared.

Another challenge is assisting families who lose their home to a fire.

"The most common disaster that claims more homes and lives than natural disasters in the U.S. is single family fires," Porter explained.

It's so common that Red Cross officials said they assist at least five area families every day.

Porter takes little credit for the work that helps these families. He shines the light on a different group.

"The real root of what keeps me passionate about the organization and what we do is the work of the volunteers," he said.

Porter said in the future he wants to be the nation's premiere disaster responder.

"The American Red Cross is a relevant organization in today's world," he said. "But we cannot do it. It takes the community."

Officials say volunteers are needed in places like Durham where they're looking for blood delivery drivers.

To see what's needed in your neighborhood, click here.

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