Episode 8: American Red Cross Jane Blocher

By Clint Patty, J.D.

Clint Patty:

Well, hello there. Welcome to Investing in Good, a podcast that shines a spotlight on those making a profound impact within Northeast Kansas. This podcast is proudly presented by Clayton Wealth Partners, your partner in philanthropic financial planning for individual donors and investment management for endowments, foundations, and nonprofit organizations.

In each episode, we’re going to sit down with the remarkable leaders and dedicated workers of nonprofits across the state of Kansas. We’re going to listen to their stories, learn about their causes, and talk about the challenges they have in making the lives of Kansans better each and every day. So stay tuned now as we delve into our next inspiring story on Investing in Good.

Welcome back to Investing in Good. I’m Clint Patty, the managing partner of Clayton Wealth Partners here for the first time on the podcast from our Lawrence location at 832 Pennsylvania in beautiful Lawrence, Kansas. I am here today, very glad to have with me the Executive director of the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas, Jane Blocher. Jane, welcome.

Jane Blocher:

I am so happy to be here. Thank you for the invitation.

Clint Patty:

Well, I’m glad you’re here too. Let’s get started with, I always like to start with a little bit about the people I’m talking to. So tell me how you got to Lawrence, how you became involved in the Red Cross and ultimately became the executive director of the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas.

Jane Blocher:

Sure. Well, I’m born and bred in Kansas. Born in Salina, grew up in Chanute. Graduated from Kansas State University, proud Wildcat living in the land of blue and red.

Clint Patty:

Well, you got to be careful with that one around here. I won’t tell anybody.

Jane Blocher:

But I was actually living in Colorado, Springs and married. My husband had just retired for many years at the Air Force Academy. He was an instructor there. He retired from the military and we were wanting to build a house, but the housing market in Colorado, Springs was just exploding. This was in 2000. And we really wanted to get back to our roots in Kansas. He grew up in Prairie Village and went to KU and my roots in Chanute. We really wanted to get back to our roots. We were missing too many graduations and weddings and funerals and things like that. The only thing keeping us in Colorado were the mountains. And so we moved back and we decided to come to Lawrence. I had a friend that said, “I have a friend that’s on the board of directors for the American Red Cross who are looking for an executive director.” I’d never worked in the nonprofit arena before. And I checked it out and was able to get an interview and ended up getting the position as executive director.

At that time, this was 2001, we were a single county chapter, just the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross. Our jurisdiction was solely Douglas County, and it was that way until 2014. And in 2014, our organization had a huge restructuring, which in retrospect was the smartest business decision they ever made and did a lot of consolidations which saved the organization millions and millions of dollars. And at that time, they asked me to come over to Topeka and become executive director of the Greater Kansas chapter and take on not just we were going to blend the Douglas County chapter in with Kansas capital area based in Topeka and to take on a lot of extra chapters. So they closed the smaller chapters and they did a mass consolidation, which at the time was painful because it was such a change from what we’d done for decades and decades. But again, in retrospect, smartest decision they ever made. It saved millions of dollars to the organization and allowed us to put those savings back into programs and services.

Clint Patty:

So that’s quite a change in your job. You come on in 2001 and you’ve got Douglas County. Now, how many counties do you oversee as part of the Greater Kansas region?

Jane Blocher:

78 counties.

Clint Patty:

That’s a big change.

Jane Blocher:

You know, oddly enough, it is not a heavy lift. I have learned so much about the state of Kansas and the spirit of the volunteers throughout our state. And there is no better place to be a director of the American Red Cross in Kansas. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else despite the scary time we’re in right now, which is severe weather season, and we’ve seen a lot of that the past few weeks, but it really is the best place to be.

Clint Patty:

A couple of quick questions. The American Red Cross is one of those organizations that I’ve always felt like we take a little bit for granted. So a disaster happens, a tornado, an earthquake, a train derailment, and in my mind I’m thinking, “Okay, well, this is a problem, but I do know the American Red Cross is going to be on the ground.” In full disclosure, I have no idea how that actually happens. So as I think about it, and maybe you can help me and maybe others listening to this, we could have some clarity on just how that massive organization of volunteers and people and help gets from the Red Cross to the disaster sites.

Jane Blocher:

Well, we have superpower that is basically, we are able to mobilize hundreds and thousands of volunteers when disaster strikes 24/7/365. And it’s because of the network of chapters that we have across the country and the volunteers within each chapter. If a big event happens, a big disaster happens, and there are not enough local volunteers to provide the support, the relief to that specific area that’s been impacted, we have the ability to call in other volunteers from our region. If we don’t have enough there, if it’s a really large disaster, we can call them in from all over the country. So we deploy wherever and whenever were needed.

Clint Patty:

So those volunteers then you have in your jurisdiction, I assume a certain number of volunteers that you oversee. I assume that includes training and everything else. Can you talk a little bit about how that organizationally works?

Jane Blocher:

Well, there is definitely… Well, first of all, let me go back a little bit and state what the mission of the organization.

Clint Patty:

Absolutely, yeah.

Jane Blocher:

The mission of the American Red Cross is to prevent human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. So it’s the marriage of the volunteers and the donors who make our humanitarian mission possible. We have to have both in order to make this work.

We have throughout our chapter jurisdiction, probably about 250 volunteers. The other chapters in Wichita, they cover the rest of the state. We serve in our chapter alone about a million residents. We respond to on an average of about 250 different disaster events a year. The most common disaster the American Red Cross responds to is a single-family fire. We respond to about 70,000 of those each year, but once our volunteers go through the required training, they are also equipped with the skills to respond to any disaster. It can be a train derailment where we have people that we have to evacuate and get them into a safe shelter. It can be flooding, it can be wildfires. For our counterparts on the different coasts, it can be hurricanes. Whatever that disaster is, our volunteers are there to respond.

Our primary responsibility to the communities that we serve throughout the country is if we have people displaced due to any type of disaster at all, it’s our responsibility to first and foremost provide sheltering and feeding. Sheltering and feeding, those are the two most things we do following the immediate aftermath of a disaster. So long before disaster strikes, our disaster staff are out there meeting with emergency managers and other partners, making sure that we have shelter locations, memorandums of understanding, written up, signed and in place in communities all over. And when disaster strikes, we pull up those MOUs and we call the person who’s holding the key to that building where we have designated as a shelter if we ever need it. Typically, it’s in a school gymnasium or a church or a community center. It can be in a… Like with Hurricane Katrina, we were using the Astrodome. So depending on the size of the disaster, we’ll indicate what size our shelter needs to be.

So within usually a few hours of disaster striking, our volunteers are already in place and we have human resources in the way of volunteers that are there to help the residents coming in that have been displaced. And we have cots, blankets, feeding equipment, everything you need in order to provide those displaced people a safe and warm place to stay with the compassionate service that our volunteers are known for. We can do that all over the country.

Clint Patty:

That is amazing. So these memorandums of understanding, these agreements you have locally then are locked in, that’s how you get there so fast. That’s the thing I’ve always, in my mind thought, “My goodness, how are they on the ground that fast and getting people to shelters and getting them fed that quickly?” Because it seems to happen overnight.

Jane Blocher:

Well, here’s a great example. Last week we were on high alert for about 48 hours leading up to the weather event we had in Kansas on April the 30th. So we knew that tornadoes were more than likely going to be hitting somewhere in our area. So our disaster staff, the two days leading up to that event, were busy on the phone, on the computer, having resources in place, making sure which of our volunteers are going to be on standby, who’s available to respond if something happens. So we have our ducks in a row long before the event happens.

More times than not when disaster strikes, we have warning about it in advance thanks to technology. Sometimes we don’t if it’s a fast moving wildfire. I remember a few years ago, maybe three or four years ago, right before Christmas, we had terrible wildfires in Russell County where we had some fatalities and a lot of ranchers and farmers out there lost cattle, their homes, everything. And we didn’t really have any warning on that. We knew it was very dry and the forecast was ripe for wildfires, but when it happens, you don’t have a lot of notice. But the fortunate thing about the preparedness piece of our mission is we know in advance what we need to do to make sure we can respond quickly by having all of those things in place long before disaster strikes.

Clint Patty:

So let’s talk just a little bit about the history of the Red Cross. I don’t know that a lot of people know that the Red Cross really goes all the way back to just the end of the Civil War. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jane Blocher:

Sure. Well, the story that American Red Cross is a true testament to the power of compassion, resilience, and it goes back to our mission of alleviating suffering in times of crisis. So it all began back in 1881, 143 years ago when our founder, our beloved founder, Clara Barton, she founded our organization and her vision at that time was to provide care and support to those in need, regardless of their nationality, their race, whatever their background was. And so her journey to establish the American Red Cross was fueled by her experience as a nurse on the battlefield of the Civil War. So she saw all the suffering that was happening on the battlefield, and it truly ignited her determination to create an organization dedicated to serving humanity in times of both war and peace.

But one of our fundamental principles, Clint, is neutrality. So we are so neutral in everything we do, and we take no sides. We will serve anybody who’s suffering regardless of their immigration status, regardless of again their race, their ethnicity, whatever it is, we serve everybody.

Clint Patty:

So yeah, there’s a lot of talk about equity and inclusion and how we as a society can recognize those things. Not a problem at the Red Cross, suffering falls on people of all creeds, races, economic status. It really doesn’t matter, does it?

Jane Blocher:

It does not. And it’s one of the things that I think we’re the most proud of. We have to stay away from any type of controversy. We are a donor-supported organization. We do not receive any government funding, any state, city, local funding. We are funded solely on the donated dollar. Of every dollar that is donated to the Red Cross, 90 cents stays back in programs and services. Only 10% is used for fundraising and overhead expenses. But when donors make a gift to the American Red Cross, they have the reassurance of knowing we’re going to use their gift wisely and efficiently. As I said, 90 cents of every dollar donated goes directly back into our mission. The Red Cross truly has a positive impact on the community in which anybody lives in, and we spend your money wisely.

Our volunteer workforce is made up 90% of volunteers. Without those volunteers and without the marriage of the donors, nothing can happen, our mission is not possible. So our mission and work is happening every day. The only time you see us on the front page of a newspaper is usually when something bad has happened with a disaster, but we’re behind the scenes 24/7/365 fulfilling our mission.

So our research has indicated that every eight seconds, somebody in this country needs the services of the American Red Cross. This means that every day we help close to 200 families affected by home fires or other disasters. We collect over 12,000 pints of life-saving blood, helping hospital patients face medical crisis. One of our core services is support to the military and veterans. Every day, we provide 1,400 services to them and their families facing emergencies, and we train close to 15,000 people every day in life-saving skills. Many people, their first relationship with the Red Cross happened as a child if maybe they took swimming lessons. It was taught by a Red Cross trained water safety instructor.

My first relationship with the Red Cross, I was four years old, I remember the little card I got that I had passed swim lessons.

Clint Patty:

Right. Yep.

Jane Blocher:

And so many people, that’s their first relationship with the Red Cross. We also are known for training people to respond in an emergency situations. So through our CPR, our AED training, our first aid classes, we can train individuals regardless of age if a medical emergency were to happen, how to respond so that lives can be saved.

Clint Patty:

So volunteers are obviously critical. What are you looking for skill-wise? Obviously you’re looking for people I would assume that have some medical training, but maybe other things too. So talk about what an ideal volunteer looks like and then how they’re trained.

Jane Blocher:

Boy, that’s a big question because volunteers are the heartbeat of our organization. Volunteers range in age typically from 18 to 90 and everything in between. We have four core lines of service, our disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Our blood collections. We collect almost half the nation’s blood supply. Our support to-

Clint Patty:

Now stop right there. Think about that just for a second. I hope people listening because that’s a huge thing. So we think of a blood collection, I think of, and the nation’s blood supply as something the government is overseeing and taking care of, but you’re telling us today half of our blood supply is actually collected by the American Red Cross.

Jane Blocher:

Almost half.

Clint Patty:

Wow.

Jane Blocher:

Almost half. We have such an obligation to hospital patients regardless of where they live, to ensure that when they have a medical emergency, that those pints of life-saving blood are available on the hospital shelves. We are constantly pleading, begging, groveling for people to roll up their sleeves and go in and give that gift of life. Before I came to the Red Cross, I never gave blood. Nobody ever asked me to give blood. I would see blood drives going on and see those people in the chairs giving the blood, and I would think, “Well, that’s nice,” but it never occurred to me.

Clint Patty:

“That’s not for me.”

Jane Blocher:

That’s not for me. Yeah. And I was so wrong. When I came to the Red Cross, that’s when I realized that we are constantly in a shortage. And it’s very seasonal too. Winter’s a really tough time for us as well as summer. Summer with people traveling, they’re in sports activities, things like that. Schools are closed. We collect a lot of blood in high schools and universities. And then in the winter, you’re dealing with cold weather, flu season, holidays, things like that that keep people from giving on a regular basis. So the blood component piece of our organization is huge. And day in and day out, we hear stories from people being saved by having a transfusion. And some hospital patients can go through a dozen transfusions at a time. So it’s so important that if you’re able, you go in and you give that gift of life. 38% of the population is eligible to donate blood. Of that 38%, only 5% actually do.

Clint Patty:

Wow. We need to get those numbers up.

Jane Blocher:

We need to get those numbers up. And even worse is that the blood that we’re collecting, 5% from those who are eligible, only 3% comes from African-Americans, 1% comes from Native Americans, 4% come from Hispanic populations. So we are working very, very hard to diversify our blood supply. We have an initiative that’s part of our diversity, equity, and inclusion program to help fight sickle cell disease, which mainly affects African-Americans, and to do a lot of education in the Black communities on the importance of giving blood.

Clint Patty:

I think when you said earlier that your number one response is to individual disasters that occur, I mean 1, 2, 3 families that may be affected, we tend to think of the American Red Cross as something that comes in a Hurricane Katrina type situation. But it’s an individual, it’s a one-on-one type organization that’s actually serving individuals more than it is these mass disasters that we tend to think about, isn’t it?

Jane Blocher:

Absolutely. That’s a great point. And for example, in the state of Kansas, Wichita based on population has the highest number of home fires and apartment fires. Topeka’s number two in the state. Our volunteers are on call 24/7 to respond to those calls when they come in from the fire department. Many of them are 2 o’clock in the morning. They don’t happen during business hours.

Clint Patty:

They do not.

Jane Blocher:

So we have volunteers that sign up on our database to be on call. When we receive a call that were needed, the volunteers go out usually on a team of two. Unless it’s a bigger fire involving more people, then we’ll send out more responders. But they go out and they meet with those individuals, determine what their short-term disaster related needs are, and then we provide financial assistance in the form of a debit card. The funds that we load on that card are made possible by donations from the American people. And we work with them, getting them, if they do not have a place to stay, we will provide funding for hotel rooms. Also, that funding is to be used for clothing replacement, toiletries, other emergency needs.

We also have volunteers who are health service volunteers who if they have in the fire, perhaps their CPAP machine or their inhalers or any type of medical equipment was destroyed, they can help connect them to the resource to get those things back for them. We also have a lot of disaster mental health volunteers on call as well to serve big events and a single-family fire. If we’re working with clients who are having trouble struggling with the emotional aftermath of a disaster, we will connect them with one of our trained disaster mental health workers who can work with them in the weeks following that event.

Clint Patty:

I have to say, I did not realize that there was a mental health branch of the American Red Cross, but given how important that is and how we know more now about the importance of the treatment of mental health issues, that’s wonderful.

Jane Blocher:

We’ve seen the need for that skyrocket over the years. It was very indicative that we needed to do more with that after Hurricane Katrina. When I first started with the Red Cross in 2001, the mental health aspect played a very small role in disasters. Now, it’s almost as important as the responder themselves who is providing that shelter to the client, that they’re providing meals for the client. They’re providing financial assistance, things like that. We work in lockstep with those disaster mental health volunteers to make sure that the clients that need it have immediate access to them.

Clint Patty:

So four lines of service. We’ve talked about the blood supply. We’ve talked about immediate disaster relief. What are the other two?

Jane Blocher:

The training, the emergency preparedness training. First aid, CPR, AED, lifeguarding, things like that. And then the service to the Armed forces, which is really our core service. That’s how it all started, was with serving the military on the battleground in the Civil War.

Clint Patty:

So if I’m a relatively healthy potential volunteer to the American Red Cross, but I have no skills, are you willing to take somebody like me and train them?

Jane Blocher:

Well, everybody has skills. That’s the beauty of the organization.

Clint Patty:

Oh, don’t assume that.

Jane Blocher:

Everybody has skills. Everybody has something they can do. So for example, right now we have volunteers on the ground in Oklahoma. Our region is Kansas Oklahoma. They had storms the night of April the 27th that a couple of fatalities, communities that were absolutely decimated. And we opened up shelters immediately, have volunteers down there. So depending on what you… That’s part of the interview process. When a volunteer comes to us for the first time, we try to tap into what resonates with them. Of all the things we do, what do they like the best? What would be the most meaningful use of their time so that they get the best possible volunteer experience that we can provide?

So we have volunteers in Oklahoma right now that are managing shelters. We have volunteers that would be working in a warehouse. Probably in a warehouse setting, you’re going to see the movement of hundreds of pallets of water and food that’s been donated and other things like that. We have volunteers that go out into the field with iPads doing disaster assessment. We don’t hand out financial assistance to people that have been impacted by a disaster until we have been to their home and we have verified the disaster. That’s an obligation we have to our donors to make sure that there’s no fraud and abuse, that somebody that we do provide financial assistance to has certifiable damage.

So we have volunteers that go out into the field with their iPads documenting the disaster. We have volunteers, again that provide their licensed, clinical social workers that provide the mental health aspect. We have a lot of retired nurses that go out and do the healthcare aspect of it. We have volunteers who will do distribution of emergency supplies. We were doing that in Westmoreland last week. We had volunteers, a retired teacher that went out with shovels and rakes and tarps and work gloves and things like that, handing out these supplies to people that were in their yards, cleaning up the debris. We lost 23 homes in that community.

Clint Patty:

Wow.

Jane Blocher:

She’s a retired teacher. So she would probably say, “Well, I don’t have any skills.”

“Well, you really do because you’ve got the compassionate care that comes through in every conversation that you have with somebody who’s been impacted.” She can drive a car going into those neighborhoods, providing that help and hope that the Red Cross is so good at doing it.

Clint Patty:

And you can hand out water, you can help hand out foods. There’s a lot of things that volunteers can do. If I want to be a volunteer and I’m going to have you give a couple of these plugs throughout, how do I get a hold of you at the American Red Cross? What’s the best way?

Jane Blocher:

There’s multiple ways. You can connect with somebody locally. We also have all of our contact information at redcross.org. You can find our chapter, phone number, email address is there. I think many times we will recruit volunteers when we’re doing table leading events, different presentations throughout the community. But for the general public, the best way to start is going to redcross.org. There’s a tab right there. You have to complete some fields with contact information, things like that. There is a required background check. And then again, that’s our obligation to the donors to ensure that the volunteers that we bring on are the most qualified. And then a workforce engagement volunteer will reach out to you. We go through an interview?, Talk about the things that you think you can contribute. Try to find what that sweet spot is.

I mean, some of our volunteers, when they come, they want to do it all. They’ve got 20, 30 hours a week to volunteer. Some just they don’t want to marry us, they just want to be with us a few times or a month or maybe just once something big happens, they will call us.

Clint Patty:

They’re just dating.

Jane Blocher:

We’re just dating. Right. so you don’t have to marry.

Clint Patty:

Gotcha.

Jane Blocher:

We’re just going to date and we date when you want to date.

Clint Patty:

Right. So redcross.org is that website for folks that are interested in volunteering. And I’m assuming there’s a volunteer shortage, right? This is not…

Jane Blocher:

Oh my gosh.

Clint Patty:

You’re look on your face tells me everything.

Jane Blocher:

Well, we lost 40% of our volunteer workforce during Covid. We’ve been trying really hard to recoup those numbers, but it’s been difficult. All volunteer-led organizations are in the same boat. I don’t know of any organization that’s recovered from volunteer loss during Covid.

Clint Patty:

Well, and actually a number that just aren’t in operation anymore. Once Covid hit, that was the end. So a 40% reduction is huge. We certainly want to encourage people who are able to volunteer for the Red Cross. As you said, there’s no necessarily length of commitment they’ve got to sign up for. If they could just donate in sometimes a few days, that would be worth it, wouldn’t it?

Jane Blocher:

Absolutely.

Clint Patty:

Okay. So we’ve talked about the people that are served. We’ve talked about the importance of volunteers. Talk about donors and how important donors are to the American Red Cross.

Jane Blocher:

We rely so much on our donors to make our work possible. And our challenge is when we have large disasters that are on the front page of the newspapers, when they are the lead story on the nightly network news, the floodgates open with donations many times, but that’s what we call being in gray skies. Our expenses stay the same in blue skies when there are no major disasters going on. So it’s a challenge for our fundraisers around the clock to raise money even when we’re not on the front page of newspapers. So fortunately, our teams do a great job of community outreach and remaining visible, promoting the work that we do with blood, with volunteer engagement, with our support to the military, with our training services. We do a pretty good job of being relevant, whether there is a hurricane going on or something else that grabs the national news just for a few days.

Clint Patty:

So for people that would be interested in becoming donors, either individual donors, corporate donors, maybe a blood donor as well, same website that they’d reach out to? Redcross.org?

Jane Blocher:

Yes, and also 800-RED-CROSS.

Clint Patty:

Okay.

Jane Blocher:

A lot of people use that format for donating. Usually with most events, especially if you see something on social media, there’s a QR code. So we’ve had to adapt the way that we make donations possible to the organization to make it easy as possible for our donors to make that gift. But I think we’ve done a really good job of being good stewards of the donor dollar. Several years ago, Clint, our real estate division at national headquarters took a look at what we were spending on buildings and decided we really need to reduce our physical footprint and get rid of a lot of our real estate and focus our donations on our mission work and our people.

Clint Patty:

And it would seem to me that particularly in organization like the Red Cross, your headquarters is really in the saddle because you don’t know where the next disaster is going to hit, who’s going to need your services. So the idea of a big building that houses everything. I mean, you’re remote. You were remote before remote was popular, really.

Jane Blocher:

We did a really good job of managing that. I know when a lot of our smaller chapters back in 2014 closed throughout the state, there was a lot of disappointment and frustration, the people that lived in those smaller communities, but again, those buildings we owned and they were money pits, and it just did not make sense to keep fueling money into buildings instead of services.

Clint Patty:

Again, being a responsible steward, taking care of donors money. That all makes sense. Do you have any major campaigns or events that are coming up that you would like to talk about?

Jane Blocher:

I would say one of the most important things that we’re doing right now with the diversification of our blood supply is the education that we’re doing in the African-American communities. Talking to them about the importance of donating blood. We’ve had several sickle cell drives in many of the communities that we serve and trying to increase the amount of African-American donors. We’re making strides, we’re making positive impacts in that area. We still have a lot of work left to do.

One of our year-round campaigns is free smoke alarm installations in low-income and vulnerable communities. We started that about eight, nine years ago. It was so successful. We would send teams of volunteers into these vulnerable communities where a lot of fires occurred. And what we discovered is that especially in neighborhoods where there had been a fatality fire, things like that, many times that family did not have a working smoke alarm. They couldn’t afford a working smoke alarm. And so we go into these neighborhoods and our volunteers will install as many free smoke alarms as they need, check batteries, things like that. Provide some home disaster education, materials that we leave behind. So we’re doing that year-round.

Since we started doing that, since we initiated that campaign called the Home Fires Campaign several years ago, we have over 2,000 lives that have been documented being saved from a smoke alarm that went off. The family was able to get out of the home safely, but that smoke alarm was installed by a Red Cross volunteer. So we’re very busy doing that.

Gosh, this is always behind the scenes, but it’s so important we’re doing this seven days a week, is the blood drives. Don’t take blood drives for granted and think that somebody else will be there to donate that blood. You just never know when you or a loved one is going to have a medical emergency and you’re going to be dependent on that blood being available at the hospitals. Last winter, we went through a terrible shortage where we were at a point many hospitals in Kansas where the doctors were having to allocate the blood to the person who needed it the most. So you can’t-

Clint Patty:

And you don’t want to be in that situation where-

Jane Blocher:

You never want to be in that situation.

Clint Patty:

… as a healthcare provider when you have to choose because you don’t have a supply. And there’s no excuse in this country. The problem is 5% of the eligible people are the ones donating all the blood. So as a shout-out to our community, let’s get those numbers up.

Jane Blocher:

Thank you for that. There is always a blood drive within days of where you are. We make it very accessible. We have it in all communities. The other thing that we’re working on, it started its national level of course, but it’s filtered down to all the chapters, is our initiative for sustainability. And this was initiated three or four years ago in response to the back-to-back big disasters that we are seeing now in our country due to climate change.

So for example, in the last 10 years, there has been a 70% increase. 70%.

Clint Patty:

Wow.

Jane Blocher:

And the number of billion-dollar disasters that we are experiencing. And these are mainly major flooding events, hurricanes and wildfires, especially in California. In the past 10 years alone, we have doubled them out of major disasters that we are responding to. So as you know, the climate, whenever there is a big disaster, the climate crisis takes a disproportionate toll on those that are the most vulnerable and low-income. They’re the ones that are affected the most. So we’re working hard to transform our capacity to meet the growing needs of the communities and helping them cope with the increasing pace of extreme weather disasters that we’re facing. I mean, we’ve not seen anything like it. It used to be we could go six weeks, two months between major disasters that grab the attention on the front page of the newspaper, but now it’s back to back to back to back. There’s no relief.

Clint Patty:

There’s no break. Yeah.

Jane Blocher:

There’s no break. Volunteers can’t get a break. We’re just in constant disaster mode. It used to be that way.

Clint Patty:

Yeah, there are parts of the country seeing earthquakes and tornadoes who’ve either never seen it or it’s 100-year event that’s become on the regular.

Jane Blocher:

We had the tornado on April 30th in the Westmoreland community. That was an amazing community to be working in because of the partnerships that we have there, the community coming together to help each other. In some communities that we go into, you don’t see those types of resources. I don’t know. There’s something about the Kansas spirit. We certainly saw it in Westmoreland with people coming together and taking care of their neighbors. The day that some of our volunteers were doing the distribution of shovels and rakes and tarps and garbage bags and things like that, I was standing there with them. Their homes were destroyed. They’re out there cleaning up and we would say, “Here. This is all free. Please take this.” I mean, work gloves, tarps, everything. And they would say, “We’re good. Please give it to somebody who needs it more. We’re good.” They didn’t want to and we’re like, “Really? You’re good? You’ve lost everything, but you’re good?” Wow, that’s amazing when you see that.

Clint Patty:

That’s a very Kansas thing, isn’t it?

Jane Blocher:

Yeah, it is. We’re really lucky.

Clint Patty:

Yeah, it’s a simple lesson and we try to teach it to our kids and we try to live it. It’s not always easy too, but putting other people’s needs above our own. Sometimes even when we’re in the midst of a very difficult crisis, there’s always someone who’s hurting a little bit more.

Jane Blocher:

Absolutely.

Clint Patty:

So that’s a wonderful story about Westmoreland. Okay, Jane, we’ve talked about what I feel like today are the most important things, and that is the volunteers, which you’re down and need more. We’ve talked about the ability of the Red Cross to respond to disasters, which have done nothing but double in size. And finally, the importance of those donors alongside the volunteers to provide the dollars to do this non-governmental service that’s so vital now. And then of course, the blood drives, the importance of getting that blood supply up, which is dangerously low. Anything else you want to talk about today about the American Red Cross?

Jane Blocher:

I’m just grateful for the opportunity to share information on our mission. It’s funny when we talk to people, they think the Red Cross is just disaster or it’s just blood. They really don’t realize all the different services that we provide.

Clint Patty:

Well, and that’s what I wanted today. I mean, I have to admit myself as being one of those people, I think, who has for years taken the Red Cross for granted. And we can’t really afford to do that, frankly, given the numbers that we’ve heard today. So I want to thank you for being on the show. I want to thank you about talking about the American Red Cross. Again, that website for anyone that’s interested in either being a donor or a blood donor or being a volunteer, redcross.org.

Jane Blocher:

Redcross.org. Or 800-RED-CROSS.

Clint Patty:

All right, Jane, thank you. Been great to have you here.

Jane Blocher:

It’s been a pleasure.

Clint Patty:

We will talk soon. Thanks.

You’ve been listening to another episode of Investing in Good. Today’s episode was brought to you by Clayton Wealth Partners. If you’re an individual seeking to increase your impact through thoughtful charitable giving, or if you represent an endowment, the foundation, or a non-profit that’s looking to safeguard and grow your financial assets, please consider partnering with Clayton Wealth Partners. You can visit us at ClaytonWealthPartners.com and discover how we can help guide and empower you in your mission to make a difference.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this year, 2024, marks 40 years that Clayton Wealth Partners has been in business. We would love to extend a very special thank you to our clients nationwide. In particular, a thank you to all of Northeast Kansas. We often say that we are here for you. For the last 40 years, we are very thankful that you all have been here for us. On behalf of Clayton Wealth Partners, I’m Clint Patty. I thank you for listening. We will see you soon.

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Clint Patty, J.D.

As Managing Partner, Clint serves on the management team providing leadership, supporting business development efforts and providing client consultation.