Claras Red Cross Of Service

Block Number: 38


By Nora Worthen

At 39 North Garden Street in Marion on Monday, June 28, the McDowell Quilt Trail installed the 38th block on its trail. This is the location of the Marion Branch of the Asheville Mountain Area Regional Chapter of the Red Cross.

“Clara’s Red Cross of Service” was chosen by Diana Rolland, branch manager, and Mary McCoyle, assistant manager, to honor Clara Barton’s founding of the American Association of the Red Cross in 1881, and for her service to that organization. The design of the block is very simple. It is a stunning red cross set in the center of squares in shadows from light to dark in color of blocks and triangles. Diana says, “It was important to me to have a cross on there. The other part was for it to stand out and for it to be, like, okay, that’s the Red Cross.” Diana visited the studios of McDowell Quilt Trail often to watch the different stages of the construction and painting of the block.

According to Diana’s research, Clara Barton had not actually established the Red Cross when the Civil War began in 1861. However, in the 1870s, officials of the International Red Cross invited Barton to form Red Cross Services. She started relief efforts, primarily, to assist with soldiers who were participating in the war, coordinated the transportation of supplies to wounded soldiers, both Confederate and Union, and established an organization to locate information on missing soldiers from the Civil War.

Clara Barton, was a very tenacious, motivated, and dedicated woman in everything that she did. She was kind of a one-man show in some ways, to really push the whole mission of the Red Cross, which now also helps with relief efforts, as well as provide aid to disaster survivors. Over the years, the Red Cross has made several transformations and has evolved into what it is today with its national headquarters located in Washington, DC. Rolland says, “That’s why I thought it was necessary to give the name and the title to that block the way that we did.”

The McDowell County Chapter of the American Red Cross was chartered on July 19, 1917, and in May of 2008 transitioned from a chartered chapter to a branch office.

Diana and Mary are the only two employees of the Marion branch. “We are a volunteer- run organization, with 97% of the work force being volunteers. We work hard, but we wouldn’t be able to do it without the people in our local communities who pull together and support this organization,” says Diana.

The Marion branch moved into its present location in 2005. This building previously housed a telephone company, the Chamber of Commerce, and more recently a county care center. This branch provided assistance during the 2009-2010 winter storms by supporting the community and local emergency personnel by setting up shelters, providing relief and assisting the citizens in being safe during the winter weather.

Mary recalled providing assistance to citizens in August-September 2004 when Hurricanes Frances and Ivan created flooding in the county. She also reports that the Marion branch assisted victims of Hurricane Katrina who migrated to McDowell County in reestablishing roots. “We also sent 12 volunteers to Louisiana and Mississippi for three weeks during the Katrina effort.”

The Red Cross is not a government-funded organization. It receives funds from the United Way organization, charitable donations, individual donations and fundraising. Diana says, “Funds raised by this branch stays in McDowell County.”

April 12, 2012, is the 100th anniversary of Clara Barton’s death. The Red Cross is gearing up for a celebration in her honor and on her behalf, not only regionally, but also on a national level at that time.

Diana says her mother, who is a quilter, made her aware of the McDowell Quilt Trail after visiting here from Northern Virginia in the fall of 2009. Diana explains, “I see the quilt trail, not only as an appreciation for the art form itself, but also appreciating the fact that the quilt trail is a local organization in this community. It’s a way for us to make that connection with another community organization and show that partnership. I have realized that in working for the Red Cross, it is important to have those relationships with other people and other establishments in the community. That block will reinforce the fact that we are here.”

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