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BENEFITS O.C.

A Century of Progress

American Red Cross president Elizabeth Dole kicks off local chapter's 100 Years of Service with praise for its efforts.

April 21, 1998|KATHRYN BOLD

The event: A 100-year anniversary luncheon for the Orange County Chapter of the American Red Cross. Guest speaker: Elizabeth Dole, president of the American Red Cross. Held Saturday at Bistro 201 in Newport Beach, 100 Years of Service marked the first in a series of activities that will mark the chapter's anniversary.

On the move: Clad in a yellow suit and multi-strand Barbara Bush pearls, Dole spoke while making her trademark Dole stroll, leaving the podium to wend her way among the tables. She praised the chapter in three areas: its emphasis on recruiting young volunteers, its outreach to Latino and Vietnamese communities and its development of mental health services for disaster victims.

Members appreciated the accolades: "Mrs. Dole has been kind to us," said Noddie Weltner, luncheon chairwoman. "This has been a chance to thank our volunteers and supporters and share a little history."

More than bandages: In 1898, a group of women got together in Santa Ana to roll bandages for use during the Spanish-American War. That marked the first official act of the local Red Cross.

Today, the chapter has 2,500 volunteers and offers disaster preparedness and response, life-saving health and safety education, water safety and youth services. Noting that the chapter has been active in helping local victims of El Nino-related flooding, local Red Cross CEO George Chitty said, "We're still carrying on the tradition those ladies started 100 years ago."

Quote: "One thing that's unique about this chapter is our emphasis on youth. We have chapters in several county high schools and a leadership development training camp in which Orange County teens learn about community involvement," said Bob Wenzel, president of the chapter board. Youths have recently helped local victims of fires and flooding.

Faces: Cleo Whitmore, a prisoner of war during World War II, who attributes his survival to assistance by the Red Cross; Jim and Janie Bowling; Rich and Jennifer Statuto; Shuichi Ito; Bonnie Stevenson; Tom Gunckel; Art and Gaye Birtcher; Howard and Shirley Jones; Elda Walker; Ruth Wetherbee; Dolores Churchill; and Mark Victor Hansen.

Bottom line: Guests paid from $100 to $500 per person to attend the luncheon, netting about $20,000 for Red Cross programs.

What's ahead: As part of its 100 Years of Service celebration, the American Red Cross in Orange County will launch an oral history project. Local residents with personal stories of how the Red Cross affected their lives can call the chapter office at (714) 835-5381, Ext. 233.

The Red Cross will hold a disaster preparedness academy at Cal State Fullerton on June 2. Call (714) 835-5381, Ext. 170.

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