The American Red Cross of Los Angeles at 100
Celebrating 100 years of the American Red Cross in Los Angeles.
The American Red Cross (ARC)—the highly visibly humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education in the United States—was founded by Clara Barton. She was working with a relief organization known as the International Red Cross during the Franco- Prussian War, and she began to lobby for an American branch. It would take several more decades—1916 to be exact—before the organization formed an official branch in Los Angeles. To honor this important milestone, we checked in with Nini Sakaguchi of Manhattan Beach, who alongside her husband, Jeff, and son, Cooper, champions the organization right here in the South Bay.
Q: Nini, how did your husband first become involved with the ARC?
Jeff’s first involvement with the ARC was becoming certified in first aid and CPR as a Boy Scout, becoming a junior lifeguard and donating blood over the years. But he didn’t become directly involved here in LA until he joined the board of what was then called the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the ARC in early 2005. By 2009 Jeff was asked to chair the board—a position he held for three years while helping lead a One Red Cross initiative that integrated and consolidated many of the chapters into larger regions. The Greater Los Angeles chapter became the Los Angeles region, encompassing all of LA County and the Eastern Sierra. The LA region integration was such a success, Jeff was asked to join the National Philanthropic Board, which was comprised of a dozen board chairs from around the country, to share insights and best practices to extend to the other regions and chapters around the country.
Q: When did you become personally active?
When Jeff became board chair in 2009, he honored me with his $10,000 donation to become a member of the Tiffany Circle Society of Women Leaders. The Tiffany Circle is a community of women leaders who advance the American Red Cross mission through a focused investment of time, talent and treasure by engaging and embracing women locally, nationally and internationally. What began as a local commitment to increasing membership as co-chair for the Los Angeles region soon became an invitation to join the National Council, an elected group of 30 women who help share ideas and strategies for growth and prepare for the annual summit. This was a wonderful opportunity to work alongside women from around the country who shared a passion for the mission and for fundraising in support of the Red Cross.
Q: You’re also directly involved in this year’s Centennial, correct?
After serving my three-year term on the National Council, I have refocused my energies to helping the local chapter with the Centennial celebration, serving on the host committee of the Humanitarian Ball in March and initiating a citywide celebration that includes Manhattan Beach, LA and Beverly Hills.
Q: Involvement with the ARC is not limited to adults. It sounds like your son also jumped in enthusiastically.
At the age of 11, Cooper had no choice but to accompany his parents to Washington DC, while we attended national conferences and splendors of our nation’s capital. For the past eight years, Cooper has learned about why the ARC is the greatest humanitarian organization in the world, which has been reinforced by the relationships he has made with the executive leadership team, military, diplomats, world figures—all of whom praise and celebrate the ARC preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. In ninth grade, Cooper founded the Red Cross Club at Chadwick School and has fulfilled all the requirements of the Red Cross these past four years by having a blood drive, fundraising event and disaster preparedness event each year. This spring for his senior project, Cooper will support the efforts of the Red Cross to eradicate measles through their international mapping initiative.
Q: As ARC celebrates 100 years in LA, what kind of visibility should the community expect for the occasion—especially here in the South Bay?
Manhattan Beach is enthusiastically joining the celebration. The MB Fire Department will switch their uniform T-shirts from navy to red, while the Neptunian Woman’s Club has generously donated $1,000 to support the Red Cross mission and services. Manhattan Beach itself also goes red! Storefront windows will be decorated in red with posters in the windows, and banners will fly down- town—one at Highland and 11th Street and one at Manhattan Avenue and 9th Street. The Centennial culminates with the Humanitarian Ball, a black-tie gala held at the Beverly Wilshire hotel on Thursday, March 16. The Walt Disney Company is our esteemed honoree for their tremendous support, and a salute to Walt Disney himself for his service as an ambulance driver for the ARC when he was 16 years old during WWI.
Q: How can someone in the South Bay become involved with the ARC?
There are many ways. You can donate blood; help build disaster kits; learn CPR, first aid and water safety training; and, of course, volunteer directly with the organization or make an annual gift. We hope that many in our local communities will honor the ARC in the month of March with visibility and support.
Michael Burstein, founder of Burstein Law Firm in Manhattan Beach, grew up in Newport Beach and graduated from Corona Del Mar High School.