American Red Cross: Heart of Texas Chapter

The American Red Cross, founded in 1881 by Clara Barton to serve people in need, began a local chapter in Waco in 1916. Initial fundraising was quite successful, and the chapter raised $1,344 to create comfort kits for United States soldiers stationed at the U.S.-Mexico border.

During both World Wars, and the time in between, the Waco Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted soldiers and local citizens with medical needs. In the 1920s, this took the form of classroom instruction on first aid and home hygiene, assistance to soldiers on active duty, and disaster response within the local area. They also changed their name in the 1920s to the Waco-McLennan County Chapter.

An increasing number of assistance programs, donations, and volunteers forced a series of moves through the years; first headquartered in the Cameron Building, they then moved to the Masonic Temple, City Hall, and then the Amicable Building. In 1949, they moved into a large house at 525 North Eighteenth Street, but outgrew it 20 years later.

The local chapter of the Red Cross began taking blood donations in 1952. This quickly grew to become one of their core programs: pints of blood donated ballooned from 5,520 in 1952 to 18,641 pints in 1975. They also provided classes on parenting and water safety, as well as expanded first aid classes. The group changed their name to the McLennan County Chapter to better reflect their countywide reach.

In 1970, the group changed names again, this time to the Heart of Texas Area Chapter, when the McLennan and Bosque county chapters merged. In 1975, the organization moved into a new building at 1124 Austin Avenue and hundreds of volunteers raised $151,000 for the local chapter.

In 1989 the group assisted victims of Hurricane Hugo by selling coupon books of local area businesses.

By 2012, the Red Cross closed their main blood donation center to concentrate on offering more community mobile blood drives.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross continues today to provide training and volunteer opportunities to community members on disaster relief, first aid, fire prevention, and blood donations.

More information about the American Red Cross: Heart of Texas Chapter can be found in the American Red Cross: Heart of Texas Chapter records at The Texas Collection.

The Texas Collection and University Archives