The Red Cross in Story City
In the Second World War, the Red Cross was an invaluable service that touched nearly every single family in America, as well as in Europe and Asia. At the height of their wartime activities, the American Red Cross had 7.5 million volunteers whose job was to serve in hospitals, produce emergency supplies, collect scraps, grow Victory Gardens, and hold training sessions in subjects such as nutrition, first aid, and water safety. By the end of the war, the American homefront had contributed over 784 million dollars to support the American Red Cross and their activities at home and abroad. Almost every family in America was involved in the Red Cross in some way; either they had a member who served, they had contributed funds, or they were a recipient of Red Cross services. (cite)
The Story City Red Cross found its beginnings during the First World War on April 16, 1917, only ten days after the United States entered the war. By the end of WWI, the Story City chapter had over 800 members and 300 junior members. The chapter did things such as basket socials, orchestra performances, an auction, collection drives, and a staged play given by the Story City High School. Members also did more individual projects, such as knitting and sewing items for service members.
During the interwar period, the Story City Red Cross chapter remained active in the community, but their roles shifted dramatically from their wartime occupations. The chapter turned to its own citizens, assisting in times of crisis or need. Before the United States entered the war in 1941, the Story City chapter also answered a call from the National Red Cross, donating funds and members' time and knitting skills for the European refugees. The Story City Red Cross Branch met their sewing quotas within a few months of the nationwide call, and the garments were shipped to those in need.
When the call for conscription arrived in Story City in 1940, the Red Cross chapter began their wartime activities for the community and National Red Cross chapter. The Story City Red Cross chapter saw itself as the "medium between the conscripted man and his home" and strived to serve the servicemen who were soon to be sent into military camps for training (cite). Red Cross chapters in Story county also began recruiting members, adding to the highest nationwide Red Cross membership tally in a time of peace. In 1940, the Story City branch recruited 269 members, which was a record amount for the chapter. In the next year, 1941, the Red Cross was expected to recruit 698 people, which was to begin during the Annual Red Cross Drive on November 11, coinciding with Civilian Defense Week in Story City. In a Story City Herald column written on November 13, 1941, by Dr. A. H. Lekwa, the mayor of Story City at the time, it was made clear that civilian defense started with "giving the committee a 100% enrollment in the Red Cross." When the drive ended in December, the Story City Herald reported that they had very nearly met their quota, and that many families in Story City could boast 100% enrollment and were very active participants in the drive, collecting over $600 in the drive.
Story City's 1942 Red Cross goal was $500, which they raised through regular membership fees and soliciting, but also through magazine sales and a basket social. The junior and senior high school students held a magazine fundraiser, and teams were headed by Luther Matson and Nayda Doolittle. The elementary school also got involved, assisting the two high school teams in their sales. After ten days, it was announced that Luther Matson's team had won, raising $15 dollars more than their opponent. Overall, almost $170 dollars were raised for the Story City Red Cross just through the Story City School system. For the adults, a basket social was held on January 15, 1942, just like Story City held during World War I. Women from Story City each brought one box, which was to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Th entertainment for the night consisted of the "Womanless Wedding", a play put on by an adult all-male cast, and "Professor Ribbentropper's Kindergarten", put on by boys from Story City High School. By all accounts, the night was extremely entertaining, and the women's boxes brought in over $200 for the Red Cross fund. Overall, the total brought in from the basket social, magazine sales, and individual contributions was over $650 dollars.
In 1943, Story City's quota was again raised to $1,050 dollars for the Red Cross roll call and war fund drive. The community was asked to not only donate their membership fee, but additional funds to benefit the service members overseas. The town responded wholeheartedly, "willingly and generously" giving their donations to the Red Cross. Story City and Lafayette township surpassed their quota by nearly $300 dollars in the first week. When the drive concluded in May 1943, Story City had collected over $1800, and Red Cross membership had reached 973 members. The Story City Herald also reported that the eastern half of Story county had donated over $8,000 in the roll call and war fund drive, which was a considerable amount above the quota set for them.
Once again, the quota was raised for Story City's Red Cross membership and war fund drive in 1944. That year, they were expected to raise $2,400. As in previous years, Story City far exceeded the expectations, contributing over $3,000 dollars to the Red Cross. The eastern half of Story county raised over $14,000 dollars, almost $2,000 dollars above their quota.
In 1944, Story City also sent Christmas gifts to servicemen at the Field Hospital in France at the request of Lt. Marie Heggen, an Army nurse from Story City. The gifts consisted of kit bags, washcloths, soap, and other items for soldiers. Christmas boxes were also sent to hospitalized veterans in Iowa, donated by the Story City community.
In 1945, the Red Cross was at their peak activity level in both their domestic and foreign affairs, and communities like Story City were expected to donate accordingly. For the final year of the war, Story City's goal was $2,525 dollars, and the drive was to start on March 1st. In only ten days, the Story City community raised over $3,450 dollars, surpassing their goal by nearly $1,000 dollars.
In addition to raising funds and sewing garments, the Story City branch of the Red Cross was also active in giving First Aid Courses to the citizens of Story County. Nationwide, the American Red Cross hoped to educate civilians and defense workers in first aid, in their effort to create prepared and able citizens to serve in their communities. Story City's authorized first aid instructor was Lester Johnson, who conducted many classes over the course of the war. Advanced First Aid Courses were also given, taught by Mr. and Mrs. Holmes.