DANSVILLE – Outside the American Red Cross Clara Barton Chapter House – it’s Chapter No. 1 – on Elizabeth Street, the crowd was small but the celebration was big as Red Cross leaders and local officials celebrated 140 of the organization’s existence.
“This is exciting celebrating 140 years of the American Red Cross that started right here in Dansville. This is chapter number one that was started by Clara Barton. Her and 50 volunteers created the very first chapter of what is now the American Red Cross,” Alan Turner, regional CEO for the Western Region of the American Red Cross, said during a May 21 ceremony to honor Barton.
Dansville Mayor Peter Vogt came up with an idea two years ago to build a statue in Barton’s honor.
“I got thinking about things we could do to acknowledge the history of this community and one was the founding of the first local chapter of the American Red Cross by Clara Barton herself. She spent 10 years living here back in the Civil War,” said Vogt.
The statue will be placed in what is known as Church Park near the Lutheran Church in Dansville, where the first chapter of the American Red Cross was formed.
“Over two years we have interviewed artists and we have settled on three artists, local ones as a matter of fact” said Committee Chair Barry Haywood.
The statue will cost $100,000 for the statue. Haywood funding for the statue will be raised through donations. He said it is unknown when the statue will be put in because it is not known how long it will take to raise that money.
The statue will be a life-size model featuring a sitting Barton made from bronze.
“They got a replica of that they are proposing and she is seated. Every picture that we have of her she is seated. That is why the artist thought it should be that way, so she will be seated,” said Haywood.
Committee organizers said they hope the project will not only inspire people, but also educate them about Barton.
“She started the Red Cross here and we want to make sure that people know that decades from now. Nothing had been done other than naming this building after her, so we thought that a statue would be the way to go,” said Haywood.
Barton was a nurse, teacher and a patient clerk. Many also call her a trailblazer in helping to start an organization that has helped so many people, when they needed it the most.
Barton lived in Dansville for about a decade. On Aug. 22, 1881, she delivered a speech at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church that is credited with leading to the creation of the first American chapter of the International Red Cross. That distinction was noted in the naming of Dansville as Chapter House 1 of the American Red Cross.
“She was a ground breaker and she created an organization who’s whole mission is to alleviate human suffering,” Turner said. “That mission is so strong and you can see why it has carried more than 140 years.”
The Red Cross responds to natural disasters and other emergencies, host bloods drives that collects blood donations that help to save lives, and also assists families of servicemembers.
“The American Red Cross is there to help people,” Turner said, “and it is because of her vision and what she saw for the American Red Cross.”