The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
On an obscure wall in a corner of her small apartment, well away from where a casual visitor would notice, hang three small plaques, daily reminders to Barbara Bacharach of an important component of her eighty-five years. The plaques are awards from the Mid-South Chapter of the American Red Cross: Outstanding Volunteer, Service to Military/Veterans 1986-87; Volunteer of the Year, 1993-94; Charter Member, The Legacy Society, December 7, 2009.
When Memphian Barbara Bacharach first got involved with the American Red Cross she was a student at Averett College in Danville, Virginia. There she assisted when the Red Cross sent an entertainment show and cookies to Roanoke Hospital, and when they started a Life Saving course and a new course in Home Nursing. Little did she know that she was beginning what was to be a more than fifty-year odyssey as a Red Cross employee and volunteer.
Bacharach graduated from college in 1948 and went to work in New York City. She moved to Memphis in 1953, where her father had moved just a few years previously. It was in Memphis where she met her husband and married in 1955, and where she found employment as a Cashier/Bookkeeper with the Memphis Chapter of the American Red Cross. “I’m sure the Red Cross work I did in college attributed to my getting the job,” said Bacharach.
In her new job she had to maintain all the chapter financial records and the payroll. The job was substantial: “We ran our own fund-raising campaign in those days before becoming involved with SUN (Shelby United Neighbors) that ultimately became United Way. I often had to make substantial cash deposits; a policeman was assigned to accompany me on those occasions,” recalled Bacharach. During this time she worked at the Memphis Red Cross headquarters at Marshall and Monroe Avenues in downtown Memphis, where she says she never saw daylight during her workday, as the building was long and narrow with very few windows.
After two years, however, Bacharach resigned her position with the Memphis Area Chapter of the Red Cross when she became pregnant. However, like many who have been employed by the Red Cross, she remained as a dedicated volunteer, a position she was to retain up until 2005.
During the 1960’s Bacharach was part of a Red Cross pilot program that trained mothers to work in health rooms at primary and secondary schools. She was responsible for the health room at East Elementary School (now East High School). There she looked after children who were ill or had an accident while at school. “I mainly took temperatures and put band aids on,” recalls Bacharach.
Sally Greene, Bacharach’s daughter, was a student at East Elementary School during the years that her mother worked the health room and has fond memories. “It was cool to know that mom was just down the hall,” said Greene.
In later years, Bacharach volunteered as a Fiscal Affairs Consultant and would go out to small chapters in the surrounding areas to help with their financial audits. She became a key volunteer for the Service to the Armed Forces function of the Red Cross where she helped with communications between members of the military and their families. “It was sometimes sad when we could not help the people who called the Red Cross because their need was not a situation handled by the Red Cross. I would then refer them to LINK, MIFA or the food bank,” Bacharach recalled.
During local disasters Bacharach often handled the financial affairs for the disaster response. “The last time I was involved was during the local response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said Bacharach.
Bacharach recalls that the Red Cross workers at the Memphis Chapter were very close. “We would go out to lunch together. I made many good friends there, many of whom are gone now,” she said.
Looking back over her years at the Red Cross she remembers working hard and a good feeling of accomplishment. “When a local disaster happened you had to go out, had to be available, and you did not get paid extra. No one should work for the Red Cross unless they believe in what the Red Cross does. The people here truly believed in it and worked hard,” she recalled.
“Mother was a wonderful example,” recalls Sally Greene, “I learned from her what to do to take care of other people.” Greene also worked for ten years with the Red Cross on both the local and national levels in Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville, Kentucky. She attributes those work years to her mother’s influence. “I grew up around the Red Cross. As a result it was a natural place for me.”
With regard to the awards on her mother’s wall, Greene recalls that while her mom was quite proud to receive them, she was not the type of person who wanted to be the center of attention. She was sort of embarrassed and somewhat dreaded having to attend the ceremonies where they were awarded.
Bacharach is a Charter Member of the Legacy Society of the Mid-South Chapter of the Red Cross. Legacy Society members are a special group of people who have included the Red Cross in their estate plans. Through their thoughtfulness, they have made plans to continue their voluntary contributions to the Red Cross well into the future. How fitting for someone such as Barbara Bacharach who truly believes in the mission of the Red Cross and has spent more than fifty years of her life dedicated to bringing it to fruition in her home community.
Profile posted January 24, 2014
Story and Photo by Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross