By Gordon Williams, American Red Cross Volunteer
It’s a 10-mile drive – 18 minutes by car – between the North Bellingham Golf Course in Whatcom County, Washington and the banks of the Nooksack River. Both figure into our story because both play significant roles in the philanthropic partnership that unites the Northwest Region of the American Red Cross and the energy company bp.
When the rain-swollen Nooksack overflowed its banks last November, Red Cross disaster workers rushed to the scene to assist flood victims. There they met volunteers from bp who were there helping emergency response efforts. “Some of our workers used their own their own tractors to rescue people from the flood,” says Pam Brady, Government Affairs Manager for bp. After the floodwaters receded, bp volunteers supported the County’s by volunteering at Unified Command and supporting clean-up efforts.
Golfers who teed off at the North Bellingham course on a recent August morning are also part of the story because they played in a tournament sponsored by bp and staged to raise money for the Red Cross. A record number of golfers took part in the 2022 event. It raised a record $130,000 for the Red Cross, says Karen Miller, Philanthropy Officer for the Red Cross Northwest Region.
“The tournament is one of two primary fundraisers for the Red Cross Northwest Washington Chapter, with proceeds funding our disaster relief activities,” Miller says. The chapter, based in Everett and Bellingham, is one of five that make up the Northwest Region. Miller says that having bp as a tournament partner helps draw other entities in to support the Red Cross.
Beyond the money it raised, the tournament gave participants an enjoyable day out, courtesy of bp and the Red Cross. bp’s Brady says she is far from being a professional-level golfer, but she still had a fun afternoon on the links.
Brady says bp’s philosophy of giving involves engaging heavily in the communities in which it operates. “We support the organizations that do great things in the communities that we serve,” she says. One of those is the Northwest Region of the Red Cross.
bp has other ways to donate as well. Brady says that the company has a gift-matching program that supports employees who donate time or money to worthwhile clauses. “We will match employee contributions in time or money up to $5,000 a year,” she says. She explains that bp’s Reachout program supports needy families in the community during the holiday season.
When Superstorm Sandy struck the New York area in 2012, the bp Foundation came through with a cash donation of $500,000. Teaming up with the Red Cross was an obvious call for bp. The Red Cross is in the business of promoting safety, and safety is obviously a major concern when your business is running petroleum refineries.
A number of workers at the Cherry Point refinery are trained in disaster response and in the Incident Command System (ICS) of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “We really appreciate the role of the Red Cross in being there when needed,” Brady says.
bp supported Red Cross relief efforts when the Nooksack River flooded, and some of the first relief workers on the scene were bp employees. “bp employees who were trained in ICS helped organize the community response to flooding. More than 1,000 community volunteers showed up to help people muck out of their flooded homes, using protective equipment and shovels donated by the refinery.” says Brady.
bp donations have played key roles in other Red Cross responses. “We have supported the Red Cross at most of the big wildfires in the region, and we supported the Red Cross at the Oso landslide,” Brady says. That was the 2014 slide that killed 43 people and destroyed the village of Oso, Washington.
Many bp employees at Cherry Point refinery are veterans of the military, and bp is a supporter of the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program.
The closeness of the bp-Red Cross relationship pays off in many ways. The Red Cross can plunge into a major relief operation knowing that there are companies and people in the region who they can call up on to help. “Often before we ask bp for support, they have already offered it,” says Karen Miller of the Red Cross.