Red Cross quarters were established in the Summerside town hall in 1937, but the branch was not "officially" organized until December 1939. Mayor John E. Campbell served as the first president. By April 1940, approximately sixty groups throughout Prince County were knitting and sewing under the supervision of the Summerside group.
At the beginning of 1940, the Summerside Journal started to carry a regular feature about the work of the local Red Cross. The column, which was published under various titles over the six years of the war, was a good public record of the work of the various groups and individuals who made items or donated clothing or money to the Summerside unit.
The ladies of Prince County who contributed to the Summerside branch gave knitted items, blankets, refugee clothing, hospital supplies, cash, and quilts. Between January and the end of March 1943 the branch shipped 165 quilts directly to England. PEI was so well known for the quality of its quilts that inspection was not necessary.
The annual report for 1943 referred to 70 organizations, including 56 Women's Institute branches, making almost 8000 articles of clothing that passed through the Summerside Red Cross. Even though the official rooms were located in the Town Hall, many felt that the Holman Homestead, the residence of Miss Gladys Holman, was the real Red Cross headquarters.
The Women's Institute and the IODE were very strong supporters of the Red Cross Society. In the rural areas, there was also substantial interest and work done by branches of the Junior Red Cross. Many church groups such as the Summerside Catholic Women's League (CWL) were also willing to provide assistance. The local group formed special knitting and sewing clubs that met on Wednesday afternoons and the ladies made hundreds of articles.
The Summerside Red Cross was consistently busy collecting and packing for shipment the many items brought to the Town Hall. Large cabinets were built across the south end of its rooms for storage purposes. It was also very busy collecting money. Near the beginning of the war there were many impromptu fundraising projects with proceeds to the Red Cross. Examples of some activities conducted by children are presented on attached pages.
Many local fundraising events were planned and staged by the Summerside branch or by other groups who donated proceeds to Red Cross work. Some of them are listed.
|Concert in St. Paul's Hall||Sponsored by CWL||July 1940|
|Concert at the High School||Sponsored by Red Cross||Sept 1940|
|Singsong at Capitol Theatre||Sponsored by Red Cross||Feb 1941|
|Concert at High School||Sponsored by Ch'town Seranaders||June 1941|
|Victory Tea at Town Hall||Sponsored by Red Cross||Aug 1941|
|Helena Rubenstein classes||Sponsored by Enman Drug Co.||Sept 1941|
|Rummage sale at Town Hall||Sponsored by Red Cross||Oct 1941|
|Dance||Sponsored by Y's Men's Club||Jan 1942|
|Concert at Epworth Hall||Sponsored by Red Cross||June 1942|
|Horse races at Driving Park||Sponsored by Red Cross||Oct 1942|
|Fancy dress carnival at rink||Sponsored by Red Cross||Feb 1943|
|Market at Town Hall||Sponsored by Red Cross||Sept 1943|
|Drama||Sponsored by Kensington Players||May 1944|
|Singsong at Capitol Theatre||Sponsored by Red Cross||Oct 1944|
There were six national fundraising drives that were generously responded to by citizens of the town. The first one was held just after the war started. In November 1939, local businessman H. T. Holman organized the local drive. The objective for the province in that first campaign was $25,000. The second drive was conducted the next fall. The local Red Cross workers were encouraged by the response and also by the words of national official Dr. F. W. Routley who referred to the Summerside branch as the "banner society in Canada."
The next national campaign took place 11-31 May 1942. An account of the work of the organization from September 1939 to the end of 1941 was presented for the education of the public. The town raised $9000, surpassing its objective by $3000. PEI's objective of $40,000 was reached in two days. The national publicity director visited the Island in July praising the province for raising $75,000, "leading all Canada in proportion to population."
Another countrywide appeal began 1 March 1943. Summerside raised more than $30,000, double the objective of $15,000. This was followed by a national drive in March 1944. PEI raised over $110,000 - more than twice its goal. The final Red Cross fundraising campaign of the war took place in March 1945. The local drive was once more based out of the office of the PEI Fur Pool owned by Peter G. Clark and once more was over the top. View a gallery of ads showing the support of local businesses for these efforts.
The PEI Red Cross undertook extra work when it created a Blood Donor Committee in April 1943. The first clinic was held in Charlottetown in September. In 1944, the organization started to hold Mobile Clinics. The first visit of a unit to Summerside was made in May 1944 under the sponsorship of the Y's Men's Club. It was held at the Legion Home and civilians, airmen and veterans were among the donors. The next clinic was held in June and then in the fall one was held every second Wednesday. In October the Journal started to run a column titled "Latest List of Local Blood Donors" where the names of the donors appeared along with the number of donations made.
The Women's War Work Committee of the provincial Red Cross ceased its work in May 1945. In September the chairman of the national committee requested women across Canada to carry on at the same pace for at least the first six months of peace. The PEI group formed again as the Women's Work Committee. During 1946 it sent about 13,000 articles to the shipping headquarters in Montreal for distribution.
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