Imagine suddenly being cut off from the world. That's what happened to millions of people when a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck northern Japan in March. In an instant, homes were destroyed and citizens were suddenly without safe drinking water or electricity.

It didn't matter that this tragedy happened 9,000 miles across the ocean from Baltimore. People needed help, and Central Marylanders stepped up to give an estimated $700,000 so far to the American Red Cross to support our Red Cross disaster relief efforts in the Pacific. The majority of these donations have come from generous corporate donors who have employees, customers and suppliers all over the globe. Individual donors have also made substantial contributions to our efforts.

These corporate and individual donors have made it possible for the Red Cross to provide displaced people with hot meals and warm blankets; to enable approximately 730 doctors, nurses and support staff to assist the injured and distressed; to provide emotional support to 210,000 evacuees from the nuclear accident and to the more than 320,000 other evacuees from the earthquake and tsunami. Presently, the American Red Cross is in direct communication with the Japanese Red Cross to determine how we can wisely and effectively use our donors' dollars to support the ongoing relief efforts.

In any given year, the American Red Cross is tapped to respond to more than 70,000 disasters around the world, across the country, and down the street. We stand ready 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide comfort and care to millions of disaster victims. In Central Maryland alone, the Red Cross responds to an average of three disasters every day — usually single-family home fires.

The Red Cross receives no government funding. Without the support of our local business community, schools, civic and religious organizations and the individuals who give generously, we simply could not do this work. Our message to those who think our mission is important enough to support is a simple one — thank you.

Steve Schuh, Gibson Island

The writer is chairman of the American Red Cross of Central Maryland.