An American Red Cross tracing service that reunites World War II survivors and their relatives in the United States is not being used by enough people in Southern California, an official said.
"This service has brought together many families, and yet most people don't know that we offer this service," said Lourdes Del Rio, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles chapter. "People think of us as only a disaster-relief and blood-donation agency."
This year, after decades of separation, three Southern California residents--including one from Van Nuys--were reunited with lost family members through the efforts of the International Tracing Services of the American Red Cross.
The Valley reunion involved Flora Singer of Washington, D.C., who used the service to find her younger cousin Henry. The two were separated in war-torn Belgium more than 52 years ago. The American Red Cross traced Henry to his home in Van Nuys, Del Rio said.
The service began in 1990 with the opening of the War Victims Tracing and Information Center in Baltimore, a clearinghouse for World War II and Holocaust survivors and casualties, she said.
Since then, the tracing service has helped locate 652 people and has brought closure to more than 5,000 cases in the United States, said Don Guidry, director of international tracing for the Los Angeles chapter. The Los Angeles chapter typically receives 200 to 300 tracing requests annually.
"I feel the joy and the pain that my clients feel, whether it's good news or bad news," Guidry said, "but either way, it brings closure to their search."
To start a tracing search, an application must be filled out at a Red Cross office.
For information on the Red Cross International Tracing Services, call the Los Angeles chapter at (213) 739-5206.