Posts Tagged ‘Red Cross’

Legislation Proposes Oversight of the Red Cross

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

American Red CrossThe U.S. General Accounting Office just released a report, American Red Cross: Disaster Assistance Would Benefit from Oversight Through Regular Federal Evaluation, following an eighteen-month investigation requested by Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. The report finds that while the Red Cross has a mandate from the government to respond to disasters, “no regular, independent evaluations are conducted of the impact or effectiveness” of its work. The GAO report cites examples of failures in the response of the Red Cross to SuperStorm Sandy and misleading statements by the Red Cross leadership as to how the organization has spent funds raised for disaster relief work.

Indeed, this is nothing new. Following the terrorist attacks of 9-11, the Red Cross broadcast national appeals for aid for the “Liberty Fund” which appeared to suggest that all funds raised would be donated to those who lost family members or were left homeless as a result of the terrorist attacks. When the organization was slow to distribute the aid, public outcry forced the Red Cross to change its practices and begin more proactive outreach to Lower Manhattan communities impacted by the events of 9/11. Other critics of the Red Cross, such as Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), questioned the efficacy of the organization’s work in Haiti following a devastating earthquake.

In response to the findings of the GAO report, Congressman Thompson has drafted the American Red Cross Sunshine Act, legislation that would require regular audits of the financial operations of the Red Cross and evaluations of its response to disasters in the United States and abroad as well as other reforms. The American Red Cross has pointed out that that it is not a federal agency, its disaster relief efforts are privately funded and its work is performed almost entirely by volunteers. These are all valid points and all underscore the need for transparency and oversight of the Red Cross – no other organization has a government mandate for disaster relief work in the United States. Clear accountability and oversight gives donors the confidence that their contributions will be used in the most effective way, consistent with the donor’s intent and the organization’s mission. Congressman Thompson’s bill deserves support and all Americans owe thanks to Pro Publica, the non-profit journalism organization that provided an in-depth look at the response of the Red Cross to SuperStorm Sandy.

In the Bag for the Red Cross!

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Today, the Red Cross Chapter serving the Washington DC region is holding its annual fundraiser, “In the Bag”. The women’s committee of the chapter will auction designer, vintage and celebrity handbags to help fund the vital services the Red Cross provides to the community, including disaster relief, first aid training and assistance to military families. This event raised $20,000 last year and this year’s goal is to reach $40,000. Just to appreciate how important funding support is, consider that the National Capital Region of the American Red Cross provides 250,000 meals monthly and 750 volunteers to local hospitals. In addition, the Red Cross chapters also support international disaster relief efforts. Last year, the Capital Region Chapter provided emergency services to over 40,000 people.

I donated a handbag that was custom made for me at a shop in the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. I have never used the bag; it is in mint condition and I hope someone else will enjoy it. You can see it on the auction site which features snapshots of the bags. If you don’t want to bid on a bag, you can volunteer or contribute funds. This graphic image, by the way, relates to a Red Cross chapter in Louisiana “Power of the Purse”, so check out what your local Red Cross chapter is doing this month as you may be able to get a great deal on a top-notch handbag.

It is particularly important that we support the Red Cross this year. In this tough economy, with persistently high unemployment, it is no surprise that charitable contributions have declined relative to years past. At the same time, the frequency and severity of natural disasters has increased dramatically and we certainly cannot count on government support, either at the community, state or federal levels.

So let’s all do what we can to support the Red Cross which delivers services critical to every community.

March is National Red Cross Month

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
March is National Red Cross Month

March is National Red Cross Month

In 1943, President Roosevelt, acting as the honorary Chairman of the American Red Cross, recognized that organization’s outstanding humanitarian services when he declared March “National Red Cross Month”. This declaration became the basis of support for annual fund raising and volunteer recruitment drives to support the critical activities of local Red Cross chapters. Supporting your local Red Cross chapter is particularly important this year as donor support has declined with the economic recession. I learned some interesting facts about my local Red Cross organization, which is the Greater New York Chapter of the Red Cross. First, the largest corporate sponsors of our local Red Cross chapter included Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, AIG and Merrill Lynch! Second, the New York chapter of the Red Cross responds to eight to ten disasters a day, ranging from people rendered homeless from the collapse of construction cranes to local fires. This is significant because many of us in New York are focused on 9-11-scale events when, in fact, it is the everyday disaster that we are, by definition, most likely to experience. With many small businesses struggling in the current economy, contributing funds may be difficult at this time. However, there are other ways you can support the Red Cross, from volunteer work to training. I urge you to contact your local Red Cross chapter to find out what you can do.

The Clock is Ticking

Monday, February 9th, 2009
Time is running out

Time is Running Out

As is sadly the case with longer-term, chronic disaster relief needs, out of sight is often out of mind. According to the Houston Chronicle, donations supporting recovery efforts in the Texas Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike are dwindling. The United Way of Greater Houston had raised close to $6 million for its hurricane efforts. It has stopped raising funds and is currently focused on longer-term human service needs.  The Gulf Coast Ike Fund expects that by March it will have distributed all of the close to $12 million it has raised for emergency and short-term needs and will close its doors. The Bush-Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund is the only remaining entity still actively raising funds; however, its aid assistance focuses on rebuilding public infrastructure, not on the needs of families and small businesses. Charitable giving to support disaster relief efforts for Hurricane Ike was hindered by the timing of the financial crisis, with Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy two days after Ike struck the Gulf Coast. With the financial markets in crisis, charitable giving across all sectors has slowed, although the needs remain acute.

To help address these needs, I will be partnering with chapters of the American Red Cross to speak at events at Borders Bookstores in their local communities, with 10% of all sales during those time periods to be donated to the Red Cross. These events will take place in March, National Red Cross Month. As the dates are confirmed, I will post them on this site.

Dodging a Bullet, But Still Suffering

Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Appreciation from the Red Cross

Appreciation from the Red Cross

Having feared the worst, residents of Louisiana got a reprieve, of sorts, when Hurricane Gustav did not leave a trail of devastation comparable to that of Hurricane Katrina. This has caused problems of another kind; Gustav is still a serious disaster and residents in the affected areas are in need of assistance. But charitable giving has not kept pace with the need, in part because of distorted perceptions from catastrophizing risk. The fact that Gustav was not as powerful as Katrina offers little comfort to Louisiana residents living in emergency shelters until their power and other services are restored and they can safely return home. To meet the needs of those who have been displaced by Gustav, the Red Cross has taken on debt, in the hope that donor contributions are on the way (that report from the Washington Post).

On the occasion of my most recent visit to New Orleans, I was surprised with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Gulf Coast Recovery Director of the American Red Cross. This was an acknowledgement of the contributions that my own small business has consistently made over the past few years. I am currently working out the details of a promotion in which profits on the sale of my book will assist disaster relief efforts. I urge other small businesses to join in; helping the relief efforts is not only a worthwhile thing to do, it can be effective team and skill building for your own organization. This has been a tough year in the United States for major natural disasters; in addition, to a severe hurricane season, we have had tornadoes in the southern states, floods in the midwestern states and wildfires in California. The need is certainly there.