The American Red Cross and disaster relief
Nov. 25, 2001
The American Red Cross is this country's most respected disaster relief organization and it's unfortunate that some of its practices related to Sept. 11 have been questioned, especially since the questions arose after unprecedented generosity of the American people.
Under its operating guidelines, money raised for a special "Liberty Disaster Relief Fund" created specifically to collect and disburse funds related to Sept. 11's terrorists attacks have gone for this purpose. More than $154 million has been spent or committed, including more than $120 million for direct assistant to 25,000 families in the form of cash to cover emergency needs such as food, clothing and shelter.
Officials of the American Red Cross' Key Chapter locally said the Liberty Fund is "structured to ensure that every dollar raised will go to help people who are and will be affected by the acts of terrorism as well as to ensure the Red Cross will help people whenever and wherever terrorism strikes."
While officials recognize there is a balance of funds uncommitted, they expect to hold these contributions aside "to be made available for emerging needs." They say that to have responsibly distributed $120 million to 25,000 families in a few weeks is "extraordinary and unprecedented in the nonprofit world."
I believe them.
The Red Cross has been aggressively seeking out families directly affected by the events of Sept. 11. It placed ads in newspapers appealing for families to contact it. The organization contacted employers of the World Trade Center, floor by floor, to reach out to their employees. It searched hospital lists and confirmed the names of people injured or killed.
The American Red Cross does, indeed, seem to be doing its disaster relief job under extremely difficult circumstances.
Now, about those contributions.
Again, under the organization's guidelines, it has to use contributions in the manner intended by the donor. If you want a financial contribution to go directly to the Liberty Fund, write it on your check and you will know the money is going for the families of Sept. 11.
If you want to make a contribution that stays local and can be available for use when the next disaster strikes here, write on your check "Key Chapter" and you will know it will go for that purpose. Local officials will never turn down a contribution. They just want donors to know that the donor's intent determines where the money goes.
The need for immediate financial and other assistance in times of disasters can not be understated. Who knows when the next tornado will hit the Lauderdale County area? Who knows when floods or fire will strike, leaving families homeless or without other basic needs?
The Red Cross' entire history is one of jumping in immediately to help people in need, whether they are victimized by devastating acts of nature or unnatural acts of terror. It's a great organization shouldering a large part of recovery efforts thanks to the generosity of the American people.
My thought on this Sunday after Thanksgiving is thank God for the Red Cross and for all of the people who support its important mission.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.