The American Red Cross has had its highly buffed reputation sullied by the disparity between its herculean efforts at fundraising after disasters such as the 9/11 attacks and the 1989 San Francisco Bay earthquake and the actual amount of aid it gave to victims of those disasters. In fact, that disparity - unknown to most trusting Americans - is scandalously huge and is long overdue for wide exposure at last.
Consider: fully SEVENTY PER CENT OF CASH DONATIONS by Americans for Hurricane Katrina victims went to the American Red Cross. Celebrities, FEMA, the President, network TV, EVERYONE was pushing to give to the Red Cross as a way to help Katrina's victims. Yet very little of that money has actually reached the victims in any useful form. Indeed, the management of Red Cross operations in the Katrina areas has often been haphazard and counterproductive, to the point that the CEO of DeKalb County, Georgia asked the ARC to LEAVE (documented and discussed in this DU thread: http://tinyurl.com/c9cot).
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As the new LA Times op/ed by disaster relief expert Richard Walden points out, the VOLUNTEERS AND WORKERS of the ARC are wonderful, caring people who work their hearts out to give aid and comfort to disaster victims. (For example, see this first-hand account: http://tinyurl.com/a7u34
) But the upper-level MANAGEMENT of the ARC is very different. One could sum up the problem by describing them as "Bushed,"
meaning not only that they are heavily weighted with rich GOP hangers-on, but that they deal in vast amounts of money, accomplish far less than they claim, and mask their real intentions and operations in secrecy. Every time they've been investigated over the last 15 years, what started bubbling up were very dark and ugly secrets indeed. Yet the ARC has to be one of the fattest "sacred cows" on the planet - who would risk demonization by criticizing them?
Where do all those billions of dollars so generously given to the ARC really go? How much more productively might they be spent in more direct aid that provides desperately needed services that NEITHER FEMA nor the ARC give? This is not just a question of scandal and corruption, but of life and death, for since the federal government has essentially abandoned so many hurricane victims to fend for themselves, the 70% of American donations are most of what is left to take up the slack. Instead, most of that money goes to shadowy places other than where it is most needed and the taxpayers actually have to reimburse the Red Cross for much of what little it actually does for the victims.
The losers in all of this are the victims, who are abandoned by BOTH their government and the major charity trusted by Americans to help them.
This is an excellent op/ed, one for which it was extremely difficult to pick just the four paragraphs allowed by copyright rules. I urge you to read the entire thing and pass the information along. A full exposure of the sorry reality of the American Red Cross is way, way overdue. Generous Americans should realize that their gifts are NOT reaching the victims as they assume. This story should be followed by investigations and further exposés and FUNDAMENTAL changes in the way Americans provide care and aid for disaster victims.
THE RED CROSS MONEY PIT
By Richard M. Walden
Richard M. Walden is president and CEO of Operation USA, a 26-year-old international disaster relief agency based in Los Angeles. Website: www.opusa.org.
September 25, 2005
This skewed giving to Red Cross would be justified if the organization had to pay the cost of the 300,000 people it has sheltered. But FEMA and the affected states are reimbursing the Red Cross under preexisting contracts for emergency shelter and other disaster services. The existence of these contracts is no secret to anyone but the American public. The Red Cross carefully says it functions only by the grace of the American people -- but "people" includes government, national and local. What we've now come to expect from a major disaster is a Red Cross media blitz.
The Red Cross brand is platinum. Its fundraising vastly outruns its programs because it does very little or nothing to rescue survivors, provide direct medical care or rebuild houses. After 9/11, the Red Cross collected more than $1 billion, a record in philanthropic fundraising after a disaster. But the Red Cross could do little more than trace missing people, help a handful of people in shelters and provide food to firefighters, police, paramedics and evacuation crews during that catastrophe.
The Red Cross expects to raise more than $2 billion before Hurricane Katrina-related giving subsides. If it takes care of 300,000 people, that's $7,000 per victim. I doubt each victim under Red Cross care will see more than a doughnut, an interview with a social worker and a short-term voucher for a cheap motel, with a few miscellaneous items such as clothes and cooking pots thrown in.
The Red Cross' 3 million unpaid volunteers, 156,000 of whom it says are deployed in Hurricane Katrina, are salt-of-the-Earth Americans. But asking where all the privately collected money will go and how much Red Cross is billing FEMA and the affected states is a legitimate question -- even if posed by the president of a small relief agency.
By the way, guess what where the article says the ARC gets over $1.5 of its $3 BILLION annual income? From RESELLING DONATED BLOOD. Gives a whole new meaning to the term "blood money."
Not only does there need to be full knowledge of what is actually happening to the 70% of total American charitable donations for Hurricane Katrina relief that are going to the Red Cross, but we need to identify and support new ways to get the needed aid to local communities EFFECTIVELY and EFFICIENTLY.
One such way to reach devastated communities with needed aid is by means of the "Mobile Medical Units," or "MMUs" that have come out of a collaboration between singer/songwriter Paul Simon and Columbia Medical Center dean Ivan Redlener in its innovative and highly effective "Operation Assist." These MMUs can bring skilled medical care to the communities that need it most. At present, there are only two MMUs and more are needed; I also believe this is an approach that should be picked up by other medical institutions. To learn more about the MMUs and Operation Assist and their involvement in the Katrina aftermath, see this press release:
The MMU/Operation Assist program is one example of how Americans can support direct aid without going through the massive bureaucracy and questionable delivery of the ARC. We need to find many more and educate Americans to be far more disciplined in choosing how to give the aid that is so desperately needed. And the American Red Cross should be held accountable for what it does with the money and the blood that are given to it with the explicit, good-faith expectation that the primary goal is to benefit people in need, not add to secret profits or divert the money to unrelated projects.
(edited FIRST to clarify that the "70% of American donations" given to the ARC refers to the donations for Hurricane Katrina aid, then SECOND to clarify that the LAT piece is an op/ed by an author with long-time expertise in disaster relief. His background is cited in the excerpt.)