WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – The last major United States disaster that the Red Cross faced did not have a happy ending for the 120-year old federally chartered non-profit organization.
After the terrorist attacks in 2001, by the end of the year, the head of the Red Cross, Bernadine Healy, resigned amidst revelations that the group was using millions of the money raised as relief funds for families to finance other programs of the organization. Nearly two months after 9-11, the organization had raised $564 million for the Liberty Fund (relief for families), but only $154 million had been distributed. This led to public confidence in giving to the organization going way down, but Hurricane Katrina has given the organization an opportunity for redemption.
As of Sept. 8, according to the organization’s website, 675 shelters have been opened in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Those shelters are home to 161,000 survivors. In coordination with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Red Cross has provided 6 million hot meals and 5.9 million snacks.
The organization has received $503 million in gifts and pledges for Hurricane Katrina, of which an estimated $265 million was received online. The site has not reported how much of that has been spent thus far.
Charity Navigator, a guide to intelligent giving, has given the Red Cross a four star rating. The site states that 91.1 percent of the money given to the Red Cross goes to program expenses. In 2004, the organization reported spending $2,891,973,873 on program expenses.
On Sept. 4, Reverend Jesse Jackson visited River Center Shelter in Baton Rouge, La. “I want you to put your hands together for the wonderful job the American Red Cross is doing,” he told the residents.
He also spent time with 85-year-old Marguerite Mackey of Buras, Ala.
“Reverend Jackson is a good man. He is here to help us. Those flood waters didn’t care if we were Black or White; they took everything, no matter. Red Cross doesn’t care either. They help you no matter what color you are.”
But everyone is not so sure about the Red Cross this time.
In an open forum, on the website www.badattitudes.com, Bill Doolittle posted on Sept. 8, “I’d think very carefully before giving money or blood to the Red Cross. Every pint of blood you give for nothing is sold for $165 to hospitals. They threw out lots of blood after 9-11, but kept right on scaring the public into giving more right afterward.
“They say that they sell the blood to cover the expenses of collecting it. Baloney. They sell it to support a bloated bureaucracy. Historically, much money raised in disasters by the American Red Cross has not gone to those in need. Their activity in 9-11 was especially reprehensible, a scandal really. Their response times are poor. They were hours later than the Salvation Army at the Pentagon, for instance.
“The Red Cross says it has cleaned up its act. I doubt it.”
Time will tell whether Hurricane Katrina will be redemption for the Red Cross–or another disaster to contend with.