Don’t let big problems at the American Red Cross kill it

When the Red Cross finally appeared (in the Rockaways, N.Y.) weeks after the storm (Sandy), volunteers were planning to distribute flashlights but discovered they had no batteries, she (a volunteer for the relief group Occupy Sandy) says. One Red Cross staffer came to a Rockaways community center and asked them to donate some. “I was infuriated,” she recalls. “Didn’t Lady Gaga just donate a million dollars to you guys?” she asked the Red Cross staffer. “Buy some batteries with it.”

The above paragraph is an excerpt from “The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster,” a piece of investigative journalism published today by ProPublica, a non-profit corporation that describes itself as an independent non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. The except demonstrates just one of many ways the American Red Cross apparently allowed poor leadership at top levels to hinder (if not disable) its ability to meet the needs of the victims of Hurricane Isaac and super storm Sandy.

For a long time, the American Red Cross has been the default recipient of monetary donations from Americans who feel compelled to do something to help disaster victims. Reading ProPublic’s piece might lead you to consider other recipients for your next donation.

If so, and if you, like me, are a Christian, consider looking first to your own denomination. Many have their own disaster response ministries. If you’re not certain whether your denomination does, ask your pastor or other church leaders.

That said, I believe it would be a shame if the American Red Cross ceased to exist due to drying up donations as a result of ProPublica’s exposé. The American Red Cross has significant resources and should not be allowed to die. Instead, donors should insist on reform and greater transparency, so that the organization can better respond to the next disaster.

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