Disaster Relief Fund Dwindles as Expenses Compound
Written by Bonnie Gillespie
, Staff Writer, Redcross.org
Tuesday, November 18, 2003 — With the holiday season
just around the corner, the thoughts of many Americans are
turning toward giving, not just to loved ones but also to
those in need. After a year of destructive storms, ferocious
wildfires and other disasters, there are many in need of Red
volunteers in Emergency Response Vehicles deliver hot
meals into areas hard hit by disasters.
During the holidays and each day of the year, American Red
Cross volunteers practice selfless giving to victims of over
67,000 disasters that occur annually in the U.S. In fact,
every eight minutes a disaster strikes. But after more than a
year of mounting relief operation expenses, the Red Cross is
now asking the American public for support.
Two months ago, the Red Cross announced that its Disaster
Relief Fund was empty because of a decrease in monetary
support and an increase in “silent” disasters, such as house
and apartment fires, that occur outside the national media
spotlight. In addition to these smaller, “silent” disasters,
last October the Red Cross responded to five major natural
disasters, spanning four states and into the U.S. territories,
further depleting already dwindling resources.
“To respond to this urgent emergency, we are appealing to
the American people for support . . . to help replenish the
fund to an adequate level so that we can continue to respond
immediately to the critical needs of communities devastated by
disasters, large and small,” said President and CEO, Marsha J.
The cost of responding to an active tornado season last
spring, wildfires throughout the summer and fall and house
fires occurring almost daily has outpaced incoming donations,
causing the balance of the Disaster Relief Fund to plummet to
critical levels. From July 2002 to June 2003, the organization
spent $114.3 million while taking in only $39.5 million.
And as the holiday season approaches, disasters continue to
strike. As floodwaters rage across Puerto Rico and parts of
the U.S. Virgin Islands, the organization is again issuing its
plea for America’s support.
“Flooding like we have in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin
Islands are perfect examples of how the Disaster Relief Fund
reached the level it has,” said Larry Rockwell. “They are
large scale disasters that we are providing emergency relief
for but are virtually invisible on the national media radar
screen, so America doesn’t even know the needs are there.”
Cross is always the first to arrive at a disaster scene
to offer a hot meal, fresh water, a helping hand and a
Red Cross damage assessment teams in Puerto Rico have
already reported extensive damage to more than 1,200 homes,
while local officials believe that damages to individuals and
families have exceeded $4 million, in addition to the millions
of dollars in destruction wreaked on the transportation,
agricultural and economic systems.
With flooding and other disasters striking communities
across the nation about 186 times daily, the Red Cross relies
on the Disaster Relief Fund to mobilize volunteers and
resources to help communities throughout the United States
“Since its inception in 1881, the American Red Cross has
been guided by the vision of humanitarianism and fueled by
financial donations from citizens and businesses,” said Evans.
"Now more than ever, it is necessary for the Red Cross to be
prepared to respond whenever and wherever tragedy strikes.”
You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across
the country each year by contributing to our Disaster Relief
online or call toll free 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-257-7575
for Spanish speakers) or you can mail
in your gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief
Fund, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.