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AMERICAN RED CROSS To calm donors, agency changes policies for funds



Published: Thu, November 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The organization had planned to hold back some donations in case of a future terrorist attack.

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Area Red Cross leaders say several policy changes announced for the Sept. 11 Liberty Disaster Fund should go far toward allaying donor concerns about how the money is being spent.

At a Wednesday news conference broadcast over the Red Cross channel, Harold Decker, interim chief executive officer of the American Red Cross, said the ARC Board of Governors voted to use 100 percent of the money donated to the Liberty Fund to help victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the anthrax victims.

Decker said $543 million has been donated to the fund to date, adding that about $275 million will have been spent by year's end to help victims.

In January 2002, the Red Cross will present a plan detailing how the remaining funds will be specifically spent to help Sept. 11 victims, he added.

Previously, the Red Cross policy was to hold back about half of the money in case of future terrorist attacks.

New policies: The policy changes "may put a lot of questions to bed for a lot of donors," said Cheryl Oblinger, executive director of the Trumbull County Red Cross Chapter. "The most important thing is that donors are assured their gifts are being used for what they were intended."

Decker predicted overhead costs would be about 9 percent, compared to 12 percent to 15 percent in normal situations. The reason for the lower overhead, Oblinger said, is because of the large number of volunteers and gifts of items the Red Cross would normally have to buy.

Other Liberty Fund changes announced by Decker included:

U Families whose loved ones were lost or seriously injured in the attacks will receive about $111 million in additional financial support before the end of the year through the Red Cross family gift cash program, extending financial support from the initial three-month period to a full year.

The checks sent out by year's end will provide another six months of basic living expenses such as housing, food, utilities, tuition, child care and health care.

U The names of 25,000 families the Red Cross has helped will be part of a database that will be shared by other relief agencies and governmental agencies, which Decker said would make access to relief easier for victims.

To protect the privacy of victims, the database will be restricted to participating relief agencies. Individuals may opt out of the program without jeopardizing any help from the Red Cross.

U Three programs that had been part of the Liberty Fund -- strategic blood reserve, community outreach and Armed Forces services -- will be funded from other sources.

Public response: Decker said the policy changes were triggered by the American people who "spoke loudly and clearly that they want our relief efforts directed at the people affected by the Sept. 11 tragedies."

"It's important for donors to know the Red Cross will honor their intent and do whatever it takes to get relief where it should go." said Ginger Grilli, executive director of the Northern Columbiana County Red Cross Chapter.

Grilli urged people to call their local Red Cross chapter if they have questions. "We will respond," she said.

Decker also addressed the question of what happened to excess blood collected immediately after Sept. 11.

Blood reserves: He said about 8 percent of liquid red blood cells collected was not used. Three percent (2 percent is usual) was not used because its 42-day shelf life expired; and 5 percent did not meet specifications. All donations that met safety and quality standards were used as red blood cells, platelets or plasma, officials said.

Decker said the Red Cross has a 10-day supply of blood now, where before Sept. 11 there was a one- or two-day supply. "We don't want to be short of blood in case of more attacks," he said.

He said 25,000 new donations are needed daily to maintain the 10-day supply.

Grilli and Oblinger said it is too soon to know what percentage of the large number of first-time blood donors immediately after Sept. 11 will become regular donors.

"We'll do what we can to bring them back. Ten days is a lot more comfortable than one or two days," Grilli said.

alcorn@vindy.com




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