Friday, September 30, 2005

The Red Cross can and has done much fine work. But today, they did not.
I went to a financial assistance center today to dig into a rumor about a bunch of people from Louisiana being forcibly escorted from line for being ineligibe for financial assistance because of their zip code. After police removed the group from the line, the center shut down for a time, leaving literally hundreds of eligible people standing in the hot sun and with no clue as to what was going on.
So here I come, all smiles and compliments, trying to dispell some of the nastier rumors which were floating into our paper about what had actually happened and who (namely what race and socio-economic class) the people who were escorted away were.
All the officials I managed to find played dumb or stand-offish.
So, I ask simple questions, like, "How many people work here?" "How many people do you see a day?" "What exactly do you do here?" And they refuse to answer me.
I call a PR person for the Red Cross and she says she does not know the answer to my questions but would need to talk to the manager of the center, who happened to be standing right next to me and who demanded I call the PR person in the first place. So I say this, ask her to give this woman permission to tell me the basic things about the center, and everyone refuses everything.
Then they go into a huddle to decide what to do about me.
Five minutes pass.
Ten minutes.
So I pull out my camera and start taking pictures of anything from the belly level without ever looking through my viewfinder.
Next thing I know this old man with a security badge grabs me firmly on the arm and starts yelling, "You can't take pictures. You're a troublemaker and I know you're taking pictures."
I say, "Sir, I'm sorry, please calm down. I was just fiddling with the camera."
"No you weren't," he screams. "I know you're here to cause trouble. I know you took pictures. We need to repsect the privacy of our clients. You can't do that here. You need to give me that camera."
While ignoring that last comment and before I have a chance to say, "Okay, let me walk around the room and ask everyone's permission," (which I was more than willing to do) some older peroxide-blond woman appears and, quite literally, starts screaming at me, "Who do you think you are? Does your publisher know you're here? Do you want me to call him on you?"
To which I respond, "Sure. Would you like the phone number, ma'am?"
At which point, she explodes.
Next thing I know security personnel are escorting me out while yelling at me and grabbing for my camera. I stop, hold up the display and delete the photos I had in there (don't worry, I downloaded all photos from earlier in the day already). I then walk away quickly, but not before turning to the group causing the ruckus and say, "I was here to dispell some ugly rumors about what happened earlier. You just made them worse. Congratulations. Sorry."

I have always been wary of the American Red Cross. They do not share donations with the International Red Cross. The usually act like an arrogant, closed-off and uncooperative organization in times of disaster. When I worked in a soup kitchen, they demanded that we close on Thanksgiving day (they didn't bother with Christmas) so they would have enough people to feed.
And they were late when the disaster hit, showing up over a week later in most places.
That said, they are a necessary evil. They have the best resources and experience. I just frickin' can't stand the way they do business.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - sounds like an "exciting day" at the local RC...

I was catching-up on your blog and wanted to know if you have a link to the story you mentioned in this quote:

"....won’t run with my story tomorrow on the guy who was evicted from his FEMA trailer for not taking care of his dog."

This sounds VERY interesting... Thanks so much for informing us of what's happening down your way. Still.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the pleasure of knowing a Purple Heart Vietnam vet. He says that the G.I.s always looked at the Red Cross thru jaded eyes.

His quote was: "They were always happy to SELL us a cup of coffee and RENT us a blanket."

Sounds like you had a good day,
congrats,

John in NC

5:38 PM  
Blogger Colleen Vesperman said...

Hello again guys,

What a shame it is! All I can say about this organization is that I thought they were better at servicing people in a crisis than what you have reported.

Keep exposing the truth!

Thank you!

www.colleenvesperman.com

7:09 PM  
Blogger Jillian said...

I have been reading your blog quietly ever since you were on the "Blogs Noticed" thing on the Blogger.com homepage.

Either way, I think that what the Red Cross did down there was not right in a lot of ways. And I hope that you post some of those pictures -- I really enjoy the work that you are doing. And, as Colleen Vesperman said, please continue to deliver us the truth.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

That makes me sad, really, because I was so proud of my company for donating so much money to the Red Cross. I keep hearing bad things about them... They have so much money donated to them, but they won't share with the other charities to more quickly help the people. That's crap.

Sorry those people yelled at you. Do you want me to send someone to kick their butts? :)

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading this since day one. Ya'all got the best news in the world on the situation...and I mean "news" in it's truest sense. I'm thinking after all you've been through it would be easier to become jaded and roll with the punches. But you're still fighting the good fight! And sounds like you've retained a sense of humor. I'm proud. Real proud. If anybody asks, I'm gonna nominate you for a Pulitzer.

7:58 PM  
Blogger judypatooote said...

I guess we never know what goes on unless we've been there and have witnessed it....It makes you wonder, so many things in life are like that.....Red Cross I've always thought of as the safe way to send money to help, in fact I did.....but I guess it takes all kinds to spoil a good thing....thanks for keeping your eyes open and reporting to us....I have also been following your blog. Good Job.......

5:27 AM  
Blogger SingingOwl said...

In both Gulfport and Waveland the Red Cross was hard to find. And they continually changed locations--how frustrating to the evacuees! And some days they were there and some days they weren't.

I've finally posted some pictures of Waveland on my blog...but came here to see what you guys are up to. And this is horrible. I'm so sorry that happened to you.

As I noted, my own experience was that it was the churches getting the job done. Not the big organizations.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Lucanos said...

Keep Up The Good Work My Son!

It's good to hear from some impartial, unbiased and unscripted reports from the region. No matter which mainstream medium you tend to look at today, the majority have at least one (if not many) ulterior motives.

Your experience with the Red Cross, both today and in the past, makes me want to have them banned! I am a member of the Australian Red Cross and if any one of my colleagues treated you like these American Red Crossers did, I would personally smack them around the ears and send them home. I don't care who they are - you didn't go down there to stir trouble, you were looking for the answers through the accepted channels and they decided to stonewall you, then strongarm you.

Not good, not good at all.
Makes me think that simply sending a cheque to "X Main St, New Orleans" would have a greater chance of doing some good.

Maybe they should just turn their Red Cross 45 degrees to the left or right, as that seems to be, more and more, the kind of vibe I am picking up.
And to consider, they baffled how many "celebrities" into appealing on their behalf?
I wonder how much of every dollar donated actually gets down to the people on the ground over there...

[/ end rant]

7:28 AM  
Blogger The Fergoosons said...

I have tried and tried in the past to tell people how the red cross really works, to no avail, so I am hoping people will read this and figure it out! It seems that everyone knows someone down in the muck down there, send money directly to them and as my brother has done will pass it on to who he sees with his own eyes that needs help. He said that he doesn't understand the way the FEMA is operating either, they walk up to one house and give the howeowners and check for 40K and then walk to the next house that is the same as the first and give them 150K, how does that make sense???

8:36 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Mmm. I'm not surprised. This is why I bought items and assembled care kits to take to the Red Cross right after the hurricane and the rest of my purchases went on church trucks down to south Mississippi. I don't care what church is sending supplies as long as it gets there. I don't even remember what religious sect it was.

I haven't forgotten the cookies. My father had surgery unexpectedly so it's been a bit crazy.

10:18 PM  
Blogger KLCtheBookWorm said...

We're affected in Northshore Louisiana and have seen the Red Cross pulling this stuff here too. You can't find them or when you finally do find them, they've closed after an hour's work.

My boyfriend suggest that everyone request copies of theAmerican Red Cross's last IRS and financial statements. As a non-profit organization, they are required by law to give it. They must be held accountable for this money.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Heather Brown said...

Do you have a way to contact the Red Cross so we can complain about the way these people are being treated and the way our donations are being utilized? It's sad to say, but I'm almost ashamed of the fact that that's the organization that our family donated money to, trying to assist those in need. Now, I wish I would have donated through someone who would have worked harder, faster, and more fair for all the victims involved.

Keep up the great reporting. Screw CNN and other reporting agencies, I've been using this site and your articles as the place to get my news about what is truly happening down there. If only everyone else was as honest as you!

Still praying for you all!

9:23 AM  
Anonymous heather said...

I would never give money to the Red Çross. I've heard the stories before but one glaring thing that makes me refuse to donate money to them is the fact the CEO makes 600K a year. All their money comes from donations so people who want to help people are really only paying this woman's salary.

The guy who runs the Salvation Army makes 13K a year plus housing. That's a big difference.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Crissi said...

When I went down to New Orleans, Louisiana to deliver supplies to a local church who are running an outreach program and supply headquarters, one of the main complaints were the lack of Red Cross. It was three weeks into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and only once did they get to chat with Red Cross. The RC assessed the situation, and told them they'd be back with food, supplies, and money. They never returned.

There are people who would have certainly died if it weren't for faith based organizations there to offer food and necessities for daily living, as well as a hot meal when they could. I was also encouraged by the Salvation Army in the Biloxi area, as they had a good set up for handing out supplies. I encourage people to donate to their houses of worship, to the Salvation Army, or to someone who can donate to the people personally. The Red Cross just isn't cutting it, and neither is our government/FEMA. And there are people there in Louisiana and Mississippi who will DIE without our help, because no one else is helping them.

3:58 PM  
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