American National Red Cross
October 18, 2011
I have spent over 25 years with the American Red Cross (both volunteer and paid staff) and much of that time has been spent working to ensure that our local chapters are trained, prepared and ready to respond to disasters, both large and small. ARC is an often misunderstood entity because the organization is so large and so active that the "behind the scenes" activities and negotiations may not be obvious to the general public or to all observers. As an example, someone wrote that ARC took people on buses, during Katrina, and then "just left them" when, in reality, Red Cross is not a transporting entity. ARC volunteers may have been on the buses that either FEMA or local governments utilized to evacuate or transport, but ARC was not in charge of those operations, only there to support the clients. Also noted that someone felt that ARC "spent thousands of dollars on thank you parties for their staff" after Katrina when, in reality, those types of celebrations are usually sponsored by grateful corporate entities or municipalities who want to thank the volunteer who left their homes for weeks to come and help. I was a volunteer for over 11 years before becoming a paid staff person for 15 years. I am now retired, but still (after 67 + disaster operation responses) am proud of the work of the organization and of its dedicated paid and volunteer staff. The paid staff of the organization could take those same skills into the open market and make far larger salaries with far fewer challenges. But they don't be cause, like me, they believe in the mission of the Red Cross. Are we always perfect? Goodness, no! But then, is any entity always able to be perfect in time of disaster? No, disaster is, by its very nature, chaotic and your best hope is to have a good plan and to execute it with skill and expertise. Even then, there will be variables that keep things from being perfect but, please know, the paid and volunteer staff of the Red Cross working on disaster relief operations are focused on success...and that means serving the disaster related / disaster caused needs of the community and its people. Yes, we do ask for funds because, as you can only imagine, everything from putting gas in the vehicles to purchasing food for feeding sites and support items for sheltering still costs money, even when disaster strikes. in fact, often, in the face of disaster, those costs mount unbelievably! I am always sad when I see someone put something out that is negative about the organizations disaster relief efforts because I know it is out of a lack of the "big picture" knowledge that they have made judgement.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
From 1986 until 2010, I was a volunteer or a paid staff member, and was a part of chapter, regional, and national activities so I saw all sides of the efforts
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
our mission is a strong and solid mission. If I had to change something about the organization I would remind the senior leaders to not be so reactive when criticized. Again, not everyone has all the facts and because of that we have sometimes "apologized" when, in reality, we should have stood up straight, shoulders back, and said 'we did everything we could humanly do and did it with honesty and compassion"
Professional with expertise in this field & I have responded to every type of disaster event from a single family home fire to the largest and most complex hurricane efforts. I personally have done everything from work in a shelter or do individual client casework to, as my experience and skills g.