Sunday, June 24, 2001

Jason Long of the U.S. Navy, and Jason Hill of the U.S. Marines,
received attention from the Red Cross in the way of warm blankets,
food and drinks. They were on their way up to Sacred Falls when
an accident happened on May 9, 1999, and stayed to help the
victims until rescuers arrived. The American Red Cross in Hawaii
provides disaster relief but is currently in need of
relief from a budget shortfall.

Hawaii Red Cross
in need of help

They need $114,000 by
Saturday to cover
financial shortfall

By Helen Altonn

The American Red Cross in Hawaii was there helping after the first major mercury contamination, after house and apartment fires, floods, air crashes and other disasters the past year.

Now, it has an emergency.

It needs $114,000 by Saturday, the end of this fiscal year, to cover a budget shortfall.

"We're not accustomed to ending the year with a shortage by any means," said Roger W. Dickson, chief executive officer.

"We've had an unusual number of disasters, not necessarily extraordinary, but they do tend to take a toll on the operational budget of our chapter."

The Red Cross receives about $500,000 in support from Aloha United Way and depends on contributions for the rest of its annual $3.7 million budget, Dickson said.

It's coming up short this year, he said, "in part due to the economic downturn and just increased activity and demand on all organizations in the community."

He said many nonprofit organizations are in similar circumstances.

The chapter is appealing to residents to help it end the fiscal year in the black. Otherwise, it will have to dip into "very small reserves" and cut back on expenses, Dickson said.

"We hate to pull back on human resources," he said, noting that the largest single expense is for salaries.

The chapter has 48 paid staff statewide, depending on about 4,500 volunteers to deliver services. But the volunteers "depend on the very small staff infrastructure to do their work," Dickson said.

"It is not just the response to the disasters that we all know about," he said. "It's preparing for the disasters we know are inevitable."

He added, "preparedness is every bit as important as response.

"If you drive by our office, and there is no disaster that you hear on the news, we are preparing for the next disaster, making sure our volunteers are there, properly trained and have the resources to provide service, whether it is a single-family fire or something the magnitude of Hurricane Iniki."

Barbara Stauss, a paid Red Cross employee in Wisconsin for 22 and a half years, thinks highly of the organization that she has been a volunteer for at the Hawaii chapter for six months.

She came here for three months for a vacation after retiring in Wisconsin, then came back to help, she said.


Some of the emergencies that kept the Hawaii Red Cross busy during this past year:

>> March: Responded to the state's first major mercury contamination, providing food, shelter, crisis counseling and special assistance to anyone in need at the Pu'uwai Momi housing complex.

>> January and February: Responded to many house and apartment fires throughout the islands, including one tragedy where 11 adults and 11 children lost their homes.

>> November 2000: Helped more than 300 Big Island families during floods that wrecked homes and disrupted their lives.

>> Throughout the year:

Provided crisis counseling and support for families and emergency response workers after devastating air crashes on Maui and the Big Island.

>> The chapter also:

>> Implemented an advanced disaster response training program for Red Cross volunteer leaders, including those at chapters in Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands and American Samoa.

>> Established and equipped a state-of-the art Red Cross Emergency Operations Center and a disaster command center in Diamond Head Crater.

>> Hired a mass care coordinator responsible for identifying, securing and equipping more than 250 disaster shelters statewide to ensure Hawaii families have safe refuge when the next disaster strikes.

"I have received so much personal satisfaction from the Red Cross, knowing our organization is able to help people, helps saves lives and make a difference in lives."

Now she has "one foot in each state," she said, noting one reason for retiring was to spend more time with her family, including nine grandchildren.

"I have been coming to Hawaii since the 70s. People here have given me so much aloha that I'm so happy I have a chance to repay some of that aloha," she said.

The Red Cross is counting on islanders' aloha.

"Just as Hawaii depends on the Red Cross in times of disaster, the Hawaii Red Cross is depending on you in this emergency appeal," Dickson wrote in a letter to the public asking for help.

He said people trust that the Red Cross will be there in time of need.

And they are deeply grateful, he said, reporting that one Oahu family wrote: "Thank you so much for all your help after our humble house burnt to the ground. We couldn't do anything but cry and you held us and helped us find a place to stay ... food, medicine and clothing."

Donations may be sent to the Hawaii State Chapter, American Red Cross, 4155 Diamond Head Rd., Honolulu, HI 96816-4417.

E-mail to City Desk

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