New Orleans to D.C. and back again

. . . Everywhere in D.C. we saw places collecting money for the Red Cross and so took it upon ourselves to break it to all these well intentioned individuals that sending the Red Cross money is as good as putting a match to it. Just in case you haven’t caught this bit of info yet, here is what the Red Cross is doing in New Orleans: feeding the National Guard and the police and site seeing. We have not seen one Red Cross person doing one thing for any citizen of New Orleans. They do not bring us food or water (the Salvation Army has done this, tho, and we give them many kudos for being the ONLY official disaster relief doing ANYTHING in the city of New Orleans) or medical care or anything. I have only seen two Red Cross vehicles in New Orleans – one perusing our Toxic Art exhibit outside our house (Jeffrey asked them where they’d been all this time and then told them in no uncertain terms to get lost) and one by the levy break in the lower 9th ward taking pictures. That’s it. So please, people, spread the word – DO NOT give the Red Cross your money if you really want to help. They already have millions, and I’m sure that is plenty enough to feed the National Guard.

On top of the lack of services provided by the Red Cross, I’ll tell you about Jeffrey’s latest experience with the Red Cross shelter we were staying outside of in Covington (the one we were buying toiletries and over the counter medications for the residents as the Red Cross does not provide such things) as registered ‘guests.’ We left the shelter to do relief work with the Vets for Peace while waiting to get back into the city. Before we left, we’d signed up for our Red Cross debit cards, the little amount of money they give you to get by on. These cards took over a week to arrive. Jeffrey went back to the shelter to get our card and check on Daniel who was still there and look for our two missing cats that escaped out of the tent and into the woods. Upon driving up to the shelter, he was stopped by a sheriff who informed him that he was not welcome on the property. Apparently someone forgot to inform us when we left that once you leave the shelter you can not return, and that if you set foot on the property you will be arrested. That’s the kind of thanks you get for leaving to help take care of others. And a very nice way to keep people victims – we’d been trying to help some of the shelter residents get back home – they have FEMA checks to go pick up, but no gas money to go get the checks so they can cash them and buy gas to get home. But they aren’t allowed to leave the shelter. It’s a disgusting and abhorent Catch-22 situation designed to keep people victims and prevent them from helping themselves or others.

I have thought for some time that the Red Cross is incompetent and badly managed, but this story confirms it. But while I’m at it, let me share another story about how the Red Cross operates….

Back in I think 1999 there was a huge tornado that hit in Newcastle, OK (my hometown) as well as in Bridge Creek & Moore. The damage was pretty devastating with many folks having their homes completely flattened. So in response to this my parent’s church did a massive fundraising initiative with other churches of their religious tradition from all over the nation, and used the funds to buy appliances and other necessities for those who lost everything and were rebuilding.

Well after all was said and done there was some funds left, so the plan was to send the funds on to a disaster relief orgnanization that worked in that religious tradition (I forgot its name) but about that time the local Red Cross chapter showed up to see if the church would give the money to them instead. (I’m not making this up)

So as far as I’m concerned, don’t give money to the Red Cross. The Salvation Army seems to be doing a much better job in NOLA according to those on the scene and I think their opperation has much lower overhead than the Red Cross.

I’m also pretty partial to Mennonite Disaster Services, but their focus is more on long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts, an area that is often neglected by other disaster relief organizations… for instance, the last issue I received of the MDS newsletter is telling of how the organization is currently working on rebuilding and repairs homes damaged in the 2004 Florida hurricaines.