WASHINGTON - Generous North Americans who gave more than
half a billion dollars (U.S.) to the Red Cross expected their donations
would go directly to surviving family members and victims of the Sept. 11
Canadians opened their wallets to donate $10 million (Cdn) to the New York, Washington and Pennsylvania victims, Suzanne Charest
of the Canadian Red Cross said last night.
But in a growing scandal which threatens to rock the
foundation of the 120-year-old American Red Cross, it now appears that of
the $530 million (U.S.)
total donated, more than $200 million is being diverted to the blood
agency's long-term goals and administrative costs.
That includes (all figures in U.S. dollars):
· $109 million for
improving the Red Cross' telecommunications, accounting and database
· $50 million for the
agency's blood reserves program.
· $26 million for
· $29 million for
"indirect" or administrative relief costs.
· $11 million for
"That's fine for afterwards, but their priorities seem
to be a little mixed up here," Mike McLaughlin of Pelham,
N.Y., who lost his brother, Rob, in the World Trade Center
told The Star.
His sister-in-law Liz, who is now a widow, has been
frustrated by her inability - as have been many of the families of the
5,000 dead, including 7,000 children who lost a parent and 50,000 people
who lost their jobs - to access relief assistance.
Liz McLaughlin did receive a check from the Red Cross,
"but I would expect there will be more and I hope it will not take
too long," her brother-in-law said.
Just last Wednesday night, former Red Cross president
Elizabeth Dole delivered a speech in Toronto in which she said Americans
will "never forget" the outpouring of affection and support
Last Friday, Dole's successor as president in 1999, Dr.
Bernadine Healy, suddenly and tearfully announced her resignation from
the Red Cross as the scandal over Sept. 11 donations began to break open
So far, only about $40 million (U.S.) of the $530 million
total raised has been distributed to victims' family members, the Red
Last night, Mike McLaughlin said in an interview that he
wasn't aware of the millions the Red Cross was planning to spend in areas
unrelated to the victims' families.
He said donors thought they were giving money which would go
to those families.
"We've been trying to see to it that Liz gets all the
benefits that are available to her. We started the process as soon as we
came to the realization Rob wasn't going to return," he said of his
brother, who worked at the bond trading firm Cantor-Fitzgerald. "But
this is the first I've heard of this ... it's not where I would have
expected donations to the Red Cross would end up."
Victims' families are supposed to be contacted by the Red
Cross call center, just outside Washington
in Falls Church, Va., to receive three months of living
expenses for each family.
The Red Cross had initially promised the checks would be
sent out within 48 hours of a family being contacted.
But more than six weeks after the horrific tragedy,
thousands of families have not been contacted and have not received any
assistance. Red Cross officials now admit the Falls Church call center is
overwhelmed, has a shoddy records-keeping system and is awash in
"I was turned into a widow on Sept. 11 and a single
mother and now they're turning me into a beggar," one woman told the
New York Times, asking that she not be named for fear her check might be
Some say the $530 million (U.S.) outpouring of public
support for the Sept. 11 victims' families was just too much for the Red
Cross to possibly manage. In the entire fiscal year of 2000, the agency
raised just over $600 million (U.S.)
When the half-a-billion dollars arrived in just a few weeks
after the terrorist attacks, Red Cross president Healy became embroiled
in nasty infighting with her 50-member board of directors over use of the
Healy, former dean of the Ohio
State medical school and a
cardiologist, choked back tears on Friday at a Washington news conference, saying
she'd been "forced out" by the board.
American Red Cross board chairman David McLaughlin (no
relation to Mike or Liz McLaughlin) said simply that the board had
differences with Healy on "various issues."
Now it appears the Red Cross will use millions of dollars
raised on the basis of Sept. 11 for purposes that have nothing to do with
the victims or their families. Instead, critics say, the Red Cross is
using the money to expand its own empire.
"In recent weeks, questions have been mounting over
whether the Red Cross and Dr. Healy have been candid about how much of
the money raised after the attacks will really go to the victims, their
families and rescue workers," noted the publication Chronicle of
Philanthropy, which monitors U.S. charitable
"Many people both inside and outside the Red Cross have
expressed concern that Dr. Healy was focused more on raising extra money
to expand the Red Cross's reach through long-term blood and
anti-terrorism programs than on accurately evaluating the needs of the
Sept. 11 disaster victims."
One former Red Cross employee told the publication:
"Dr. Healy's attitude seems to be `If the money is there, we'll find
a program to spend it on'."
In the American Red Cross' defense, spokesperson Dana Allen
said the Sept. 11 disaster is unlike anything the agency had dealt with.
"The Red Cross has been responding to disasters for 120
years, but this was a completely different type of disaster," she
said. "The Red Cross is not only responding in one disaster-struck
region. It is responding all over the country because the entire nation
is suffering as a result of these attacks."
But for Mike McLaughlin, it's all about ensuring his
brother's widow gets the support generous North American donors wanted
her to have.
"It's been rough, but we're trying to get through it,
little by little," he said last night. "You probably never
really get over it."
Copyright 1996-2001. Toronto Star