12/28/05 — Under repair: National Red Cross deserves chance to mend its problems

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Under repair: National Red Cross deserves chance to mend its problems

When you read about a scandal involving a national organization like the Red Cross, it is easy to draw negative conclusions about every chapter of that charity in every state.

It is only natural to wonder if maybe this is an organization you should cross off your donation list in 2006.

So, when news broke this week that some Red Cross contract workers had devised a scheme to claim money meant for Hurricane Katrina victims through their relatives in other parts of the country, it was tough to hear. And it was even tougher not to think twice before writing out a check to the Red Cross chapter here.

But that would be the wrong way to interpret this latest problem from one of the country’s most-respected and active rescue and relief operations.

There is no doubt that there is some work to be done in the Red Cross organization — changing the charity’s board of directors should probably be the first step. And the organization admits that there were some problems with the deployment of resources and personnel during Hurricane Katrina.

Acknowledging that there might be ways to better-accomplish the task of taking care of victims is a responsible reaction to a natural disaster of a magnitude that this nation has not seen in more than 100 years. The scope of Hurricane Katrina and the nearly 100,000 people who needed assistance across two states were factors that no one could have planned on or for. Of course there were logistical problems. Of course there were ways disaster services could have been handled better. That is what Monday morning quarterbacking is all about — looking for ways to improve past performance.

And the recent scandal with the contract workers’ thefts is no different than any other such criminal activity in any organization — private or public. Keeping track of dishonest employees — or in this case itinerate workers — is not easy. The fact that the fraud was discovered so quickly is testament to the fact that the Red Cross is policing itself.

So, although there is a reason to watch carefully, there is no excuse for not continuing to support local efforts here. The Red Cross will fix its problems, while Wayne County’s chapter continues to do good works at home.

If one year from now, there are still questions to be answered, perhaps that will be the time to put your money somewhere else.

For now, Wayne County’s chapter of the American Red Cross has earned your support and confidence.

Published in Editorials on December 28, 2005 10:47 AM