Thursday, October 23, 2008

Red Cross Disaster Relief Down $100 Million

Red Cross Disaster Relief Down $100 Million
Local chapter committed to $100,000 for national relief fund

By Chuck Hagee, Gazette Packet
Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wall Street and Main Street aren't the only financial victims of the economic downturn. Add to the list the Disaster Relief Fund of the American Red Cross. It is in the hole $100 million due to one of the most active disaster years in its history.

Although the fund is actually $200 million in the hole, Congress supplied $100 million. It is now up to the American Red Cross, through its local chapters, to raise the additional $100 million, according to Lissette S. Bishins, executive director, Alexandria Chapter, American Red Cross.

"I expect this to be another rough fund raising year due to the national economic situation. We are committed to raising $100,000 for the national Disaster Relief Fund," she said during a media briefing October 16 at the local headquarters office.

"We also didn't do very well this year at our largest fund raising event, the annual Waterfront Festival. We only netted $15,000 due to the bad weather and lack of attendance," Bishins said.

Bishins took over the reins of the local chapter last November after a series of personnel turnovers. Upon her arrival she found the chapter $200,000 in debt, but was able to reduce that to $30,000 by the beginning of the new fiscal year, July 1, 2008. The local annual budget is $900,000, according to Bishins.

"We have more engaged volunteers today than we have had in a long time and we are much more involved in the community. That will increase in the year ahead," Bishins said.

Some of the events planned are a volunteer celebration October 29 at the local headquarters, a "Restaurant Night" brunch fund raiser at Tempo Restaurant November 2, a Breakfast of Champions November 18, accelerated blood drives to strengthen their ability to provide 50 percent of the city's blood supply, and a new military hospital outreach program in which the local chapter will be collecting new items for the Fort Belvoir Wounded Warrior Military Transition Unit.

Presently, the local chapter has a roster of 500 active volunteers. Seventeen of those were deployed to the Gulf Coast region during 2008 for hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike, according to Bishins. Several are still there providing relief services.

In addition, the local chapter has provided upwards of 10 volunteers to staff the Red Cross Disaster Relief Call Center located in Ashburn. It receives calls from evacuees and residents in a disaster zone and directs assistance to them.
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