American Red Cross Responds to Criticism

HOUSTON - The American Red Cross is fighting a PR storm while responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The organization says false rumors take away from its true mission.

Right now, there are more than 3,400 Red Cross volunteers on the ground in the Houston area.

“These are people that uproot from Maine and California and decided “I want to go help the Texan people,” said spokesman Jono Anzalone.

Anzalone is the Red Cross’s deputy coordinating officer for this disaster.

“We’re talking about comparing this to events like Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and it’s beyond what we consider a complex disaster,” said Anzalone.

The Red Cross has met criticism while meeting the needs to flood victims. Much of it with anecdotal origins not based in fact, according to Anzalone.

“It detracts from the mission itself,” said Anzalone.

Anzalone admits the Red Cross’s overhead costs are higher than some other charities.

One charity watchdog group puts it at 11%. Anzalone says it’s 9%.

“And that overhead allows us to account for feeding, bulk distribution, and other programs we know people need at a time like this,” said Anzelone. 

He says people concerned about cash donations should know money meant for local victims will stay in Texas.
That’s even as the Red Cross responds to disasters elsewhere, like Hurricane Irma.

“We created a designation for Texas flood relief, Texas storm relief, so we’re guaranteeing those dollars are going to be spent here,” said Anzalone.

Just last night, the Red Cross rolled out a massive financial assistance program that’s already put $15 million into the hands of qualifying victims.

“They still need to apply for FEMA assistance, said Anzalone. "Whatever we’re able to do gets them jump started on that recovery path because we know it’s going to be a long road.”

It’s a road on which this 136-year-old organization is committed to sharing.

“People should feel confident that 91 percent of every dollar is spent on our mission,” said Anzalone.

We asked Anzalone about reports that volunteers were housed at the St. Regis Hotel. He said yes, but that’s because they get a discount and three or four volunteers share a room.

Click here to find out more about the immediate financial assistance program. Keep in mind that high volume has interrupted the site throughout the day.

To read their latest update on financial assistance, click here.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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