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Red Cross losses funding

Greg Risling

The local chapter of the American Red Cross requires emergency assistance – stat.

The primary donor of shelter and food during major disasters has lost crucial funding from another charitable organization, United Way. The Sacramento Sierra Chapter, which includes El Dorado County, is without $228,000 this year. The money is normally allocated to families who have lost their personal belongings in a fire. In the past two years the chapter has delivered service to 675 victims.

Chapter representatives have begun a fund-raising drive called the “Emergency Needs Campaign,” to supplement the decimated revenues. The ambitious goal is to collect $250,000 by October 1.

“If we don’t raise this money, we will be unable to provide families clothing and housing when a tragedy occurs,” said Karen Sills, the district director for five counties. “We have to help people get back on their feet. Anything else is unacceptable.”

The change of heart by United Way wasn’t intended to play favorites among community agencies, said Anne Staines, United Way’s Sacramento area director of marketing and communications. The non-profit switched to a different donating mechanism last year. Instead of the usual allotment to members, a grant-based application system was adopted. Any group wanting funds had to show its “tangible outcomes.” Out of 100 applications, Red Cross wasn’t given any of the available $2.7 million.

“The community needs are getting greater and greater,” Staines said. “We met with the organizations that didn’t get funding and explained to them how the process worked.”

Red Cross does receive a specific amount from United Way donors who have requested that the money go directly to Red Cross coffers. This year, donor-designated funds have garnered $140,000 for Red Cross.

In a region susceptible to wildland fires, floods and landslides, the Red Cross is a valuable commodity to disaster victims. The branch in South Lake Tahoe has been operational for two years, coming to the aid of those who lost homes in last year’s Autumn Hills fire and during the destructive January floods.

Red Cross fund-raisers in Tahoe keep half of the money at home while the remainder heads to the national office.

“If we have a major emergency, the main office picks up the tab, so no one goes without,” said Chris Reed, a board trustee and head of the Tahoe branch. Reed said a disaster scenario gets a rating based on its severity. “But if it’s four or five people who need our help, we might encounter some problems.”

Red Cross can re-apply for yearly funding from United Way again but the once harmonious relations may have be permanently damaged.

“We are sorry that United Way didn’t see us as a important resource to the community,” Sills said. “I think this will be an on-going process to receive funding from different sources.”

Donations for the Emergency Needs Campaign can be sent to P.O. Box 1137, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96155. For information, call 626-5491.


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