The American Red Cross announced last week it will use its Liberty Fund solely for people affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The fund was established shortly after the attacks as a separate, dedicated account to provide relief services related to terrorism. But some people have criticized how the Red Cross has been spending the fund, which the organization said has received $543 million to date.
The organization's chief executive officer, Harold Decker, said Wednesday it would fund other programs such as the Strategic Blood Reserve, community outreach and Armed Forces services from other sources.
The Red Cross also decided to provide the names of 15,000 families it has helped in a database that will be shared among relief agencies, to make it easier for victims to get help.
The Alaska State Service Council, a consortium of representatives from all four Red Cross chapters in Alaska, was one entity that had urged such a course in a resolution adopted Sept. 23.
"It was the point of the resolution that the Liberty Fund should be used for the purposes of disaster relief only and not other purposes," said Larry Baillon, chapter manager of the Tanana Valley Chapter in Fairbanks and a member of the consortium. Tanana Valley is the coordinating chapter for the whole state.
The resolution was in response to Liberty Fund guidelines issued Sept. 20 or 21, Baillon said. He said the changes Decker announced on Wednesday do what was necessary to regain the public's trust.
"We are supportive of the changes," he said. "We wanted to see donor desires carried out."
Mike Cresswell, executive director of the Juneau office of the American Red Cross, said, "The board welcomes the new policy and is glad those issues have been clarified, but we do not really have a comment."
Kelly Hurd of Anchorage, communications manager for the South Central Alaska Chapter of the Red Cross, said her office had received only two negative phone calls about how the Red Cross was allotting funds. She attributed those calls to exaggerated reports on the radio.
"After the callers heard the realities, the whole picture, they were comfortable with what we are doing," Hurd said. She feels the changes made Wednesday will "make us more in tone with what donors want."
The South Central Alaska Chapter of the American Red Cross can be reached at www.akredcross.org.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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