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Red Cross Reaches Out in the Aftermath of Destruction

In an effort to assist families who may have lost their main breadwinner on September 11, the Red Cross has established the Immediate Family Gift Program. This program, as well as their national effort to counsel grieving citizens and prepare for what may lie ahead, are all things the Red Cross continues to assist and plan for.

As president of the American Red Cross, Dr. Bernadine Healy explains on the Early Show the various ways the Red Cross continues to help our grieving nation and the difficulties that may lie ahead.

The Immediate Family Gift Program

This program provides financial assistance to family members of those who were lost in the tragedies at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon. The Red Cross has been working directly with companies that have lost a lot of employees, particularly those at Cantor Fitzgerald and AON. The program is geared to families who have lost the breadwinner and need immediate financial assistance to pay for things like

  • Rent/mortgage.
  • Funeral or other related expenses.
  • Car payments.
  • General living expenses for family members--a stipend, depending on number of people per household.

In many cases families cannot get at money to pay for their monthly expenses, or insurance will not kick in without a death certificate that hasn't been obtained yet. This is to get people over this initial period of adjustment, so they can live their lives without worrying about meeting the mortgage payment, and so on.

The Red Cross realized this disaster called for extraordinary measures on their part and so developed this program partially out of responsibility to those who pledged money wanting to help.

Since last Saturday, September 22, the Red Cross has already committed to send out about $1 million to families who've expressed need, and it has sent out some checks. The Red Cross is working with employers to facilitate the process, but those families in need who might not be affiliated with a particular employer can contact them directly.

This money is a gift. It does not need to be paid back. The person seeking help only has to provide evidence that their loved one was employed. Average amount thus far has been $10,000 or $12,000 per family. People should contact their loved-one's employer or the local Red Cross directly. However, working through an employer's human resources department might expedite the process.

This kind of support allows for immediate assistance. The other $100 million will go to their regular disaster relief services that the Red Cross provides and to counseling programs.

The National Grief Counseling Program

This is a combination of a grief and mental health program. It was established to enhance what counseling services the Red Cross already offers and to get more people helping. The focus is on helping the emotional needs of America, not just those who were immdiately affected by the disaster. For instance, it's for helping parents who don't know how to talk to their children, or individuals who are feeling scared about the future.

The Red Cross will provide training to volunteers who are licensed mental health workers who want to donate their services to help support the local chapters.

Preparation for Another Attack

The Red Cross is working with the armed forces and emergency services. One significant effort is in developing strategies for blood supply. When the September 11 attacks occurred, the inventory was high, about 90,000 units, about 3 days worth. But if 50,000 people had needed blood that day, as could have been the case if more people had survived, it would have meant the rest of America's health system would have been shut down in terms of blood on hand.

To keep up the blood supply involves developing a better freezing system that would allow blood to last longer. Blood is good for 42 days frm the time it is donated. The outpouring of blood donors around the country was amazing the days that followed September 11, but a lot of money was spent on the drawing of blood and additional refrigeration units.

New York Operation and Volunteers

The Red Cross was able to mobilize 20,000 volunteers in a short time; 25,000 living places were affected by the tragedy and about 4,000 people were provided food and shelter.

The Red Cross continues to provide rest centers for rescue workers who don't want to leave the site and continues to have a presence at the Family Assistance Center at pier 93 where mental health workers can work with family members who may need help.

  • For more information visit the American Red Cross official site.
  • Victim information: Call your local Red Cross chapter.
  • Spanish information line: 1-800-257-7575.
  • Blood donations: 1-800-448-3543.
  • Financial contributions: 1-800-HELP-NOW.
  • Volunteer medical services: 1-800-801-8092.
  • Victim information: Call your local Red Cross chapter.
  • For cash donations call: 1-800-HELP-NOW.
  • Or mail donations to:

    American Red Cross,

    PO Box 3756,

    Church Street Station,

    New York, NY 10008.

  • Donations of money or food, call: 1-800-801-8092.

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