There have been several misunderstandings about the Red Cross and our response to the California wildfires, and we believe it is important to state the facts as clearly as possible.
Like you, these are our communities and we care deeply about the people driven from their homes by these terrible fires, especially those who have lost everything. Our mission is simple: to provide shelter, food, and relief to people in need.
A disaster this size takes the involvement of many people from many backgrounds and we’re proud to be one of those “helpers”. We are committed to partnering with others with the same or similar mission so that together we can provide a wide range of opportunities for anyone who wants to help fire survivors.
Fact #1: The role of the Red Cross is to provide shelter and to support the immediate needs of those affected by the California wildfires, including a safe place to stay, food, water, and health services, cleaning supplies, emotional support and other support resources. We have supported people with disabilities and we also partnered with several organizations to care for evacuated pets and animals. Residents affected by the fires are welcome to stop by our shelters for services during the day even if they choose to spend the night elsewhere. Some individuals and families chose to stay outside of the shelters because they wished privacy that a shelter setting could not provide.
Since evacuations were first ordered, more than 600 trained Red Cross workers and community volunteers have:
- Served more than 76,000 meals and snacks
- Handed out more than 32,000 relief items
- Supported more than 10,000 overnight stays in shelters
- Provided more than 4,800 health and mental health contacts
- Opened more than 500 cases to provide individualized recovery support
Fact #2: Red Cross normally coordinates the handling of in-kind donations with a partner organization that has the expertise in the logistics of sorting and packing goods. We appreciate the generosity of those who have brought items to help others, but we cannot accept in-kind goods donations as we do not have the infrastructure to support management, sorting, and distribution of such items. In Calistoga, Napa County identified the Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership (cvnl.org) Emergency Volunteer Center to coordinate such donations.
Fact #3: Financial donations to the Red Cross are being used to provide help to people in need right now and will enable us to continue providing help as communities recover. As of Sept. 24, the Red Cross estimates that we will spend more than $6.6 million helping people affected by wildfires across the western United States – the vast majority of these costs are for California (more than $5 million) and Washington State (more than $1.1 million).
The $6.6 million cost estimate includes wildfire response and recovery efforts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington State.
The Red Cross meticulously honors donor intent. Donations made in support of a specific disaster will be used for that disaster only. Any designated funds we raise beyond what is needed for emergency relief will be put to use serving the recovery needs of the affected communities.
Fact #4: An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends goes to our humanitarian services and programs and are used to provide food, shelter, emotional support and other assistance, as well as the staff, goods, vehicles and warehouses that make that relief possible. This means that roughly 9 cents of every dollar donated supports general operations to keep the Red Cross running, such as information technology, fundraising, finance, HR and communications. The Red Cross has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has a 3-star rating with Charity Navigator. One of the BBB’s standards for accountability is that a charity should spend at least 65 percent of total expenses on program activities. The Red Cross vastly outperforms on this measure. We encourage donors to review our rankings with watchdog organizations and view our audited financial reports on redcross.org.
Fact #5: We greatly appreciate the number of individuals who stepped up to volunteer for the California wildfire disaster, but as with any volunteer organization, we must follow certain screening protocols, which take time to implement and are difficult to undertake during the start of a disaster. CVNL (cvnl.org) coordinated community volunteers provided support at the Napa County Fairgrounds shelter in Calistoga. Any community members interested in spontaneous volunteering help in Lake County may register online with North Coast Opportunities at ncoinc.org.
The Red Cross is a nearly all-volunteer workforce, composed of people who want to help their neighbors. In response to massive wildfires in California this month, local Red Cross volunteers from the affected areas and neighboring counties immediately mobilized to help the relief effort.
The Red Cross is always seeking committed, qualified volunteers to help our local communities before, during and after disasters. Please direct anyone who is looking for an ongoing or longer-term commitment to this application http://tinyurl.com/redcrossNCCRvolunteer, and they can work with their local volunteer manager to complete the steps needed to become a Red Cross volunteer.
By their very nature, disasters are unpredictable and require immediate crisis management and triage to employ the best possible response and outcome. The reality is that disaster response sometimes is not perfectly executed. We regret that anyone whose offer to help, donate and/or otherwise support support were met with anything less than a compassionate and gracious response from the Red Cross, and we appreciate those who sought us out to express their concerns.