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Countywide : Financial Problems Crippling Red Cross

Orange County Focus

March 06, 1993|TOM McQUEENEY

A year after the Orange County chapter of the American Red Cross issued a plea for $1 million in donations, officials from the nonprofit disaster preparedness agency said Friday that funding is running far short.

Businesses and residents donated $380,579 during the Red Cross' yearlong Partners in Community Preparedness fund-raising campaign, said Bruce Englebrecht, a Newport Beach attorney and member of the agency's board of directors.

But the money was not enough to erase the agency's continuing debt and keep it healthy, he said, noting that the Red Cross projects a $76,000 deficit this year, partly from declining contributions.

"People take us for granted," he said, and assume that the Red Cross will be there to help. But if the agency's financial problems continue, "they can no longer take the Red Cross for granted."

During the last 18 months, the Red Cross has eliminated 17 staff positions and is down to 43 paid positions, according to Chief Executive Officer George M. Chitty.

"If we cut any more staff, we cut services," Chitty said.

The backbone of the Red Cross is its cadre of about 4,500 volunteers who are ready to help in an emergency, Chitty said.

But the organization needs increased donations to continue its public education and emergency training functions, help families left homeless by fires, floods and other local emergencies, and prepare for a major earthquake in the region, he said.

The Red Cross' cash reserves are down to 43 days worth of expenses, he said.

The national Red Cross recommends that each agency have enough cash on hand to last for at least six months, Chitty said.

He attributed the agency's faltering donations to the recession and to the Red Cross' receiving a smaller percentage of United Way funding.

Residents who lost jobs in the recession typically were United Way contributors, he said.

Said Englebrecht: "The Red Cross is in need and continues to need the public's support."

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