Red Cross keeps the faith

Policy reversed: All of the Liberty Fund will go to victims of Sept. 11 terrorism, as donors intended.

November 17, 2001

THE AMERICAN Red Cross is keeping faith with donors by dedicating the entire $543 million Liberty Fund to families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the purpose for which the money was given.

The organization is also doing the right thing by cooperating fully with efforts of the New York state attorney general and others to build a database of victims and aid. Only that way can the integrity and efficacy of the massive and confused philanthropic outpouring be ensured.

This should end the trauma that the agency -- one of the nation's oldest and most respected -- has undergone for misguided, if well-intended, policies.

The Red Cross was at first not cooperating with the database on grounds of respect for privacy. It was going to use as much as $200 million of the Liberty Fund to shore up other worthy and permanent Red Cross programs.

Public criticism of these early decisions cost the Red Cross' president, Dr. Bernadine Healy, her position. The money was donated in emotional support for a specific purpose. It was not merely entrusted to Red Cross administrators to spend wisely.

More was at stake than the reputation of one organization. The changes announced by interim Chief Executive Harold Decker should put to rest any doubts that Americans had about this affair in their leading voluntary philanthropic institution.

The American Red Cross will properly use this fund to employ case workers to administer it. The work will be audited.

All the agencies providing aid to victims of the attacks need to show that Americans' generosity was wisely and effectively used as intended -- for the sake of future charitable drives of all kinds.

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