Mythbuster: Your Biggest Questions Answered

by Krystal Smith, staff contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region

In the aftermath of a disaster, misinformation often becomes widespread. This misinformation can cause impacted residents and community members confusion and frustration during an already stressful time.

In honor of April Fools’ Day, we are clearing up a few myths so you won’t be fooled when disaster strikes.

#1 Does the American Red Cross accept donated goods?

The American Red Cross occasionally collects material donations, however, financial donations are the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most. It takes time and money to sort, store and distribute donated items, whereas financial donations are quickly accessed and put to use right away. Financial donations allow us to be flexible in the help we deliver and ensure that we can provide what people need most.

Donated items piled up at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX following Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Photo by Elizabeth Conley Houston Chronicle via AP.

Our first priority is the safety and well-being of those affected. Sorting through unsolicited donations takes the focus away from our mission. Some well-meaning donations may also arrive soiled, which can cause health concerns. Alternatively, financial donations can be used right away to replace items like medications, reading glasses, clothing and other immediate needs.

#2 What does the Red Cross do with financial donations?

After a big disaster, the Red Cross spends an average of 91 cents of each dollar to help people in need. Donations support shelter, food, relief items, health and emotional support and financial assistance, as well as logistics and support. The rest of the dollar – about nine cents – helps keep the entire Red Cross running by covering things like HR, financial systems and fundraising. Each year, American Red Cross financial statements are made available for public view online.

Financial donations to Red Cross Disaster Relief allow the organization to help disaster victims, anywhere, anytime. Donations are used to help people prepare for, respond to and recover from disaster big and small. If desired, donors are also able to designate their donations to a specific line of service or relief effort.

#3 Does the Red Cross restrict access to shelters and services provided?

Red Cross shelters are a safe place for people of all backgrounds. We provide aid without regard to race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or citizenship status. During a disaster, all we see is a person who needs help and Red Cross volunteers will be there to provide that help.

Red Cross Shelter Residents at the UNC Friday Center following Hurricane Florence in 2018.

In addition, the Red Cross is committed to helping people with a wide range of needs after a disaster, including people with disabilities and mental illnesses, children and the elderly. Red Cross workers are trained to ensure that everyone who comes to our shelters is treated with dignity and receives the help they need. We also have trained Disaster Health Services and Disaster Mental Health Services volunteers available to assist as needed.

#4 When disasters strike, can anyone show up to volunteer?

The Red Cross depends on pre-trained volunteers to provide help after disasters. However, the Red Cross also mobilizes local residents who want to help their neighbors after a disaster. When needed, community volunteers can expand the reach of trained Red Crossers by helping to hand out relief supplies, work in shelters and perform other tasks. People who are interested in volunteering with the Red Cross in capacity should contact their local chapter or visit to get trained.

On average, the American Red Cross responds to nearly 62,000 disasters each year. We remain committed to our mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.​ There is no better way to learn more about the Red Cross than as a volunteer. Sign-up today to learn more about the incredible work Red Cross is doing in your community.

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