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United Way rejects allocation for local Red Cross office

June 12, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The United Way of Imperial County allocations committee voted Tuesday against giving money to the local Red Cross office because it had been months since an Imperial Valley resident sat on the regional Red Cross chapter board of directors.

The board of the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross was removed by the national Red Cross after the local chapter was criticized over how it handled donations for victims of the January 2001 Alpine fire.

The state Attorney General's Office is investigating the chapter, questioning whether its officials have appropriately raised and spent money.

The allocation money was denied because there has not been local representation on the Red Cross board for several months, said Mark Schmidt, United Way allocations committee chairman.

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He said the funding matter was an issue before the board was removed by the National Red Cross.

Last year the United Way gave the Red Cross $9,500 in allocation funds.

Schmidt said United Way has worked with the local Red Cross to find someone to fill the position.

Brawley resident Dick Kershaw, the last Valley representative on the Red Cross board, said he gave the position up because it became a hardship.

"I found I couldn't handle it," Kershaw said.

The position requires meetings in San Diego once a month at 7 a.m.

Kershaw, 77, a former Imperial County United Way director, said he wanted to retire and only took the position temporarily to help the Red Cross have representation and meet United Way regulations. He said the board has committees on which members serve, which means extra travel time. He also said the board strongly suggests a donation by the member as a way of setting a good example.

Kershaw said he thought the media's criticism of the Red Cross' handling of the Alpine Fire donation was overblown. It was part of the reason he left the board but Kershaw wouldn't comment further on why he left.

"I don't think the money was mishandled," he said.

People who donated didn't realize the money would go to the general fund. They don't understand they would have to specify if they wanted the money to go to a specific purpose, Kershaw said.

Red Cross spokeswoman Sue Irey has said she would be disappointed to lose funding based on something that's beyond the local chapter's control.

Schmidt said he was saddened to have to deny the Red Cross allocation money but the United Way has rules that need to be followed to ensure fair treatment of all local agencies.

He explained designation money comes from donors who want their money to go specifically to a particular agency through the United Way. That money can't be changed and will always go to the Red Cross if the donor specifies a Red Cross donation.

Allocation money is given at the discretion of the committee. Since the Red Cross does not meet the requirement of having a local representative on the chapter's board of directors, it is not eligible for allocation money, Schmidt said.

He added the allocation committee's decision needs to be approved by the United Way's board of directors.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com.

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