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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the September 11, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

On the Move

Even simple fire drills have taken on a whole new

meaning, says Kevin Sullivan, CEO of the American Red Cross of Central

New Jersey. "Particularly with employees who had worked in New

York City and have relocated here."

In the wake of 9/11, Sullivan’s organization is supporting a network

of businesses, the Disaster Resilient Business Community (DRBC), to

prepare employees and possibly their family members for another major

disaster. "We started with the companies on College Road and have

had extreme interest from the businesses," says Sullivan. ITXC

hosted the second meeting last month, and representatives of nearly

30 businesses attended.

"The events of September 11 have taught us many lessons and we

are more prepared now to do everything from working with other

disaster relief agencies to knowing how to standardize information to

knowing how to send clear fund-raising messages to the public,"

says Sullivan.

This preparation effort is just one of the helpful actions that the

American Red Cross of Central New Jersey, the United Way of Greater

Mercer County, and scores of other charitable organizations have taken

in response to last year’s tragedy. Yet simultaneously they must keep

up their fundraising efforts. Though contributions poured in to 9/11

causes, they have dwindled almost everywhere else.

"We have a $3 million budget," says Sullivan of the Red Cross,

"and after two months of the fiscal year we are already down


in contributions, and we were pretty conservative with that


The economy is one potential cause. "Or perhaps people gave so

incredibly generously to the support of the victims of 911 that they

need to regroup before they start to look at their charitable giving


Craig Laferty, CEO of the United Way of Greater Mercer County, says

he is "cautiously optimistic" about his soon-to-launch


campaign, but last year the United Way was able to fund only 98.4

percent of what it had distributed in 2000. "We go into this


still very concerned about the effects of September 11 and the


says Laferty.

On the afternoon of September 11, when Laferty polled board members

by E-mail, the board voted to immediately release $50,000 from the

United Way’s reserves, which are not connected to its current


budget. Half of that went to the September 11 fund, half to the


Red Cross. The $25,000 allocated for the Red Cross went to the


organization, which had a long standing bookkeeping policy: Donations

for one disaster were put aside to be used for the next disaster.

"There was an outcry that the 911 donations were given for the

victims of 911," says Red Cross CEO Sullivan, "so we changed

course at the national level to meet their wishes. It was a tough

decision, because at that time we weren’t sure there wouldn’t be


major terrorist catastrophe."

Now the American Red Cross has dedicated all those donations into

the National Liberty Fund to provide financial assistance and/or


and mental health support. "If you lost a family member as a


of 9/11, you have been assigned a caseworker from our Family Support

Unit who is asking what your financial needs are," says Sullivan.

This chapter did not wait for funds and assignments to drizzle down

from the national organization. On the day of the attack, it deployed

more than 400 staff members, current volunteers, and new volunteers,

part of a national force of more than 55,575 volunteers from around

the country. Its two call centers served nearly 200 families, and

it opened two shelters for stranded travelers and residents. A few

days later it distributed more than 10,000 age-appropriate mental

health brochures to 70 schools.

"Now our theme is Remember (honor), Support (throughout the


and Prepare," says Sullivan. "We are doing a lot to prepare

and work with our communities for the anniversary and to support


activities to escort family members to Ground Zero."

The chapter is also providing support — canteen service and mental

health workers — to more than a dozen memorial services and


vigils in the area. On September 11 a mental health drop-in center

at the offices of the ARC on Alexander Road is being staffed from

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The chapter is partnering with Princeton House,

the behavioral health division of the Medical Center at Princeton,

to form a call-in center, staffed by licensed clinical professionals,

available 24 hours a day through September 13. Call 800-242-2550.

The potential for a future crisis is not far from Sullivan’s mind.

Anticipating the anniversary, all staff vacations have been canceled

and the statewide hurricane watch (the closest thing the Red Cross

has to a terrorist watch) has been activated. "We are certainly

gearing up to prepare for any disaster activity," he says.

For the long term, the Disaster Resilient Business Community will

play an important role. The DRBC training will help employees think

through, for instance, how they will locate family members in the

event of a disaster. Training will also be offered to supervisors,

responsible for a number of people, who need the right skills to get

through the initial hours. These skills might include how to recognize

symptoms of heavy stress, and how to plan for knowing who might still

be in a building. Some of this information is currently on the website


Another goal is to create a website or some other method of


that people could turn to to get latest information. The group is

also discussing how to share resources — whether, for instance,

a school might offer a gymnasium as a refuge, or a big company could

turn out thousands of emergency meals. "These are things the Red

Cross could never own enough of," says Sullivan, "so maybe

we could make available to each other what resources we have. The

Red Cross will continue to be a leader in coordinating response in

all types of disaster situations."

American Red Cross of Central New Jersey, 707


Road, Suite 101, Princeton 08540-6331. Kevin Sullivan, chief executive

officer. 609-951-8550; fax, 609-951-9787. Home page:

United Way of Greater Mercer County, 3131

Princeton Pike, Building 4, Suite 113, Box 6193, Lawrenceville

08648-0193. Craig E. Lafferty, president/CEO. 609-896-1912; fax,

609-895-1245. Home page:

Top Of Page

Dharmendra K. Sinha 44, on August 28. He was a manager

at Brad Benson Mitsubishi and Hyundai dealership on Route 1 South

in South Brunswick.

Joseph Emery JR, 55, on September 2. He was a meat cutter

with Acme Markets in the Princeton area.

David Todd Wilkinson, 67, on September 5. A professor

of physics emeritus at Princeton University, he led the work on the

COBE and MAP satellites.

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