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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,"
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
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."
Road, Suite 101, Princeton 08540-6331. Kevin Sullivan, chief executive
officer. 609-951-8550; fax, 609-951-9787. Home page:
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: www.uwgmc.org
at Brad Benson Mitsubishi and Hyundai dealership on Route 1 South
in South Brunswick.
with Acme Markets in the Princeton area.
of physics emeritus at Princeton University, he led the work on the
COBE and MAP satellites.
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