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News of interest to ARCRA members

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  • 09/28/2016 7:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Betty Wagner

    Julie Burger, ARCRA Secretary, former member of the ARC Board of Governors, and lifelong Red Cross volunteer, was recognized for her fifty years of service to the American Red Cross on September 24th at Red Cross Square, Washington DC. Julie was recognized for “a lifetime of exemplary service” through her Red Cross volunteer work and her work in the community. Much of Julie’s Red Cross volunteer work was in SAF, as a case worker and trainer, working on many military bases as she accompanied her husband during his military career. She also developed the “Get to Know Us Before You Need Us” program. 

    Julie was recognized at the annual memorial service, a Red Cross and American Red Cross Overseas Association (ARCOA) event. The annual event honors the lives of ARCOA members whose “enduring bonds of friendship” were forged in service of others far away from home. 

    “The first time that the American Red Cross provided services to the U.S. military in an area of conflict was during the Spanish American War,” said Koby Langley,Senior Vice-President Service to the Armed Forces. “American Red Cross founder Clara Barton recruited and deployed 700 nurses to join other Red Cross field staff in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines.” 

    ARCOA membership is made up of Red Crossers who served overseas and seek to promote international understanding, promote community service and maintain the friendships that they established while on Red Cross assignment. Today ARCOA members include those who served during World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam,and most recently in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Djibouti, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. In addition to serving with U.S deployed military, ARCOA members also include those who have served in international humanitarian relief missions in the aftermath of devastating natural disasters in support of other Red Cross societies and as part of postwar relief efforts for civilians.

    Among other ARCRA members attending the memorial service were Sharon Richter, Norm and Joyce Bottenberg, Washington , Armond Mascelli, Virginia, Philip Chapman, Connecticut, and Betty Wagner, former ARCRA administrator. For more information on ARCOA go to their website at http://www.arcoa.org/

  • 08/16/2016 5:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From Americanredcross.org

    Your kid comes home from school with an empty pillowcase and a list of disaster preparedness supplies to fill it with. That's the big take-away when youngsters participate in The Pillowcase Project, a Red Cross program sponsored by Disney. Along with the pillowcase, there's on online book and an app to help the third through fifth graders learn about fire prevention, family preparedness, and how to cope with disasters.

    The Pillowcase project got a tremendous boost in late July when the Red Cross received an AmeriCorps grant of just over a million dollars from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The money will be used to deploy 60 AmeriCorps members across 15 states to send 60,000 youngsters home with their pillowcases. 20 more AmeriCorps members will distribute free smoke alarms and teach adults about home fire safety, with the goal of reducing deaths and injuries due to fires by 25 per cent over five years.

    Families of the military and veterans will be a special focus of the joint effort, with 10 of the 80 AmeriCorps workers assigned to work with them.

    “We are thrilled with this outstanding support from the Corporation for National and Community Service,” said Harvey Johnson, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services. “This grant will support two critical projects that have already helped to save lives and will now be able to reach even more children and households, teaching people about preparedness and fire prevention.”

  • 08/16/2016 5:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Al Rettig

    As the ARCRA board set out to revamp our communication program, it was clear that we needed a new logo that captures the forward-looking spirit that marks our new website, our newsletters and all the other ways we stay in touch with you. We asked our friend and ARC alum Kat Jamieson to volunteer to tackle the job, and she soon created our new look. The former head of the graphics department at Red Cross headquarters, Kat is an accomplished and versatile commercial artist who has now added the fine arts to her portfolio, working and teaching in everything from painting to silk screening to jewelry making and more.

                It's a special challenge to create a look for an organization that has strong Red Cross ties but isn't part of the Red Cross itself. Using the actual Red Cross symbol in the ARCRA logo is out of the question, so Kat's task was to evoke a Red Cross "feel" without treading on international law.

                She did it by incorporating four of the five "equal squares" of the Red Cross--in the appropriate shade of red--at the corners of the new logo. The rest of the design portrays the ARCRA as a vibrant and active 21st century organization, ready and anxious to represent the retirees who built and nurtured the American Red Cross.

                The board is proud of our new look, and we hope you find it attractive and powerful too. We'd love to hear your thoughts, and we thank Kat Jamieson for her outstanding design.

  • 07/25/2016 8:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Dave Therkelsen, ARCRA President

            Chances are you recognize the name Anna Shearer. You’ve seen it on a lot of official documents that come to employees and retirees of American Red Cross.

            I’ve known and worked with Anna over a long period of time: as an executive in both a Blood Region and a Chapter, as an employee planning my own retirement, as a member of the ARCRA board, as ARCRA president. I know first hand how much all of us owe to Anna for the smooth and effective administration of benefits that we all take for granted. In fact, the smoother things go with Red Cross benefits, the more it reflects Anna’s quiet but firm determination that things be done right. A lot of the information you get from ARCRA about benefits originated with Anna.

            Anna has announced her retirement, after 15 years as Vice President, HR Support Services, as of this August 2016. We’ll welcome her to our own ranks. We’ll miss her as a key person within ARC who helps make things go well for retirees.

  • 07/07/2016 6:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Al Rettig, ARCRA Board

            The only surprising thing about the ruckus over a racially insensitive Red Cross pool safety poster is that it was published in 2014 and it took until mid-2016 for somebody to notice that the white kids are "cool" and the minority kids are "not cool."

            When Margaret Sawyer saw the poster at two different pools in Colorado recently, she put an image of it online and pointed out the obvious racial bias to the NBC television station in Denver. Both social media and traditional media were quick to foment a flood of criticism.

            Red Cross president Gail McGovern quickly issued an unequivocal apology and expressed her disappointment that the poster was ever released. She said that the poster has been removed from the Red Cross website and swim app, that production has been discontinued and that swimming facilities have been asked to no longer display it. McGovern added, "We are currently in the process of completing a formal agreement with a diversity advocacy organization for their guidance. . ."


  • 07/07/2016 6:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Al Rettig, ARCRA Board

                The phone rings and it's someone saying they're from the Internal Revenue Service.

                The IRS is absolutely unequivocal in its advice: Hang up. It's as simple as that.

                Telephone scams targeting seniors are rampant, because the elderly are seen as easy targets, more readily subject to the bullying of con artists who falsely claim to represent the IRS, and who use intimidating tactics to frighten you into believing you owe back taxes.

                How can you be sure that it's not really the IRS? Simple. The IRS does not initiate contacts with taxpayers by phone. They do it by letter. So if you're not already dealing with the IRS on a tax issue, you can safely assume the phone call is fraudulent--and illegal too.

                It's understandable that some seniors are rattled by these high-pressure con artists, and we know of examples in our own ARCRA family where folks have become terribly upset, thinking that they are in serious trouble. But it is important not to engage with these people. Never give them a credit card or debit card number, bank account number, or any other financial information. Again, it's best if you don't even let them get to the point of asking for these things. As soon as they say they're from the IRS, do what at least one ARCRA member did and say, "No you're not!" and hang up.

       Even if you're not sure whether you owe taxes, the IRS says to hang up on these callers anyway. Then call 800-829-1040, where real IRS workers can help you with your payment questions. Finally the IRS encourages all who get these calls to complete an "IRS Impersonation Scam" form online at www.tigta.gov. If you can retrieve the caller ID data from your phone and enter it on the form it will help the IRS track down these criminals and put them out of business.

                So when the "IRS" calls unexpectedly, don't be intimidated, don't be afraid and don't listen to their pitch. Simply hang up and take a deep breath. You've just foiled a scam artist.

  • 07/07/2016 6:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Al Rettig, ARCRA Board           

              A new report from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has rekindled questions about American Red Cross relief efforts in the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in the early days of 2010. Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a longtime critic of the Red Cross, issued the report on June 15. The document runs 19 pages with an additional 290 pages of attachments. In it, Grassley criticizes the Red Cross on a number of fronts. He says:

    • That the Haiti Assistance Project (HAP) was seen internally as a fundraising opportunity more than a relief effort.
    • That the project was plagued initially with understaffing, poor training and poor morale, leading to overall inadequate performance.
    • That the ARC uses a "complex, yet inaccurate, process to track its spending."
    • That the Red Cross attempted to terminate an audit by the General Accounting Office (GAO), and managed to successfully limit the scope of that audit.
    • That the ARC retained $69.6 million in "program service expenses" but is unable to inform Congress how much oversight and evaluation is included in that amount. Grassley contends that Red Cross "overhead" is far greater than the organization has claimed.
    • That the ARC Investigations, Compliance and Ethics office (ICE) is woefully understaffed and misplaced within the organizational structure, which Grassley says compromises its effectiveness and independence. He says that the Red Cross "is reluctant to support the very unit that is designed to police wrongdoing." He further contends that a new reporting structure for ICE does not result in the necessary adjustments to this critical function.

                In a June 16 press release the Red Cross took strong exception to many of Grassley's contentions. The ARC noted:

    • That the Red Cross has "accounted for every penny" spent on HAP and posted that information on its website.
    • That the Red Cross enjoys the highest rating for accountability and transparency from Charity Navigator and that it has met all Better Business Bureau Wise Giving standards.
    • That what Grassley contends are overhead dollars are legitimate program expenses.
    • That Grassley's report does not note a single finding of fraud or abuse in HAP, that the organization's books are audited appropriately, and that the original proposed scope of the GAO audit went beyond what they are entitled to do.
    • That the reason the ICE office personnel have been severely cut is because there are far fewer whistleblower complaints than there were during Hurricane Katrina.

                On June 17 the New York Times ran an editorial entitled "Trust Deficit at the Red Cross," summarizing Grassley's report and the contention that "Senate investigators found that the Red Cross spent about 25 percent of the $488 million raised for Haiti relief on administrative costs and fund-raising." The times called this figure "unusually high," far exceeding the 9 percent that is the Red Cross norm. The editorial also pointed to Grassley's contention that the ethics office has had a staff reduction from 65 to three people over the last decade. However, the Times also noted that "early this month, [the ARC] took a step in the right direction by releasing a breakdown of the money it had spent on Haiti relief."

                Then on June 21 The New York Times ran a rebuttal letter from Red Cross president and chief executive Gail McGovern. In it she reiterated that there have been no findings of fraud or abuse, that Grassley's contention that 25 percent of donated funds went to overhead is categorically incorrect, and that the correct figure is 9 percent.

                On July 6 Senator Grassley introduced a bill in Congress called "The American Red Cross Transparency Act," which if enacted would give the Government Accounting Office full access to Red Cross books and personnel, and would make the Investigations, Compliance and Ethics office directly accountable to the Board of Governors. The Red Cross responded by saying it "will review the proposed legislation and make our views known to Congress at the appropriate time."

                Those who have followed the American Red Cross response to the Haitian earthquake know that early relief efforts were plagued by "fits and starts." Red Cross communications vice president Brian McArthur points out that many of the early pictures of the devastation came from Red Cross sources, which helped trigger a massive--and to a significant degree spontaneous--financial response from the American people. This, along with the natural instinct to help, led to the intensive and very visible Red Cross relief effort.

                It is also true that the Haiti response came in the wake of Red Cross staff reductions which jettisoned some experienced disaster personnel. This resulted in considerable, time-consuming on-the-job training for new staff as relief activities ramped up. McArthur notes that efforts were further hampered by byzantine laws and regulations pertaining to land use, leading to delays in construction and other relief activities.

                While the Haiti relief effort certainly had its share of very public missteps, the Red Cross response to Senator Grassley's recent screed seems compelling. Disagreements about what is and is not "overhead" are as old as nonprofit accounting, and are not likely to end with this disaster. The Red Cross has finally released a line item spending report which, along with the fact that there is no evidence of fraud or abuse, forms the crux of a persuasive rebuttal.

                If the Red Cross builds on its accomplishments in Haiti and--importantly--learns from its mistakes, it will be better prepared next time around.  

  • 06/22/2016 11:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

            The grace period for 2015 Annual Members to renew for 2016 will end on July 31 … so act now to renew! You’ll continue to receive eNewsletters and many other benefits and, most importantly, help to make sure that the voice of Red Cross retirees continues to be heard loud and clear.

            ARCRA annual memberships need to be renewed for each calendar year; if you need to check your status login to the website.  Want to be done with annual renewals? Think about becoming a Lifetime Member; you’ll be making the Association stronger and have one less thing to remember!

    Renew today by clicking on Join/Renew.

  • 06/22/2016 11:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
             ARCRA is seeking candidates for the 2017 Board of Directors.  Names and brief bios of those you think would make good board members should be emailed or sent to the ARCRA office. ARCRA@redcross.org

            Maurice Levite, past ARCRA President is chair of the Nominations Committee.

     

  • 06/10/2016 2:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Dave Therkelsen, ARCRA President

            A good friend from my working years in American Red Cross got in touch with me just a couple of days ago. Herself long retired, my friend doesn’t know what to say or do when she hears criticism of ARC. Since, as ARCRA president, I sometimes have access to more information, my friend hoped I would have some advice for her.

            I hope so too, but my former colleague’s inquiry caused me to reflect on the nature of advocacy as part of the Retiree Association mission. Since the ARCRA officers and board of directors are the direct link between retired Red Crossers and the current top leadership of ARC. It occurs to me that advocacy – and sorry about the cliché – is a two-way street.

            It is our role to advocate for our members on matters such as health care and pension benefits, and we do so diligently. It’s also our role to advocate, when appropriate, to our members, on behalf of American Red Cross.

            We are independent of ARC, and it’s not our job to mindlessly advance the “party line,” uncritically. But today’s Red Cross, different though it may be from the Red Cross most of us worked in, still does a whole lot of good for our communities and our society. Letting our members know about the good works of ARC, so they can be better informed in their own interactions with friends, family and community, is an important part of our work. Interpreting ARC’s actions when the organization is under critical scrutiny is also part of advocacy.

            At its most recent board meeting ARCRA decided to step up its advocacy work by creating an Advocacy and Education Committee, that will give focused attention to our communication, in multiple directions, about any and all matters that affect the retirement well-being of our members.

            For this and other committees, we’re trying to look beyond our board members and to our membership as a whole for people interested in the work and willing to serve. So let me know, or let the office know, if you’d like to join in our advocacy work.

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