Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Tale of Three Charities: Robin Hood, the Red Cross and Mary Pat Christie's Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund

The Asbury Park Press published a story this week about the lack of fund disbursement from New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie's Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Rightfully so, the newspaper is unhappy about the fact that the charity has so far not disbursed a single dollar of the $32,000,000 it has raised. In light of a recent story about another, similarly named charity that was proven to be basically a scam, the optics on this report are bad.

Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and former Senator Bill Bradley are all members of the board–political cronies of Christies they are not. While on the surface the story indeed looks bad, there is more to a charity than collecting money and handing it out. In spite of political hack stories from the likes of the Huffington Post, charities of this size are actually acting responsibly when they deliberate carefully before releasing funds.

In a press release today, The Robin Hood Foundation announced the release of another $5.2 million dollars in donated funds (see details below) to help residents affected by Sandy get back into their homes. "Robin Hood's Relief Committee is working with all deliberate speed to get every dollar we've raised into the affected communities," said David Saltzman, Robin Hood's executive director. "The Relief Committee has already met 15 times since the storm struck in late October and continues to meet regularly to review and approve grants." Robin Hood expects to grant 95% of the money raised for Sandy Relief – more than $67.5 million – by the end of March.

The Robin Hood Foundation already had an infrastructure in place to handle grant requests whereas the charity founded by Christie was a ground-up operation that was only started in the days after the storm. There is some amount of tolerance we have to have for the time it takes to get a proper infrastructure in place, but Mrs. Christie needs to understand that the patience of those of us working to recover from the storm are thin at best.

In contrast to the Robin Hood Foundation’s veritable speed in releasing funds, the Red Cross had raised $249 million but as of the end of December had only released $110 million. The American Red Cross is in the business of immediate disaster relief, where the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund was formed to aid in long-term recovery efforts.

I’m not thrilled with the lack of urgency on the charity’s behalf, but I think we all need to keep an eye on perspective and to be careful not let politics enter into our feelings about what has so far proven to be a worthy charity.

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A summary of the latest Robin Hood Foundation approved grants (New Jersey only):

United Methodist Church
New Jersey
This grant will provide building supplies, construction supervision, and case management services for hundreds of individuals and families throughout New Jersey in coordination with the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Brick Township
Ocean County
, NJ
Funding will provide approximately 500 households with an average of $1,000 in assistance to go toward the rebuilding of homes damaged by Sandy.

Seaside Heights
Ocean County, NJ
This grant will go toward assisting needy and distressed renters and homeowners in this community by providing them with gift cards or direct bill payments to help them repair their homes and replace lost items.

Stafford Township
Ocean County, NJ
Encompassing the towns of Beach Haven West, Cedar Bonnet Island, and Bayside, nearly 5,000 homes in Stafford Township were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  Funds will go toward making needed repairs on approximately 250 homes belonging to needy year-round residents and to providing rental assistance and security deposits for displaced residents.

Bergen County Long Term Recovery Committee
Bergen County, NJ
This grant will fund the Unmet Needs Roundtable of the Bergen County Long Term Recovery Committee, helping low-income and working class residents with financial assistance to help them return to stable housing.

Coastal Habitat for Humanity
Monmouth County, NJ
This grant will help cover the costs to repair 50 homes belonging to low-income and elderly individuals, including funds to purchase insulation, sheetrock, flooring, basic appliances/fixtures, and labor.

Church of the Visitation
Ocean County, NJ
Located in Brick, NJ, the Church of the Visitation has been at the heart of the community's relief efforts, providing food, clothing, and cleaning supplies to more than 400 families since the storm struck.  Funds will go toward renovating space to accommodate volunteers who are helping the community rebuild, a delivery truck to continue the flow of building and food supplies, and staff support for intake and volunteer coordination.

Hometown Heroes
Ocean County, NJ
This grant will help defray the administrative costs associated with case management for Robin Hood's original grant of $300,000 to provide financial assistance to residents of Ocean Gate.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton
Trenton, NJ
Funding will support five trained disaster case managers for one year to help individuals with a range of services, including financial counseling, housing, and mental and physical health assistance.  The grant will also fund a mental health counselor trained to work with disaster survivors to help them cope.

FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties
Monmouth & Ocean Counties, NJ
This grant will fund staffing and support to enable the FoodBank to provide benefits assistance to at least 2,000 Sandy-affected families.  Services include tax preparation, housing assistance, mental health referrals, and financial counseling.

Parker Family Health Center
Monmouth County
, NJ
The Parker Family Health Center is a volunteer clinic providing comprehensive primary health care to the uninsured of Monmouth County, NJ.   Funding will cover costs to expand social work services by an additional 24 hours/week.  The immediate objective will be to help patients still displaced by the storm, counseling and interventions for stress and anxiety, and other needed services.  These expanded services will be continued until the end of the year to address the longer-term needs of vulnerable patients.

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