Red Cross worried donations will fall during these tough economic times - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Red Cross worried donations will fall during these tough economic times

Coralie Chun Coralie Chun

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Members of an Aiea Heights family, whose home was destroyed by fire Friday, have temporary shelter, thanks to the American Red Cross.

The organization continues to provide disaster relief in the face of a dwindling budget.

When people think of the Red Cross providing assistance, they often think about big disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. But volunteer workers are right there for the smaller incidents as well, helping families cope.

Wearing that familiar red and white vest, Red Cross volunteer Lucille James arrives in Aiea Heights to help the latest family in need.

"A lot of people think that it's only these big disasters that are tragedies," Coralie Chun Matayoshi, Red Cross Hawaii chapter CEO, said. "It's a disaster to that family right now."

The Red Cross Hawaii chapter says, on average, it responds to a house fire, a flooded home or another type of disaster once every three days.

"You can't say, 'I'm sorry. We, we have to raise the money first,'" Matayoshi said. "We provide now and ask later."

Its annual operating budget is $4.2 million. $3 million of that comes from donations.

"People think we're side by side the police, the fire, the military, civil defense," Matayoshi said. "Red Cross is not a government agency. We really on the generosity of Hawaii's people to provide these critical services."

The local chapter also sends volunteers and money to assist with bigger disasters on the mainland.

"It's especially difficult. We just came off of the hurricane season," Matayoshi said. "And we sent 40 people to the Gulf Coast from Hawaii and raised $65,000 for the people there."

Lucille is setting the Aiea Heights family up with a hotel room, food and other necessities. The organization hopes people will continue to donate despite these tough economic times.

"We're just hoping for a good holiday season because we, it's make or break for us at the Red Cross," Matayoshi said. "If we don't make the money there, then I don't know what we're going to do."

The local chapter hopes to raise enough money this holiday season to avoid layoffs.

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