Red Cross responds to complaints over management of Big Island donations

Published: May. 10, 2018 at 2:40 AM HST|Updated: May. 10, 2018 at 2:42 PM HST
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PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - After helping with relief efforts following two major disasters in the past month, the Red Cross of Hawaii is dealing with complaints about the way it manages donations.

The tension stems from a video posted to social media on Tuesday. Since then, it has been viewed more 60,000 times.

The non-profit wants people to know it is fully committed to helping those in need.

"We're trying our very best and I think that we're doing a good job, as best we can, with volunteers ... we rely on a lot of people who care about others," said Red Cross of Hawaii CEO Coralie Matayoshi.

Puna resident Beverly Medeiros posted the video on her Facebook page, claiming donations to the Red Cross shelter in Pahoa have been pouring in but volunteers are reluctant in passing them out to those forced from their homes amid ongoing volcanic eruptions.

"We get all these supplies in here hidden … all this is blankets. We have kupuna freezing outside," said someone in the video.

Matayoshi says she take these claims seriously. But she says her volunteers are doing their best to manage a large volume of goods while adjusting to the changing demands of evacuees.

"We put out as much as we could and then of course there's some in the back and when the things run out in the front, we bring some from the back," Matayoshi said.

The video shows an elderly woman in a wheelchair saying she's cold when she sleeps. Medeiros says people are now discouraging others from donating.

"It hurt my heart because you're seeing all of this ... they've lost houses, they're losing their livelihoods ... they shouldn't have to suffer even more," Medeiros said.

Matayoshi says there are 50 people between two shelters on Hawaii Island helping about 250 evacuees. She says of those 50 people, only one of them is paid.

"Maybe the person didn't ask for a blanket. Because some people had two ... we always have a shelter manager. That's the person they should address if they need something else," she said.

Matayoshi says it's always a challenge to distribute donations fairly. For example, if someone donates four futons but there are five kupuna in wheelchairs, she says it is difficult to choose.

To avoid that, she says the best thing people can do is donate money so they can purchase exactly what they need.

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