Friday, September 16, 2005

UNCG's Fill the Fountain fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina relief

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From the UNCG Office of Housing and Residence Life: FILL THE FOUNTAIN! UNCG STUDENTS SET GOAL TO RAISE $20,000 FOR HURRICANE KATRINA RELIEF A coalition of over 40 student groups will be presentng a series of events over a 24 hour period on September 22-23 to raise $20,000 for the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Relief. The goal of $20,000 is based on the hope that every student, staff and faculty person on campus will pitch in at least $1. The events will begin at Thursday at 12:00 p.m. at the fountain in the plaza. After making a donation students, staff and faculty can write a message of support to the evacuees and place it in a plastic egg, which will it turn be placed in the fountain. Organizers hope to "Fill The Fountain" with the multi-colored eggs and contribute to the relief efforts of the American Red Cross. Other highlights of the 24 hours of "Fill the Fountain" include:
  • Special Gulf Themed Dinner on Thursday Night in The Caf
  • A Concert on the Quad
  • A Special Gumbo Cafe in the Atrium in the late evening
  • Numerous booths and exhibits in the fountain area by student groups
===== Although I am glad that the UNCG community is responding so earnestly in order to help out the victims of Hurricane Katrina, I am somewhat worried about the donations which will be given to the American Red Cross. The Student Government Association is currently working on creating its own disaster relief fund to help with this situation and others. The UNCG-SGA Disaster Relief Fund will become a permanent fixture of the Student Government and we have taken the time to look at what organizations we might grant the money to in times of crises. To be honest, the American Red Cross is barely making the cut for consideration. Statistics will tell you that only 10% of donations are taken by the America Red Cross for overhead costs. I seriously doubt their claim and I am sure it is much more than 10%. Another issue: The American Red Cross, along with many other groups, discriminate against the only group in America which can still be legally discriminated against: gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. It would do well for UNCG to find an organization which helps all victims, instead of giving to ones which discriminate.


I believe what you're referring to as discrimination by the Red Cross is actually an FDA guideline (though not a law), and they're not the only group that follow it.

Additionally, this one aspect shouldn't skew your perspective about the entire organization - not only does that have nothing to do with disaster relief, but the statistics about overhead fees are correct... sites like and others maintain nonpartisanship and thoroughly go over the books of these non-profits to identify the best ones.

They're doing good work, and they have the infrastructure to keep doing so - the reason I bring this up again is that I feel if the money goes to another group, it won't be used as efficiently as possible. I know you've found a group that works just with colleges, but so what? Is this even a group anyone's ever heard of? Do we know exactly where the money is going? How is it going to directly help the people who need it?

Even as liberal as this school is, attention to the issue is waning already anyway - by the time this fund is approved, what organizations will still be raising money? I like the idea, but I think it's too little, too late. Given that Rob wants to raise $20k with this event, I think Tracy and Marcia need to track him down and work out a compromise.
THe UNCG SGA Disaster Relief Fund (or Fund for Disaster Relief, whatever we name it) will not only be just for this event. Last year we donated $2,000 to the tsunami relief efforts. This year SGA finds itself, once again, donating to help out in disaster relief.

On the issue of discrimination... The discrimination enforced by the American Red Cross; it is a policy of the American Red Cross. And the Red Cross is not the only organization discriminating either. Lambda Legal has had to set up a national hotline to help those LGBT persons having trouble getting relief because of their sexual orientation.

Anti-LGBT discrimination is a REAL problem with this disaster and even in every day life. When you and your partner aren't recognized as a legal couple, it becomes hard to file for relief as a couple, doesn't it?

When there are NO federal laws, and hardly any state laws, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, it becomes easy for organizations to simply just dismiss LGBT folk.
I'm not claiming discrimination is not a problem, but the ARC has been the target of this kind of criticism based on its blood donation policy, not its disaster relief efforts. It's a completely different thing to tell someone they can't donate blood on the chance (albeit incredibly small chance) that it would pose a risk to others, and telling someone they can't have food or shelter based on who they are. To my knowledge, this has NOT, thus far, been a problem in hurricane affected areas (you can correct me if I'm wrong here).

Faulting an entire organization based on one policy, however arcane that policy, seems wrong to me when people's lives are at stake.
Lambda Legal Offers Assistance to LGBT Survivors of Hurricane Katrina Who Experience Discrimination — Launches Toll-Free Hotline
‘Tragedy does not discriminate and neither should relief agencies.’

(New York, September 12, 2005) — Today Lambda Legal announced plans for outreach to LGBT survivors of Hurricane Katrina who may experience discrimination in services provided by relief agencies because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status.

“Tragedy does not discriminate and neither should relief agencies,” said Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal. “In our experience during the aftermath of September 11, LGBT people face compounded difficulties because on top of the disaster they face discrimination when it comes to recognizing their relationships, leading to even more hardship at the worst moment imaginable.”

Lambda Legal is reaching out to a variety of agencies, including gay and lesbian centers near the area impacted by the hurricane and around the country, asking them to distribute a flier outlining forms of discrimination gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people or people with HIV may experience after disasters. Lambda Legal has launched a toll free hotline (866-542-8336) for use by displaced LGBT people to reach the organization’s Legal Help Desk. Lambda Legal staff from the organization’s South Central Regional Office, located in Dallas, are also working with LGBT community leaders in Houston, where much of New Orleans’ gay community is temporarily assembling.

Please contact us if you or people you know are being:

Kept out of or been mistreated by a shelter or other facility because of your sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status
Denied access to needed HIV medications or care
Denied help, services or the ability to assert legal rights because you are (or were) in a same-sex relationship and not married
Kept from your children or other family members, or denied the ability to take action on their behalf because you don’t have a formal legal relationship
Asked to provide documents to prove your relationship or ownership of property when married people are not
Turned away or mistreated by a private or public relief agency based on religious views about LGBT or HIV-affected people
Mistreated in temporary or permanent foster care
Denied the right to handle the affairs of a deceased loved one

“If individuals or couples within the LGBT or HIV community are denied services because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status, I encourage them to call one of our help desks around the country,” Cathcart said.

Lambda Legal Help Desk Numbers:

Toll-Free National Hotline: 866-542-8336
South Central Regional Office (Dallas): 214-219-8585
Southern Regional Office (Atlanta): 404-897-1880
National Headquarters (New York): 212-809-8585
Midwest Regional Office (Chicago): 312-663-4413
Western Regional Office (Los Angeles): 213-382-7600

A printable flier is available by following the link on the homepage at

Although there is no real proof, as of right now, if LGBT folk are being discriminated against, we are all aware of what happened to LGBT people after September 11th. Gay people were denied relief and gay couples were not recognized. People who lost their partners went through hell trying to get that recognized instead of all of their estate going to someone else, or even the state. The same happens after every disaster and in EVERYDAY LIFE.

And yes, the Red Cross should be faulted on its blood donation policy. According to the UN, 70% of HIV transmissions in the world are transmitted through heterosexual sex. Maybe the Red Cross should ban straight people from giving blood (sarcasm of course). Discrimination is Discrimination is Discrimination. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
I don't mean to keep arguing, it's just something I do...

1. Post 9/11 ARC LGBT guidelines

2. This is not "everyday life" in hurricane affected areas, these are extraordinary circumstances; I hold the belief that when people are in need, they help each other regardless of their differences. I've been through enough hurricanes personally to see this in action.

3. Again, the ARC is not the only organization that follows the FDA guidelines for blood donors. I do think it's an arcane policy, but they do good work outside of this.

4. Quoting UN numbers on HIV/AIDS is unfair - they only have worldwide aggregate statistics, and we all know that the vast majority of new cases are not on this continent. I'm sure you have proper statistics, but that's not the issue I'm interested in.

I'm not going to argue this any further, we can agree to disagree. You like the ARC about as much as I like the ACLU, and we probably cannot change one another's minds.

Good to see a different perspective though, we each believe in something, and that's what it's all about.
It is good to see someone who actually wants to debate with me on my blog... I think you are only the second person to do it... thanks.

Debate is always good... even if a common conclusion is never met.