- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 13, 2002

The American Red Cross is asking thousands of contributors to a White House relief fund for Afghan children to resend checks whose postal delivery was held up in the anthrax scare and that banks now refuse to cash.
"Our checks have never been cashed," said Richard Shadyac of Falls Church.
In the next few weeks, the Red Cross will be sending out thousands of letters to Americans who contributed to a White House fund for Afghan children, asking that they resend their donations.
Everyone who will receive a letter contributed to the fund by check, and most of the checks were written during the fall or winter. The Red Cross is telling donors that processing the checks was delayed by the anthrax scare and that most banks refuse to cash checks more than six months old.
Mr. Shadyac is one of those who should be receiving a letter, said Angie Lane, a Red Cross official closely involved in the program, which President Bush dubbed America's Fund for Afghan Children when he announced its creation Oct. 11.
The president's goal was to have every child in the United States contribute a dollar to the fund for use in buying food, clothing, blankets, school supplies, medical supplies and other humanitarian assistance for needy Afghan children. The fund was created just four days after the United States began bombing Afghanistan in retaliation for the now-ousted Taliban regime's support for Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.
Mr. Shadyac said he wrote and sent a $100 check to the fund Oct. 12 and has been wondering what happened to it. He said his brother, who also sent a $100 check at about that same time, has been equally puzzled.
Mr. Shadyac happens to know a lot about charities because he's chief executive and national executive director of ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
He said he read somewhere that some of the money for the fund had been stolen, and he theorized that checks had been discarded by the thief and raised concerns about accountability.
The American Red Cross is administering the fund, and Miss Lane says the Shadyac brothers' checks were not lost, stolen or discarded. However, she and other Red Cross officials concede that the brothers and thousands of other people who contributed by check early in the Afghan children's campaign will have to write new checks if they still want to help.
No one reached yesterday at Red Cross headquarters in the District, including chief spokesman Phil Zepeda, could say how many follow-up letters will have to be sent out. Nor could anyone indicate the total amount of the uncashed checks.
Red Cross officials could only say the children's fund had received $5.9 million as of April 18.
Karen Ogden, another Red Cross staffer, said an earlier analysis of fund donations found that 40 percent were $1 contributions and that 18 percent were $2 contributions. She said $25 donations represented just 1 percent of those received.
She noted that many people, such as students, teachers and other school employees, gave as a group, offering as much as $1,000. She also said a few people donated $10,000 each.
As for the check situation, Miss Lane said, "Many checks have been delayed an unreasonable amount of time. The majority went to the Brentwood post office." In the fall, that post office handled mail that was contaminated with anthrax.
Miss Lane said those letters were "re-routed to a decontamination center in Ohio that processes mail" and "were significantly delayed there."
She said, "It's only been in the last two months that many of the checks became available for processing,"
And the problems didn't end there. She said hundreds of banks around the country wouldn't cash checks that had been dated more than six months before.
Ms. Ogden said, "As of the middle of June, we were still processing thousands of pieces of mail." At that time, daily contributions were from $2,000 to $6,000.
As for Mr. Shadyac's concern that some money earmarked for Afghan children was stolen, Miss Lane said, "There was an isolated incident in Southeast Washington, where mail had been rifled through. Postal inspectors handled the matter, and it only involved a handful of mail."
She said she's sure the Shadyac brothers will soon be receiving letters explaining what happened to their checks.

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