Southeast Missouri residents are to be applauded for their unwavering support of the American Red Cross after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
The donations have been nothing short of amazing.
In some area parking lots, nearly every third car bears one or more patriotic, magnetic bumper sticker. Each of those represents at least a $2 donation to the Red Cross. Magna-Tel Inc. of Cape Girardeau provided them initially for free and then at cost, and most notably KFVS and other businesses sold them to the public.
The Cape Girardeau-based television station received the Missouri Good Neighbor Award from the Missouri State Service Council of the American Red Cross, which honored the station for creating and sponsoring the annual Heartland Blood Drive and raising $100,000 through the flag-magnet campaign.
The Red Cross raised more than $200,000 total from sales of the magnets. As requested by Magna-Tel's Mary Ann Farmer, half the money will be used locally and the other half donated to the Liberty Fund to aid victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
And then there are the T-shirts bearing the heartwarming "God Bless America" slogan. Thousands of dollars were raised by groups offering these to the public and by donors happily grabbing them up.
But now some in the local organization are understandably concerned by national news coverage.
The national Red Cross president, Bernadine Healy, was criticized for setting up a separate account for Liberty Fund donations -- money that many donors thought was going only to victims of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The organization had intended to put some back for possible attacks in the future.
And while that course of action has been corrected -- and Healy has since stepped down, it left some concerned about the organizations' trustworthiness.
A distinction absolutely must be made between the national organization and our local chapter here in Cape Girardeau.
Executive director Mary Burton and her band of volunteers are vital to disaster relief in 18 Southeast Missouri counties. Far from the terrorist attacks on the East Coast, they help area residents every day. If there's a fire, they're on the scene. If there's a natural disaster, they arrive with food and blankets. If a U.S. Navy sailor needs to receive news from home, the Red Cross contacts him or her with that information.
They are the ones who see to it that there is enough blood on the shelves to help that accident victim or that baby who needs surgery.
Nothing should deter us from our usual donations to the Red Cross this year. They are as important now -- or maybe more important -- as ever.