Red Cross Background Checks

By Julie Montanaro
October 11, 7:25 p.m.

The American Red Cross is now requiring criminal background and credit checks for all of its volunteers.

The Capital Area Chapter sent out Emails this week informing more than four thousand local volunteers that they must undergo the checks and not everyone is happy about it.

Retired professor Joe Garwood is now volunteering at the Red Cross.

He submitted information for a background check a couple of days ago and wholeheartedly endorses the idea.

"There are children involved and so they probably need to do a background check, make sure they're getting people who are trustworthy and of good character," Garwood says.

The background checks are now required of all Red Cross volunteers and staff nationwide. It's a way to keep sex offenders out of shelters and opportunists away from clients' personal financial information.

"We want to ensure that when we're helping individuals, disaster victims after the disaster, that they have a reliable work force that they can turn to, that it's a trustworthy work force and this is just part of that process," says Red Cross Executive Director Chris Floyd.

Red Cross volunteer Rebekah Dorn says she was saddened and confused by the request for a background check and fears it will discourage folks from trying to help in times of crisis.

"I think less people will want to volunteer through the Red Cross," says Dorn. "I hope that's not the case, but I think more and more people will think, well, what about that one time that I did that one stupid thing, will that hold me back? I don't want somebody to tell me that I can't volunteer, so I'll just go somewhere where I know I can."

Floyd says one volunteer has already been dismissed because of the background checks. He would not specify which volunteer was let go or why, but he says felonies, some misdemeanors and even certain credit complications could disqualify a volunteer.

All Red Cross volunteers must be screened by December 31.