In debt, Red Cross still rushes to aid

The wave of storms battering the U.S. has plunged the American Red Cross deep into debt as it rushes to prepare for Hurricane Ike, prompting a searching look at how to stabilize its finances.

Gail McGovern, who became the charity's president in June, said even a request for federal funding is under consideration as the Red Cross seeks to become less dependent on spontaneous donations that arrive only in the wake of huge disasters.

“We are going to explore every avenue we can to ensure we have a healthy Red Cross,” McGovern said Thursday as her organization deployed 1,000 out-of-state volunteers to Texas to await Ike.

As of last week, when Ike was still a distant threat, the Red Cross said it has raised only $5 million to cover costs from Hurricane Gustav that will total at least $40 million, possibly more than $70 million. It has borrowed money to meet those bills.

The Red Cross launched a new fundraising appeal Monday and will get a plug this weekend when the NFL encourages donations with on-air and in-stadium announcements during its games.