Changes likely for Polk County Red Cross soon

Published 8:54 am Monday, June 20, 2011

Changes are likely on the horizon for the Polk County Red Cross as the new budget year approaches for the nonprofit organization.
Patrick Fitzsimmons, the American Red Cross’ regional CEO for Western North Carolina, said expenditures outpaced contributions this year, causing administrators to realize a need to take cost-cutting measures.
“We are looking at opportunities we have to consolidate Red Cross offices and other resources that will save us money and still ensure services are not affected in any way,” Fitzsimmons said. “So, the Red Cross will still be in Polk County, but possibly with less staff or reduced office hours.
The merging of the Polk and Rutherford county chapters is one of several possibilities under consideration, he said.
“We have two Red Cross offices 12 miles apart. We are looking at how we can reduce infrastructure (buildings, phone systems, etc) costs, while maintaining our services and presence in both counties,” Fitzsimmons said.
Former Polk County Red Cross director Jessica Burnett left the chapter this spring and while Fitzsimmons said a new director will be named, that person will likely cover a larger territory.
“[Polk County Red Cross supporters] will see that Red Cross services continue unchanged, but they will also see a more efficient use of our resources,” he said. “The Red Cross will still provide assistance to disaster victims, provide training in health and safety classes, provide help to our military families and collect blood for our area hospitals.”
Polk County board chair Clay Ayers said he knows neither he nor the people in Rutherford want to lose their chapter but said he knows the volunteers in Polk will keep essential services going regardless of any changes.
“The disaster team that supports all the emergency response people… will still be operating as before – 24-hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year – and I’m sure the blood drives will still be the same,” Ayers said.
Fitzsimmons added that the challenges facing the Red Cross in counties like Polk and Rutherford are not unique to this area.
“Like most companies and non-profits, the Red Cross nationally is experiencing depressed income and a need to reorganize to save money and more efficiently manage our resources so that our services remain unchanged and Americans can count on us,” he said.
Fitzsimmons assured that contributions made to the Red Cross in Polk County would continue to be used exclusively to assist Polk County residents, despite any potential changes, whether those include a merged chapter or not. He said the organization “doggedly” honors donor intent in that regard even though checks might be sent to an office in Asheville.
Donations can also be brought directly to the chapter office, Ayers said.
The Polk County Red Cross’ new budget year takes effect July 1.

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