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Local Red Cross chapter enters partnership

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The American Red Cross in Putnam County is undergoing positive changes to reinvigorate its central focus on volunteering, unit leaders say.

On July 1, the Putnam County Red Cross Unit entered into a new partnership with the Wabash Valley Chapter, allowing the Putnam County Red Cross unit to have more time to focus its efforts on the community.

The process began three years ago. Ken Heeke who is Putnam County Red Cross past board Chairman, current Leadership Council member and Wabash Valley Chapter Board of Directors representative, said it was difficult for the Red Cross to only have one paid employee, but still comply with all the national regulations while serving the community.

"This is a positive move for the volunteers and the service they provide to Putnam County. The Certified Service Delivery Unit model allows our local volunteers to focus their energy on delivering quality Red Cross programs to Putnam County and focus less on the office management associated with a national organization like the Red Cross," Heeke said.

The services offered by the Red Cross will not change. They will continue to be provided by Putnam County volunteers from this unit. The Putnam County office will still be open Monday through Friday. The current system of 911 and the fire departments contacting Putnam County Red Cross direct for fire relief to families will continue.

The new partnership will only better the county as the new Red Cross unit enters into a network with other counties that can assist each other.

The Wabash Valley Chapter of the Red Cross has Clay, Greene, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties working under its board of directors and management. But the addition of Putnam County is slightly different. Putnam County will have a leadership council and its county members will work as liaisons with the Wabash Valley board.

The decision to make this switch may have taken several years, but the current leadership believes it was the right decision.

"It seemed like a natural thing to do," Heeke said.

Tom Sawyer, chairman of the Wabash Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, said the chapter has only seen positive changes come out of a county's decision to become a unit in the Wabash Valley Chapter. He said a similar change in Greene County has resulted in more volunteers and fund raising, and that is one of the goals of the Red Cross's new Community Development Director, Christine Klinger.

Klinger, who used to be involved in the Red Cross in New York City, believes Greencastle and the surrounding communities are civic oriented. She said her position in this new partnership will allow for a more effective use of her time and meeting her goals for the organization, such as increasing exposure.

She also hopes that one day the Putnam County Red Cross will be able to offer more services.

Right now, recruiting more volunteers to do volunteer work is the top priority of the Putnam County Red Cross Unit.

Ginger Scott, chairman of the Community Leadership Council and a Putnam County representative on the Wabash Valley Chapter Board of Directors, said the unit exists to locally service Putnam County in times of need.

The Red Cross already offers several health and safety classes such as first aid, CPR, automated external defibrillator, babysitting, basic aid training and more for volunteers. They want to see more residents trained to help, Scott said.

Carol Stevens, executive director of the Wabash Valley Chapter, said they are very excited to undergo this new partnership.

"We look forward to working with everyone in Putnam County. One of our new initiatives will be to invite all current Putnam County Red Cross volunteers as well as community leaders from education, business, religion, foundations, United Way and government to participate in a Putnam County Red Cross Community Leadership Council. The purpose of the council will be to provide input regarding Putnam County needs for Red Cross services, receive reports of Red Cross activities in Putnam County, help link the Red Cross with community resources and serve as a potential source for future Board members," said Stevens in a news release. "Another new initiative will involve a more focused effort to raise the necessary financial and volunteer resources needed to build the capacity of Putnam County Red Cross. The idea is that the money raised in Putnam County will be used to support Red Cross service delivery in Putnam County. The goal of these new initiatives is to involve more Putnam County residents in the Putnam County Red Cross."

Stevens sees the new partnership as a way to bring more people into the Putnam County Red Cross.

Sawyer said the new leadership council is a positive link to the community so nothing falls apart.

"They will be able to provide better leadership," Sawyer said because they are from Putnam County. This new partnership is still county people leading their own county, Sawyer added.

Red Cross services in this county are made possible only because of the financial and volunteer support of the people, businesses, foundations, and United Way in Putnam County.

Klinger said that contrary to popular belief, the organization does not receive any government funding. They rely on the individuals of their own community.

Since the Wabash Valley Chapter headquarters in Terre Haute will now take care of the back office support such as the accounting, invoicing, bill payment, auditing, human resource and volunteer handbooks, and the monitoring and achieving chapter performance standards, this unit will now be able to devote more time to bring new people into the Putnam County Red Cross.

Heeke, Klinger, Scott, Sawyer and Stevens are all excited and convinced the new plan for the Red Cross will work and be successful.

Sawyer said that once they prove this new model works, they will be taking the idea to other Red Cross units and chapters to help better the national chain.

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