MOUNT VERNON — The American Red Cross of Knox County will have a new chairman of the board on July 1, as vicechairman James Hobson moves into that position and current chairwoman Vickie Sant steps down. Hobson is assistant vice president of commercial loans at First-Knox National Bank and has been on the local ARC board four years.
Hobson and Dee Hoeflich, office manager and emergency services coordinator, spoke about the ARC chapter’s involvement in Knox County.
The local chapter, a United Way agency, is without an executive director, following the December resignation of Dan Werner. Former executive director David Gore, who is now regional director of the Central Southeast Ohio Region, is acting as interim director and is in the Mount Vernon office one day each week.
In March, the longtime health, safety and community service coordinator of the chapter, Keith Hughes, also resigned. Hobson said the board is seeking the right person and may combine both positions, with the executive director handling health, safety and community work as well as teaching and training.
Hoeflich said the need for Red Cross services is rising. Some of those services include help for victims of natural disasters such as fires, assistance for members of the military, burial assistance, medical transportation to out-of-town appointments, setting up comfort stations and providing mass care during emergencies such as the Sept. 14 windstorm Hurricane Ike. The group also provides water, coffee and sandwiches to firefighters battling blazes and working at accident scenes.
According to Hoeflich’s records, in 2007, the local ARC spent $19,949 to help 27 families in disasters. In 2008, it assisted 128 people at a cost of $25,676. In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the chapter has spent $17,000 on 30 cases that affected 90 people. The chapter also offers classes in baby-sitting, first aid, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, child abuse and neglect, disaster training, pet first-aid and more.
Hoeflich said Red Cross staff and volunteers wait for requests from county fire departments before going to the scene of a fire or disaster.
“They don’t go out until the fire department calls them in,” she said. “We can’t be having our volunteers show up on scenes if they don’t know we’re coming. It’s a safety issue. I don’t want to send somebody out on a disaster if we don’t know what the details are.”
Hoeflich said fire chiefs on the scene will request the 9-1-1 dispatcher to call the Red Cross if assistance is desired.
Hoeflich said she finds her disaster work compelling because of the opportunity to help people in need.
“People don’t realize that when a fire happens, people need everything — clothing, shelter, food, their medications. At one of the fires last year, there was an older lady. She had just lost everything she had. I took her into Wal-Mart. She hadn’t been shopping in years and was so excited. She was on insulin, so we got her medications. I took her to the hotel where she would stay and got her all set up. It was really sweet. For me, this is personal.
“When people come to us,” said Hoeflich, “that is their last resort. We helped a mother bury her 3-year-old child. Can you imagine such a thing, losing your 3-year-old? How do people get to Columbus where they need to be [for medical care]? We have volunteers who drive them. One day a transient came in. He didn’t want food, he didn’t want a place to stay. He wanted a can opener so he could open his cans of food. And we’re the only agency that can get a message to a member of the military. All that’s what [the public] doesn’t see. And it’s not just daytime, nine to five.”
Some infrastructure changes are ahead for the national Red Cross, which will filter down to local chapters, said Hobson. At the national level, the Red Cross is looking at taking some of the back-office things and take them to regional, he said, explaining that might include accounting, bookkeeping, banking and record-keeping.
“If we have more time for service delivery, I don’t see how that could be anything but a positive thing. That’s what matters,” he said.
Hobson said his and the local board’s first goal is to complete the search process for a new executive director/health, safety and community services coordinator.
“And we’re very appreciative of the support from United Way,” he said. “Our major fundraiser is the Heroes’ Breakfast. Our whole goal is to become more self-sufficient, and that will continue to be the goal.”
Hoeflich said volunteers are always needed and that the rewards of volunteering to help the victims of disasters and difficulties are many.
“When people get involved with the Red Cross,” she said, “that’s when they’re going to see it. I have people I can call in the middle of the night, and people I can’t. Some people want to go out only on national disasters; other people want to help with local disasters. But when they go out at 1 a.m. and find someone standing outside their house watching it burn, that’s when they understand what the Red Cross is all about.”