MOUNT VERNON — Kelly Brenneman has taken the reins at the Knox County Red Cross with her goals fixed and priorities firmly in mind.
“My role as executive director is to find the funding,” she said. “I work to serve the board [of the Red Cross], but I also work to serve the community, and part of my job is to make sure we have the funds we need to provide disaster services.”
Brenneman’s No. 2 priority is to establish a strong volunteer base.
“I love the volunteers we have,” she said. “They are just a wonderful group of volunteers. I am impressed and humbled by their knowledge.
“But the Red Cross is only as good as our volunteer base, and I am cognizant that we need new volunteers. I hope to bring the energy to the Red Cross to do that.”
Constantly striving to provide faster response times and quality disaster services is Brenneman’s third priority. She wants to do that by partnering with other agencies, such as Interchurch Social Services and The Salvation Army.
“I want to build strong relationships with the firefighters throughout the county,” she said. “That’s incredibly important.”
Public relations is an important aspect of building those relationships, and Brenneman said she will reach out to organizations such as the Amateur Radio Club.
“Because, if in the event we have no electricity or our phone system goes down, we need those ham radio operators,” she said. “We need to develop that relationship.”
“I want to be a breath of fresh air and reignite the Red Cross,” she continued. “I want everyone to be as excited with the Red Cross as I am. I look forward to talking to groups and getting the word out.”
Brenneman is also looking to the future.
“We have a lot of growth potential in the services we can offer,” she said, citing as examples child abuse and neglect, and communicable diseases. “But it takes funding. We receive no government funding; we are solely independent. We do get some money from the United Way, but we are really at the mercy of our community.
“The regional office has taken over a lot of the administrative functions, and that definitely frees up our office to concentrate on disaster relief services.”
Brenneman has worked on fundraising efforts for the Red Cross for the past two years, and has been involved in fundraising and volunteering for charitable organizations in the community for more than 20 years. She began her duties as executive director June 17.
“ I cannot wait to lead the Red Cross into the future,” she said, “to bring it to a level that not only I can be proud of, but the community can be proud of as well.”