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Lean times force local Red Cross to cut four positions, restructure
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The Northeast Georgia chapter of the National Red Cross is tightening its belt in reaction to the downturn in the local and national economy, restructuring its staff and eliminating four staff positions.

"We’re announcing today a restructuring of our organization, which is going to let us better align with the 13-county Northeast Georgia area we serve," said Philip Reed, executive director of the Northeast Georgia chapter’s office. Currently, there are nine staff positions; the change will take effect Oct. 1.

The Northeast Georgia chapter of the American Red Cross serves Dawson, Fannin, Forsyth, Gilmer, Hall, Habersham, Lumpkin, Pickens, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White counties.

Due to the economy, Reed said, the American Red Cross as a whole has seen fewer donations. And while donations do come in during a disaster such as recent hurricanes Gustav and Ike — and chapters across the country help out other chapters — there is still a need to cut costs for the long-term benefit of the organization.

"But our reorganized employee team and our volunteers will make sure we continue to serve disaster victims and Red Cross clients across Northeast Georgia," Reed added. "We’ve functionally redesigned the jobs. ... Instead of being geographically oriented, they’re built around pieces of our service delivery."

For example, rather than have separate staff do fundraising projects in the mountain counties and others handling fundraising in Forsyth, Hall and Dawson counties, the reorganization would focus staff on a particular piece of the Red Cross’ service puzzle.

"We’re becoming more strategic in terms of service," Reed said. "We’ll be making sure that we, with our employees, will offer the same level of disaster aid to our clients."

Because much of the Red Cross’ support team is volunteer driven, Reed said, the restructuring shouldn’t affect disaster relief programs, such as recent aid that was sent to Hurricane Ike victims in Texas.

United Way of Hall County President Jackie Wallace said she is confident with the judgment of the Red Cross.

"I trust their board of directors to make decisions that are appropriate for that agency. Even in the most unpleasant situations their board will do the right thing, so I trust their decisions," Wallace said

Though fewer donations in a tough economy have made it hard for nonprofit organizations, Wallace said the United Way is not looking toward any cuts in the near future.

"We’re a pretty lean staff already. But no, we’re not at the position where we’ve had to consider cutbacks." Wallace said. "And I’m sorry to hear this, but again know (that Red Cross officials) will make the right decisions, and we’re proud that they’re our partners."

Times Senior Design Editor Kristen Morales contributed to this report.