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Local Red Cross eliminates job as nonprofit restructures
Organization makes cuts nationwide in wake of economy
Red Cross volunteers John Brandon and Beth Weaver shelve supplies Tuesday that are kept at a storage facility in Gainesville. The local chapter of the Red Cross shrunk from five positions to four as one member retired and the position was not refilled. The organization is consolidating nationwide as it deals with economic pressures.

The Gainesville office of the American Red Cross has been hit by cuts made nationwide as the organization deals with economic hardships.

Five positions are now four after a health and safety position was not refilled following a retirement, said Philip Reed, executive director of the Northeast Georgia Chapter.

"All these efforts we're making, it's the same ones businesses and other nonprofits are taking in this economy to continue to serve customers and to serve clients," Reed said.

The Red Cross has cut about 1,000 positions at local and regional chapters and about 170 positions at its Washington headquarters, President Gail McGovern said.

The Gainesville cut will allow the chapter to save money and thus provide the same level of response, Reed said.

"Now there's specialists across the state handling that, so we provide all the same functions, it's just the job doesn't reside here in the chapter," Reed said.

In addition to the four staff members, the chapter operates with about 185 trained volunteers. Those volunteers, as well as donations, allow the chapter to respond to about 170 local disasters each year, including house fires and floods.

The Northeast Georgia Chapter serves 12 counties in the region, which includes about 625,000 residents.

McGovern said about 20 of the 1,200 locations nationwide will be closed entirely and many will begin operating with reduced staffs.

Recently the organization created a Northwest Georgia Chapter by combining several local county chapters into a single operation.

The various chapters throughout the state have begun working more as a "statewide disaster response organization" and are sharing resources to operate more efficiently, officials said.

"In this economy, we're trying to be as efficient as possible, so we've sort of merged back office functions," Reed said. Some of those back office functions include human resources and information technology.

A disaster tow vehicle and a stocked shelter trailer recently were donated to the Northeast Georgia Chapter by the Woodruff Foundation in Atlanta. Those vehicles will be used anywhere in the state rather than just in the chapter's region.

The state has also consolidated its health and safety training function. Previously, each chapter was responsible for training, but now a specialized group within Red Cross provides training through a registration process.

"That's going to create some efficiencies and probably have larger classes with more consideration to demand instead of just periodically different places," Reed said.

Donations can still be made to a specific chapter rather than donating to the state organization as a whole.

"We're still local in that respect. We're still your chapter of the Red Cross and respond locally as needed," Reed said.

During the past year, the organization has responded to an abundance of tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and wildfires. McGovern said the response to those many disasters shows the overhaul and many cuts haven't hindered relief efforts.

"If there were any doubts in anyone's mind that we would be able to fulfill the mission, that doubt was removed," she said. "If anything, we're doing it better."

Associated Press contributed to this report


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