Area Red Cross being restructured

Published 8:56 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Montgomery Chapter of the American Red Cross will soon take over the organization’s Chilton County branch.

Due to the current economic situation and decreases in funding, American Red Cross of Central Alabama has had to take cost-cutting measures in the 13-county division that includes Chilton County. The division is facing $85,000 in cuts and is eliminating six positions — including the one staff position here — held by Chilton County Branch Director Betty Byrd.

“That impacted all of our branch offices,” said Jackie Buck, CEO, American Red Cross of Central Alabama. “It also impacted the Black Belt region.”

The elimination of Byrd’s position will require the Montgomery office to staff the Chilton County branch, at least temporarily. Buck said she is confident the move would not diminish the quality of service provided locally.

“We’re close enough to Chilton County that our staff can respond as quickly as Betty did,” she said. “We hope to be able to staff this office with a volunteer or senior aid, but until such time the Montgomery Chapter will be staffing it.”

Buck said she hopes the county will continue to donate the office space used by the Red Cross.

“We’ll still meet clients here,” she said. “We don’t want them to have to drive to Montgomery.”

The Montgomery Chapter will also be responsible for verifying fires, which requires the presence of a staff member. All services from Single Family Fires to military emergency communications will remain intact.

“As far as the clients are concerned, it will be a seamless transition,” Buck said.

Both Buck and Chilton County American Red Cross Board chairman Bobby Martin stressed the need for volunteers.

“We need more people to step forward and volunteer,” Martin said. “If we want to maintain our Red Cross here in Chilton County, we need people to step up now.”

A reception was held Wednesday honoring Byrd upon her retirement. Both Buck and Martin expressed gratitude toward Byrd for her many years of service.

“She loves the Red Cross, and I hope she will stick around and volunteer with us,” Buck said. “She does a great job and cares about the people in Chilton County.”

Byrd was given an opportunity to speak at the reception. She recalled many memorable experiences, such as locating a man from an island off the coast of Alaska within just two hours in order to notify him of a relative’s death in Chilton County. The man was in Miami, Fla. and had just returned from a cruise.

“Things like that I will carry with me,” Byrd said, thanking the board, volunteers, local legislators and everyone involved with Red Cross.

“It’s people like you who have assisted the people of Chilton County through my arm and my hand,” Byrd said.

An American Red Cross office has existed in Chilton County for 92 years.