Red Cross in Oktibbeha County

July 17, 2010 9:34:00 PM



I''d like to set the record straight regarding recent news stories about the status of the American Red Cross office in Oktibbeha County. In particular, I want to correct the misperception that the Red Cross is abandoning Oktibbeha County. Nothing could be further from the truth.  


In fact, while the former director may have voluntarily left the Red Cross, the Red Cross has not left Oktibbeha County. Until the final decision is made regarding the Golden Triangle office location, the American Red Cross will continue to provide its services from the Starkville, Columbus and West Point offices. Most importantly, the Red Cross will always provide services and maintain volunteers in Oktibbeha County regardless of where our offices are located. 


As a July 7 story noted correctly, the Red Cross is engaged in a statewide reorganization to streamline operations and find more efficient ways of providing vital Red Cross services to every community. Almost no entity in the nation has been immune to the recent recession, and the Red Cross is no exception. That is why last year we put in place new policies and a new management structure to consolidate "back office" functions of local chapters, eliminate duplication of efforts, and ultimately reduce our costs. To stand in the way of streamlining Red Cross operations only hurts the communities we serve. 


Another distortion involves the financial picture of the Red Cross both locally and nationally. It is true that the Red Cross in Mississippi began the current fiscal year on July 1, 2010, with a combined operating deficit of $500,000. 


Nationally, streamlining efforts like the ones in Mississippi helped the Red Cross completely eliminate its $209 million operating deficit. As a result, all Red Cross employees will receive a one-time, lump sum payment this year equal to approximately 3% of their base salary. This payment is intended to partially offset several years with no pay raises and to reward cost-cutting efforts across the organization. And while it is also true that our national President and CEO receives a salary of $500,000, Red Cross compensation levels are in line with other top not-for-profit organizations and are intended to attract talented executives. 


The American Red Cross has always been a grassroots organization with local people serving their neighbors. We don''t expect supervisors in other communities to know what''s best for Oktibbeha County. That is why we intend to retain a strong Red Cross presence in the Golden Triangle, a presence that will continue to serve the needs of the community in the event of disaster, deliver instruction in life-saving skills, and provide vital services to the armed forces.  


We expect that many of our long-time, dedicated volunteers will continue to serve the community through their affiliation with the American Red Cross. We welcome their efforts as we move forward, and we want to assure the communities of Oktibbeha County that the American Red Cross will continue to provide services for another hundred years. 


Mark Smith, American Red Cross, Interim State CEO, Mississippi