The Caney Fork Chapter of the American Red Cross is being disbanded and the counties within it are being incorporated into other chapters.
American Red Cross restructuring in Tennessee is reducing the number of chapters across the state in an effort to keep up with the demand for financial assistance.
Warren County’s chapter will be part of the American Red Cross of Southeast Tennessee and the position held by longtime director Kathy Nesmith is being eliminated. Nesmith has been the local Red Cross director for 12 years and was among a regional group of disaster relief experts who went to New York City in the aftermath of 9-11.
According to American Red Cross regional communication director Benjamin Prijatel, the office in Warren County will remain open.
“The office is not shutting down,” said Prijatel. “What we are doing is restructuring some of our chapters. We are doing this to make it more efficient for donor dollars, basically. We are attempting to cut down on some of the overhead as part of a new initiative. It will allow us to invest even more into disaster relief services. We are going statewide from 12 chapters to eight chapters. McMinnville will be a part of the Southeast Tennessee Chapter. There will still be an office in Warren County.”
The official statement by the organization is, “The American Red Cross is transforming its operations in Tennessee to build an organization well-positioned for the future, with more resources to spend on the people and communities we serve. Over the coming months, the Red Cross will begin to consolidate some of the teams across the state.”
Warren County’s chapter was chartered in Aug. 25, 1917. At the beginning of 2013, the chapter changed its name to Caney Fork Chapter after expanding into Van Buren, White, DeKalb, Putnam, Jackson, Overton, Clay and Pickett counties out of a need for increased funding. Nesmith, who was contacted but declined to comment, first became a Red Cross volunteer in 1989.
Prijatel says staff reduction is part of the restructuring effort.
“There are going to be staff reductions statewide,” he said. “No one has been laid off as of now. As I mentioned, there will be staff reductions coming statewide. We are letting staff know where those are first.”
The first round of staff reductions are believed to take effect Sept. 30.
American Red Cross offers relief to victims of disaster and helps people prepare for and respond to emergencies. Local offices are self-funded through donations made in their community from the public, United Way, grants and local government donations. About 91 cents of every dollar donated to the American Red Cross goes to disaster relief.
Prijatel says the need for financial assistance is going up and those funds must be taken from overhead costs.
“Last year the organization spent $47 million on financial assistance nationwide. That’s an increase of $4 million from the year before,” Prijatel said. “It is estimated we will spend $2 million more next year, or approximately $49 million. We are seeing more disasters and bigger disasters and more expensive disasters. We’ve made a promise to the community that we will be there for disaster services. So, how do we fulfill that promise and fulfill it with the donations we are provided with? When you spend more money in one area, you have to be more efficient in others.”
The local office can be reached at 473-2595.