The American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee is preparing to leave its Elizabethton office by the end of the month, but will still offer the same amount of services to local disaster victims.
Executive Director Glenda Bobalik told the STAR on Wednesday that the local Red Cross office will likely be vacated by the end of June. The office, which has no regular personnel, will merge with operations in Johnson City.
Bobalik said for the last year, the organization has been discussing options to better serve local residents. The local office, located near the corner of Holston Avenue and East G Street in Elizabethton, is housed in a building owned by the Carter County government. The county rents the building to Carter County 911 for $1 a year. The 911 district then rents a portion of the building to the Red Cross for $300 a month, primarily to cover utility costs.
The executive director said the best option for the Red Cross and local residents is to consolidate the Elizabethton office with operations in Johnson City. She said she would rather be able to assist disaster victims than to pay for office space. She added that it is not economical for the Red Cross to operate an office in Elizabethton.
Bobalik has been speaking with various Elizabethton and Carter County organization leaders to determine how to assist local residents. She gave an example that if disaster strikes, the Red Cross could set up a desk at a local site.
“The environment is changing,” Bobalik said, noting that disaster victims do not visit Red Cross offices to receive assistance.
Last year, the Red Cross assisted 114 people in Elizabethton and Carter County, primarily due to fires. Only four people actually went to the Elizabethton Red Cross office for assistance.
“When someone is effected by disaster, we go to them,” Bobalik said. “They don’t go to our office.”
Delivery of disaster relief services is provided by volunteers and staff directly to those affected by the disaster at the scene. When a disaster strikes, especially a fire, local emergency responders or the victims will contact the Red Cross for assistance. A Red Cross disaster response team, consisting of local volunteers, will then go to the victims. Follow up meetings with families are at the location of the family’s choice, generally the place they are staying.
In order to maximize donor dollars to provide services directly to clients and customers, rather than pay for office space in Elizabethton, the office in Johnson City will provide support to volunteers in Carter County. Local residents will still be able to contact the Red Cross at 542-2833.
Whenever disaster strikes, the Red Cross provides items such as food, clothing, shelter and assisting with mental and physical health needs.
“Preparedness for disasters is a critical need in our communities,” Bobalik said.
Last year, the Red Cross distributed preparedness information to 898 individuals in Carter County. The materials assist people in developing an emergency plan for themselves and their families. Also last year, 417 individuals received certificates for CPR/First Aid through courses taught by Red Cross instructors. Courses focusing on health and safety issues were presented to 702 youth in Carter County last year. The courses include such topics as hand washing to water safety.
The Red Cross also regularly assists military families, a program which Bobalik said many people may not be familiar with. She said, “Separation from family due to military service provides unique challenges for people in our community. Red Cross emergency communications services for military personnel and their families deliver support to our neighbors in times of crisis.”
The local Red Cross delivered 26 services to members of the armed forces and their families last year.
“We continue to provide these services to the residents of Carter County today and look forward to working with the community to help those affected by emergencies in the future,” Bobalik said.
There are currently 26 Red Cross volunteers who live in Carter County and regularly provide assistance locally, Bobalik said.
Bobalik noted that the Red Cross has a disaster response trailer which is consistently stocked with necessary items and moved to where it is needed when disaster strikes.
The Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee assists residents in eight counties, including Western Sullivan, Carter, Claiborne, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Washington and Unicoi. The Red Cross office in Johnson City is located in the Burlington Business Park at 2303 McKinley Road, Suite 219. The office can be reached by calling 928-3561. Office hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. An office is also located in Kingsport at 501 S. Wilcox Drive. The Kingsport office can be reached by calling 378-8700. Office hours are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Disaster victims can also go online at redcrossnetn.org. Additional information about Red Cross services is located on the organization’s website.
Carter County 911, which has been in the need of additional space, is expected to use the vacated space when the Red Cross moves out of its Elizabethton office.