By Jeannie Slater, Board Chair, Manatee Chapter of the American Red Cross
When my husband and I retired to Bradenton, I was anxious to get involved in the community. My nursing background made me a natural for the American Red Cross and in 2004, I began my volunteer role. Being new to Florida and not familiar with the devastating effects of hurricanes, I got first-hand experience during the active 2004-2005 season. The critical role of the Red Cross chapters, especially the volunteers, really got a workout. So many people across Florida were helped by Red Cross.
Over time, I began to see that disasters aren’t limited to political boundaries and the Manatee Chapter Board, along with the Red Cross staff, began to think about whether chapter consolidation was appropriate and what would it look like.
We were aware that other chapters had faced this question, but we didn’t quite know how to go about getting started. Fortunately, we learned that The Patterson Foundation had started the Collaborative Restructuring Initiative — offering a neutral facilitator to help the Manatee, Charlotte and Sarasota chapters openly talk about consolidation, determine if it is right for the chapters, and if so -- move through the process.
As a volunteer, I have to say that having someone neutral involved in the process was extremely valuable. Our chapter board works hand-in-hand with the Red Cross staff, but a process like this needs a facilitator that can drive the process—not the outcome. This is how the facilitator, Pam Truitt, helped us.
I feel that consolidation would provide many benefits, but I still have concerns and worries. Pam allowed me—and others—to voice those concerns, presenting ways to address them. We still have some things to work out—i.e., infrastructure, building a new board and integrating our volunteers—but I am confident we are on track for success.
It is so important that the chapters come through the process ‘whole’ and the role of the facilitator is making this possible. I am very thankful to The Patterson Foundation for providing a facilitator to help us through the consolidation process!
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