New Red Cross CEO looks for volunteers, funds

Published 11:50 pm Saturday, October 29, 2011

When the announcement came that the retiring Faye Byrum, 37-year executive director of the Suffolk chapter of the American Red Cross, would not be replaced, local residents may have wondered how Red Cross services in Suffolk would be affected.

The answer? Not at all, according to the new regional leader.

Cindy Jackson

Cindy Jackson was appointed in August as the chief executive officer of the newly-formed American Red Cross Coastal Virginia Region. The new entity serves 31 communities and 1.8 million people from the North Carolina border to the Northern Neck.

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“As with so many nonprofits and other organizations, we had to figure out how to bring down our administrative costs,” said Jackson, who is based in Norfolk.

The organization did that by combining communities across the nation into regions with regional staff. But that doesn’t mean the services are any less personal, Jackson said.

The organization still maintains an office in Suffolk at 157 N. Main St. It still has dozens of local volunteers and a local board of directors.

“What the community needs is that disaster response, the ability to donate blood, the ability to contact someone if you’re in the military and you have an emergency,” Jackson said.

The process of combining the communities into a region worked especially well in the area because the chief executive officers in several communities, Suffolk included, already were planning on retiring.

The new organization includes 35 employees and hundreds of volunteers. Jackson, a native of San Diego who received her master’s in business administration from National University, is tasked with making sense of it all.

She has worked for the Red Cross for 17 years in chapter and executive positions throughout the Midwest and West Coast, most recently in Idaho. She came to the area to be the interim CEO and enjoyed it so much that she stayed.

Already, the area has been hit with tornados in April and Hurricane Irene in August. With the new regional system, volunteers were able to be mobilized from throughout the region and go where they were most needed, she said.

“The fortunate thing is it was not really as bad as it had been forecast,” Jackson said of Irene.

Another change is that budgeting has been streamlined in the organization. Each chapter no longer has its own budget, which caused disparity in the way disasters were handled in different communities, Jackson said.

However, donors who wish their money to be used solely for Suffolk needs still can request that, Jackson said.

“We always honor donor intent,” she said. “Those restricted dollars are the first dollars we use.”

Of every dollar donated to the American Red Cross, 91 cents is used to provide services.

The popular Paint the Town Red fundraiser also still is on tap for March. Jackson hopes to raise at least $30,000, she said.

And as always, the organization still is seeking volunteers for its Disaster Action Team and other needs.

“We need our local volunteer leadership,” Jackson said.

To contact Jackson, email