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Red Cross works to cope with recession

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Pamela Jefsen

Pamela Jefsen

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The recession is putting pressure on the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“We are seeing higher demand for services and we’re seeing people, especially who are retired, who are cutting way back on their contributions,” says CEO Pamela Jefsen.

To cope with the declining economy, which has increased demand for services and led to fewer donations and volunteers, the chapter has cut its budget and staff.

Last spring, the chapter reduced its budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 by $450,000 to just under $4 million.

That led to the layoff of four employees last spring and five more in September, paring the chapter’s staff to 50 people.

But the organization also saw contributions for the fiscal year through November fall to $306,000 from $577,000 for the same period last year.

The chapter also has seen a decline in the number of volunteers and blood donors who may want to save costs by not driving, Jefsen says.

“We’re working as hard as we can to make things happen, Jefsen says. “If our budget reductions don’t hold and contributions don’t pick up, we’ll have to look at further cutbacks, and it will affect the whole organization and it will affect our service.”

Compounding the decline in contributions, United Way of Central Carolinas suffered a big shortfall in its own annual campaign this fall, a shortfall that could mean a reduction of $150,000 or more in United Way funding for the Red Cross next fiscal year, down from $1.1 million this fiscal year.

Despite the economic and financial crunch, Jefsen says, the Red Cross has not cut back on the number of people it serves.

With 1,900 volunteers overall, the chapter serves roughly 110,000 people a year.

One program, which provides transportation to medical appointments for people requesting rides, has grown slightly from just over 17,000 trips last year, she says.

A second program, which last year provided emergency response for roughly 350 small local disasters like house and apartment fires, is beginning to see higher demand with the onset of cold weather and fires that may be related to the use of space heaters.

The chapter also has seen fewer requests for a health-education program that includes preparedness training, some of which generates income for the Red Cross.

The chapter last year trained 42,000 people, mainly through programs for employers that either are required by federal regulations to offer training or choose to offer it.

But demand is down 15 percent this year, mainly because companies are looking for ways to cut costs, Jefsen says.

And blood supplies are stable for the local Blood Region, which gets support from the chapter for handling marketing, volunteers and blood donors.

The bad economy has prompted the chapter to get back to basis in its fundraising, she says.

“It’s about having relationships with people,” she says, “having them be

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