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Red Cross changes benefit community-centered mission

Red Cross changes benefit community-centered mission

June 9th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Abigail Anderson, director of the Red Cross of Central and Northern Missouri, announced the group has consolidated offices and moved to 3230 Emerald Lane, the current home of the Red Cross Blood Center.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

The American Red Cross has a lot going on.

It's transforming itself, said Abigail Anderson, director of the American Red Cross of Central and Northern Missouri.

The "for sale" sign on the building's former offices downtown on McCarty Street shouldn't concern passersby, Anderson said. The organization remains in town and has moved its offices to its blood donations center at 3230 Emerald Lane.

"The Red Cross has a lot going on," she said. "In addition to the services that we provide our community, all the Red Crosses in Missouri are undergoing pretty transformative changes."

The role of each area's executive director is shifting to become more effective, she said. Directors are taking on responsibilities in a pilot project.

The organization is trying new things in Missouri, intended to increase efficiency of its service delivery, Anderson said.

The organization wants to be stronger than ever — smarter than ever, she said.

"The big driver of the move is really financially based," Anderson said. "We're being smarter in how we handle our finances."

Selling the downtown building will allow the organization to reduce operations costs significantly in Jefferson City.

"We're putting that money where it's most needed, which is back in the communities," she said. "That's No. 1. That really helps us meet our mission."

The second factor pushing the sale of the building is Red Cross staff go where the needs are — and don't sit at a desk or in front of a computer. They are more mobile. Their offices are wherever their cellphones are, Anderson explained. Staff weren't at the office because they were out in communities serving people in need.

Staff — Anderson in particular — spend a lot of time with community partners to build relationships. Just a few weeks ago, she went out with the Jefferson City Fire Department and helped install about 100 free smoke alarms in people's homes.

The move encourages the organization to communicate and collaborate with community leaders. For example, she said, the organization hosted a meeting to let board members, staff and partners in on the changes. But with less space available at its new site, it reached out to the Rev. Sam Powell at Trinity Lutheran Church to get a room large enough for the gathering.

"Leveraging community partners — people who we are already working with— it really gives them ownership of the services that we provide," Anderson said. "It gets them in on the ground level."

The organization wants to get communities in on its leadership meetings.

Leadership might not have been on Anderson's mind a few years ago when she graduated from college.

"The day after I graduated, I went to Africa," she said.

She had studied sociology and anthropology and wanted to combine those in social work and cultural demographics work for her senior thesis project.

She worked for a nonprofit called Treatment Action Campaign dealing with HIV and AIDS awareness, prevention and treatment. She discovered a life philosophy that shook her.

It was Ubuntu, a South African ethical concept that says the community comes before the individual.

"It was very much an 'It takes a community' philosophy," Anderson said. "The people within the community can really set the culture, set the tone for the services that it can provide."

Communities are the focus of the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross is encouraging staff to go out in the community and make connections.

"That's really where we need to be," she said. "It creates engagement with donors, with folks that are going to host a shelter during a disaster.

"It's going to be a powerful move. It's going to shake some people up."