American Red Cross selling Jasper office

Jennifer Cohron
Posted 5/18/17

Our View: Red Cross should donate building to city /A6

By JENNIFER COHRON

Daily Mountain Eagle

The American Red Cross will relocate from an office on Viking Drive in Jasper to the former National Guard Armory in Cordova next month, …

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American Red Cross selling Jasper office

Posted

Our View: Red Cross should donate building to city /A6

By JENNIFER COHRON

Daily Mountain Eagle

The American Red Cross will relocate from an office on Viking Drive in Jasper to the former National Guard Armory in Cordova next month, officials with the nonprofit have confirmed.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re reducing our presence. With any location change, it’s designed to ensure that the residents of the community will continue to receive Red Cross services while we continue to responsibly make the best use of our donor dollars,” Birmingham-based Red Cross spokesperson Alicia Anger said Monday afternoon.

The current facility, which has housed the Red Cross since 2008, will be sold, Anger also confirmed.

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary said he will be “deeply disappointed” if the building is sold after local residents helped raise over $400,000 for its purchase and renovation less than a decade ago.

“I have written a letter and I think others have written letters to Red Cross asking them to return the facility to this city. Thus far, we have not had a response,” O’Mary said Monday.

O’Mary was serving as chairman of the local Red Cross board when the decision was made to acquire the former Liberty National Building on Viking Drive. At the time, the Red Cross office was located in a small facility on Airport Road in dire need of repair.

The mayor said he is concerned that selling the facility will anger the many individuals who contributed to the renovation effort.

“I think it drives a wedge between Red Cross and this community. The contributors were not just the affluent. Everyday people wrote checks to make this possible, ” he said.

Anger said the funds from the sale of the Viking Drive facility will be retained by Red Cross, “so that money will still be in the area.”

The Red Cross will continue serving clients at the Jasper office through June 6, according to Beakie Powell, the Tuscaloosa-based executive director of the West Alabama Chapter that serves 10 counties, including Walker. The move is expected to begin June 7, and the reopening in Cordova will occur June 12.

Blood drives scheduled at the Jasper location on May 26 and May 29 will proceed as planned.

During the transition, calls will be routed through the Red Cross’ 24-hour answering service.

In Cordova, the Red Cross will be occupying office space recently vacated by the Cordova Water and Gas Board.

The Armory is being offered to the Red Cross rent-free, Cordova Mayor Drew Gilbert confirmed Tuesday. The lease agreement, which is expected to be presented to the Cordova City Council on May 23, calls for the Red Cross to pay 25 percent of the cost of utilities at the Armory.

Powell said she reached out to Gilbert after she was unable to secure an in-kind facility in Jasper.

“We did look for space in the city limits of Jasper,” she said.

Powell noted that although the Red Cross is currently housed in Jasper, its case load is spread throughout the county.

“We’re still going to be in Walker County. Red Cross is not going away,” she said.

Powell added that she is hopeful that the move to Cordova will be mutually beneficial.

“I think it’s going to be a plus for Cordova in their rebuilding process to have us located there. We’re going to be recruiting some citizens of Cordova to volunteer to help us manage the office and respond in the face of disaster,” Powell said.

The Armory, which will be converted into a community center now that City Hall and the Water and Gas Board have moved downtown, could also serve as a Red Cross shelter eventually, Powell added.

The Cordova office, like its predecessor in Jasper, will be staffed by approximately 10 volunteers five days a week.

“We’ve kept them up to date on a weekly basis about what’s going on, and they’re all willing to commute to the office in Cordova,” Powell said of the volunteers.

According to the Red Cross website, the Jasper office is one of five in the West Alabama Chapter, which serves Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Pickens, Lamar, Marion, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Walker counties.

The Jasper location survived a restructuring plan that took effect in October 2014 when 18 Red Cross chapters were consolidated into six regional chapters.

Local executive directors were dismissed, and some Red Cross offices were closed.

Counties where the Red Cross was paying rent for office space were the most likely to be closed as part of that restructuring.

“We are trying to lower our cost of operations as far as what we spend on paid staff and buildings. Jasper won’t be affected, but there will be some buildings in the state that won’t be there any longer. We will have some in-kind facilities in some of those locations,” Mark Beddingfield, executive director of the then-Middle Alabama chapter, told the Eagle in 2014.

Anger said the Red Cross currently has 35 facilities throughout the state. Some offices have closed or moved recently, but Anger said she could not comment on the exact number because of fluctuations.

“We’re looking at specific locations and determining which ones we need to move into different areas to better serve the community,” she said.