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July 2011
Ready 24/7
By Zenda Douglas

     Angela Broome came on board with the American Red Cross as chief executive officer of the Carolina Piedmont Region in March of this year, just two days after the 8.9 earthquake and 23-foot tsunami in Japan killed hundreds of people and wreaked massive destruction including the partial meltdown of three nuclear reactors.

     “I was immediately in the throes of what the Red Cross does and why it is so needed,” says Broome.

     She also didn’t have to wait long to feel the gratification of being involved with a disaster response organization. Days after the Japanese disaster, Broome was called downstairs to greet a woman and her three children. Each child was holding a small mason jar filled with coins for the children of Japan.

     “Right there, I thought, ‘I’m in the right place.’ I left that day knowing that we make a difference to someone—every day,” says Broome with satisfaction.

 

At the Ready

     The American Red Cross is well known as a vital disaster relief organization. It also helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergency situations. In the last few months alone, the Red Cross has responded to 42 large disasters across 28 states following this spring’s devastating wildfires, flooding and tornadoes.

     Bringing life-saving services, the Red Cross has opened more than 270 shelters and provided 31,000 overnight stays; deployed more than 12,000 trained disaster relief workers from all around the country; served more than 3 million meals and snacks; provided more than 68,000 health consultations; and handed out more than 1.3 million relief items such as toothbrushes, shampoo, tarps, coolers, rakes and other clean-up supplies.

     Nationally, $378 million is needed annually to respond to an average of 70,000 disasters. The major disasters that have occurred over the past few weeks have added $51 million to this amount.

     The American Red Cross Carolina Piedmont Region (ARC CPR) serves more than 2 million people in 14 southwest North Carolina counties. There are 10 Red Cross chapters operating across these counties including the Greater Carolinas Chapter, here in Charlotte.

     While the news media puts large-scale disasters—like those in Joplin, Missouri, Alabama and Montana—in the spotlight as they occur, the Red Cross responds to a variety of local disasters and emergencies daily. The ARC CPR responds to an average of 700 home fires per year. It responded to the recent train derailment in Mineral Springs and also to hazmat calls.

     Any time there is displacement and evacuation, the Red Cross steps in to provide shelter, food, cots, blankets, clean-up supplies and basic toiletry items. “As people are running away from disaster areas, the Red Cross is running to them,” says Broome. “Volunteers, sometimes by the hundreds, show up to help people who are left without a place to call home.”

     Often referred to as the “second responders,” the Red Cross closely follows fire trucks and emergency personnel. It swiftly addresses critical needs within the first 72 hours and then works to connect disaster victims to more long-term assistance. They also provide canteen assistance and first aid to the first responders.

 

Healthy Choices

     In her position as senior vice president, commercial banker and relationship manager for First Citizens Bank and Trust Company in Charlotte, Broome was happy and hadn’t a thought of leaving her clients and friends. However, the bank, which places a lot of emphasis on supporting the community, introduced her to another type of service: community nonprofit leadership.

     She served on the Board of Directors of the YWCA of Central Carolinas, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, the Charlotte Philharmonic Orchestra and LifeSpan, and also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and several other service organizations. She began to attract the attention of nonprofit leadership recruiters in the area.

     “The American Red Cross was actually the third nonprofit that contacted me,” remembers Broome. “I kept hearing the knock on the door and started to think, ‘Maybe I should listen.’” A few months later she jumped ship.

     “I’m glad the Red Cross found me and I’m so impressed with the staff and volunteers that work in this organization,” says Broome. “I’m amazed everyday that they give all that they do—roll out of bed at 3 a.m. to respond to a fire or deploy for three weeks over Easter holiday; come home for two days and deploy again to Alabama, for example.”

     Bringing 20 years of financial and management experience to bear, Broome intends to take the leadership and analytical skills learned in banking and apply them to the ARC CPR.

     “In this economic environment, we need to make decisions that the for-profit community has been making for a while so that we can stay in business and continue to provide the services,” says Broome referring to keeping expenses low, downsizing if need be, and looking at economies of scale.

     Broome’s change management goals are the next steps following a major reorganization of the ARC CPR.

     “We’re looking at every single process in our operation for our employees, volunteers and community partners,” says Broome. Already, the ARC CPR has brought its 10 independent chapters in the 14 counties together as one group under the regional CEO, eliminating the duplication of CEOs in every chapter in favor of cluster executives that manage three or more chapters.

     “Now all 10 chapters can support each other instead of each standing alone, whether we’re talking about money, supplies or vehicles,” says Broome. The ARC CPR is also consolidating efforts such as communications and IT support. This type of reorganization is trending nationally, says Broome.

     As a result of the reorganization, the ARC CPR realized an immediate savings of over $200,000 but expects further cost savings to manifest over the course of the year. The fundraising goal for the upcoming year is $6 million for the entire region. Expenses are a bit harder to predict.

     “Mother nature will do what she will do,” observes Broome. “What happened in Eastern North Carolina could happen here. We have to be prepared.” Budgets are calculated using historic information and other statistics.

 

Responsible Stewards

     Each time a major disaster presents itself, as Hurricane Katrina did, the American Red Cross immediately begins an additional fundraising campaign reaching out to corporations, foundations and individuals. The American Red Cross is not a government organization and receives no government funding.

     We’re great stewards of our donors’ dollars,” says Broome. “Ninety-one percent of money collected goes out to provide services. We’ve always been good; now there’s an opportunity to be better.”

     The American Red Cross suffered criticism in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina over the sharing of funds with other areas. “We’re clearer with donors now,” states Broome. “If a donor says these dollars go to this particular disaster, then we respect their wishes. If there is more donated than needed, then we share resources.”

     Broome adds that more donors are asking what their money is being used for: “We should always be able to answer that question.”

     This spring the ARC CPR overcame its $1 million budget deficit thanks to three big checks from Charlotte donors: Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine pledged a $250,000 challenge grant, which was met by both Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis.

     An anonymous donor’s $125,000 challenge grant matched by 150 individuals and companies filled the bill. Of the donor, Broome says, “I’d really like to know who it is, just so I could say ‘thank you.’”

     The money will be used for local programs and services. “The generosity of Charlotte has been solidified for me and I’m so grateful for that,” says Broome. “We are thrilled at the way our community has shown its support for the Red Cross mission.”

     “Donors and volunteers are the key partners in the community,” continues Broome. “The amazing generosity and support of these two groups are what allow us to exist.”

 

Community Resources

     “Anybody who’s out there looking for something caring to do, we can offer them something to do,” says Broome. Currently, there are 34 volunteers for every one staff member.

     There are people answering phones, stocking shelves and providing logistic or backroom support. Others with higher training may teach, become case workers, go out to shelters or feed people. Volunteers come from all walks of life. Many are retired or are homemakers; others are employed but have arrangements with their employers to be away to serve. Part-time employees often drive residents to medical appointments. Many people teach at night or on the weekends.

     There are 54 full-time and part-time staff members throughout the Carolina Piedmont Region. Twenty more workers are on call that teach or work in health and safety services. Every large-scale disaster is rated on levels one through six. Staff members must train to achieve those levels and are deployed accordingly.

     Stationed in Charlotte is an emergency communications response vehicle equipped with satellite technology; one of the twelve in the country. “We can take this vehicle out to a disaster site, raise up the disc and have national communication—even when there is nothing left there but destruction,” says Broome.

     A large part of Broome’s job is to tell the Red Cross story and let people know about the vital services that the organization provides.

     In Mecklenburg and South Iredell counties, the Red Cross provides transportation to medical appointments, often critical ones such as kidney dialysis sessions. Through its Health and Safety Program, the Red Cross teaches life-saving skills like first aid, CPR, swimming and babysitting. Close to 85,000 people in the ARC CPR empowered themselves last year by taking one of these courses.

     Important to the men and women in the military and their families, the Red Cross helps to create a bridge for emergency communication. Acting on a mandate from the federal government, the Red Cross verifies emergency information and reports back to the government. “We’re that neutral partner; trusted by both sides,” says Broome.

     A North Carolina native, Broome was raised in Monroe and still has family members scattered around the counties in the Carolina Piedmont Region. She now lives in South Charlotte with her two sons, ages twelve and eight, both boy scouts. After attending Western Carolina University, Broome went on to earn an M.B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

     She first went to work with a finance company which was a division of the Ford Corporation, and then was hired by First Citizens Bank where she stayed for 14 years. While there, she attended Queens University and completed coursework for the Certified Financial Planners Program.

     “My father was a Red Cross board member and volunteer and I remember him putting on his Red Cross jacket and going out to help in the community,” says Broome. “I thought he was a hero.”

     Broome has also had relatives who were flooded out of their home and witnessed the helping hand of the Red Cross. “The more I made those personal connections from my past, the more I realized this was the place I was supposed to be.”

Zenda Douglas is a Greater Charlotte Biz freelance writer.
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